Peace with Nature

Fran and I spent Villanova fall break (Monday 10/10/ – Sunday 10/16) hiking more than 100 miles (and camping at night) with the Right2Know marchers. Marchers arrived at Lafayette Park (opposite the White House) on Sunday and heard speakers such as Vandana Shiva explain how large corporations such as Monsanto are genetically modifying the foods that we eat but refusing to let us know which of our foods contain these GMOs (genetically modified organisms). In Europe and most other countries, this knowledge is considered a legal right, but not so in the United States. Vandana Shiva described some horrible experiences that poor farmers have had when they came into conflict with these large agribusinesses that literally drive farmers and their families to starvation and death. President Obama made a campaign promise to include GMOs on product labeling, but has reneged on that promise. We were there to remind him that a President should at least be honest.

It was billed as the Blizzard of 2010. But don’t believe the news or you’d think it was the end of the world. We saw this as an opportunity to appreciate nature’s beauty, and so we headed out the door with our packs on. We hiked through untrodden snow to a secluded spot in nearby woods and set up our tent at dusk in the falling snow. Nature’s “bounty” nearly buried our tent during the night, but the sight was glorious when we first saw the woods and stream the next morning. We were well equipped for the weather and stayed relatively warm and comfortable, while news reports all proclaimed “Danger — stay inside” and similar disaster scenarios. Nature can present danger at times, of course, but much of this fear is of our own making and reflects man’s alienation from the natural world.

Fran and I were recently day hiking while camping in a remote section of Massachusetts.  We had trail maps and GPS.  But the trails were not where the lines appeared on our map (this is not uncommon).   Were we lost?  Fran says no.  We always knew where we were, just the trails were lost.  But there was still the possibility that we might be in the woods at dusk.  The wonderful and surprising thing is that this did not feel like any problem.  We would just bed down for the night where ever we might be and next morning follow trails leading in the direction of our base camp.   I felt quite at peace with the possibility.  This experience leads one to consider the experiential meaning of  such words/ideas as “lost” “security” and “home.” 

p.s.  We got to a recognized trail, and our campsite, before dusk.

Fran and I are backpackers, and we recently took a three-day hike in a wilderness area of western Pennsylvania.  It is an interesting experience to feel so totally immersed in nature — this is a particularly remote area.  It’s something I’m pondering.  This is a shared earth, the bears and snakes are part of it and, fortunately, not my enemies.  It can feel scary and  exciting, and yet right, natural, and appropriate, to experience these animals in their natural habitat.  We are so used to seeing these animals only in zoos, it’s something to realize that they really live (and can thrive) in nature.  We got lost in the woods twice, but had all we needed to survive on our backs, so what’s the worry?  We are a part of this natural world, and need to remember that and accept it.

A full acount of this backpacking trip on the Donut Hole Trail is available at

Peace Dove     There is no WAY to peace. Peace IS the way.