Well, it was not a hill, in fact. It was a mountain. Back when I was in grade school in Arlington, Mass, we often went on field trips.
These days most schools don’t seem to do those sorts of things. I think it has to do with liability issues. More’s the pity.
In my day, yeah, I know, a thousand years ago, we went to all sorts of places. Of course, growing up in Massachusetts, the Boston area, meant we were close to many historic locations: Plymouth Plantation, Sturbridge Village, Old Ironsides and so on.
Then there was the time we climbed a mountain. It was Mount Monadnock, in New Hampshire, and we went there on a field trip back when I was in grade school. I was a little dubious about the idea of climbing a mountain. I’d seen a Disney movie on “The Wonderful World of Disney” on Sunday nights about people climbing a mountain. They had ropes and metal thingies on their boots, and long poles with hooks on them!
I didn’t even have a backpack.
Still, my mom signed the permission slip, and the next day we got on the school bus and headed out. It was a long drive from Arlington to the mountain, but we could chat and move about the bus to visit.
When we reached the parking area, we emptied out of the bus. Someone told about the various trails that led up the mountain. My friends and I elected to take the toughest! It was a long trail, and we journeyed through woods, past streams, up rocky trails, and so on.
I was in luck. Some of my friends had brought food and water. They shared it with those of us who had none. Never had I seen such rolling hills; all of nature seemed laid out before us, and there were no sounds or hints of civilization.
We loved it!
Finally, we neared the summit. The mountain was so tall that it was above the tree line, the elevation at which trees grow. We got up into the clouds and, for a time, I was actually afraid that we’d get lost there. Finally, we came to a pile of rocks that marked the peak. There we gathered with the others in our group, along with other visitors, for a well-earned rest.
I decided to take one of the easier trails going down. It was easier, but no less beautiful. Coming down out of the clouds it was now mid-afternoon, and the sun was behind me. Looking off into the distance, I once again saw all of nature, all the glories of creations, spread before me. There were signs of human effect here and there: homes, towns, farms, roads and so forth, but there seemed to be a balance to everything.
That was the day I understood the ecology movement. Previously, I thought people should do what they want, build where they want, and it would be okay. At that moment, I realized that, as with nature, humans need balance in their lives.
I remember, well, what my dad said. “If it weren’t for our parks, Yellowstone would be a health spa and condos would be built in the Grand Canyon.”
I think our kids could benefit from a few more field trips.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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