Monday, November 2, 2015

Rocky Mountain Front Field Trip

WC Field Trip– Rocky Mountain Front

Colleen Leddie and Marko Capoferri

The Language of Wild

I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no melancholy – Charles Baudelaire

            This past weekend marked our final weekend field trip of the semester, and like Baudelaire says above, finality of this kind has its own sort of beautiful melancholy: you know that whatever you see or experience, however beautiful, cannot be held for long, and that at some point you must let it go.
            Like a true grand finale, our trip to the Rocky Mountain Front offered no shortage of unexpected excitement, a series of adventures packed with surprises, goose-bump inducing speakers, some literal car camping, and endless Rocky Mountain panoramas, hinting at peaks just waiting behind miles and miles of wide, grassy plains.
            Knowing that our weekend adventures have come to an end, it is natural to reflect on the path that led us to this point, to speculate on what may be coming up ahead, and to tie together all loose ends in order to find the deeper meaning in all we are here to do. This past weekend was laden with mental tie-ins, largely to uncover some deeper sense of why we are all here. Not even necessarily in this program here or location here or how we are all together to discuss such substantial, heavy and emotional issues that are so relevant and continuous. It is hard to not to feel impotent discussing some of these topics concerning endangered species, climate change, and oil and gas drilling on wild lands; on the flip side, it was remarkable how uplifting a conversation with Lou Bruno of the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance could arouse feelings of power and positive change for our future.
            The theme of the weekend was stories: the stories we tell ourselves and each other, about who we are, why and how we live, what we want in this world; stories tie us together as humans.  Author and journalist Hal Herring talked about moving to Montana and his path to becoming a wilderness advocate. Lou Bruno told us about his childhood in New York, finding mystery and meaning in a salt marsh that eventually succumbed to the bulldozers. Casey Perkins discussed the rigors of working protective legislation through government bureaucracy. Of course, at the base of these stories and every story, is language.
            The few hours spent at the Piegan Language Institute in Browning, Montana triggered some broad understandings that just seemed to make sense. Naturally at the language school we talked about language and how the Blackfoot dialect was dying both economically and culturally. Robert Hall, the teacher and speaker at the language school implicitly introduced an idea that was greater than one specific endangered tongue. Language is the essence that culturally secures us. Without language, then, what do we have? This extends so far beyond any one particular culture or group of people. On a large scale our language with the natural world is endangered and it is up to us to relearn it, to tell the stories that need to be told, to make the deeper connections between people spread far and wide both geographically and ideologically.
We’ve spent a little over a month now learning, studying, traveling, and experiencing things that we hopefully won’t soon forget. At the beginning of the semester, it was mentioned that this program might not have an instantly gratifying effect, but rather larger, profound implications that manifest beautifully and boldly, where momentarily everything finds a way of coming together and you discover yourself making worldly connections, being a part of something greater than ourselves. We’re learning to speak in new and bold ways, and hopefully one day we’ll get to tell our stories to those that need to hear them. 

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