It’s hard to imagine a world farther from the searing wind, soaring cliffs and silent towering mountains of the Pacific Northwest than the clang of slot machines, the glaring lights of windowless casinos and the sheen of manicured golf courses and gleaming hotels that President Trump inhabits.
Trump’s world is man-made and created to cater to every human desire or comfort.
The wilderness surges and strikes on its own schedule and agenda. The slightest twist of an ankle — or encounter with a hungry carnivore, or cold, or landslide or the wrong trail taken — can lead where darkness is total, and human life has the consequence of the slightest breeze.
Instead of being the center of attention, a person in the wilderness is the opposite. By definition, a hiker or a camper is an intruder.
Those of us who enter the wilderness know that we live and (sometimes) die by its rules – not our own.
Our survival, sometimes directly, depends on our ability to limit the consequences of the unyielding, uncompromising and unspecified (at least until you violate them) rules and demands of nature.
A lesson learned very quickly in the wilderness is that we are not in control. Our values and preferences are irrelevant there.
We pay attention and respond. And if we don’t pay attention, or our response doesn’t fit, the stakes can be high – though not the way they might be in a casino.
There is one thing that the wilderness has in common with a casino: Both exist in a world where conventional definitions of time are irrelevant, if not meaningless.
But the staff of a casino or other Trump property is paid to care (or pretend to care) for us. Wilderness, by contrast, seems almost eager to shake us off.
I’m convinced that it would do a world of good for the president if he spent some time in a place he could not bend to his will, where his yes men are as shadows passing in the seasons and cycles of nature.
The pride and bluster of any human are a pale, shrill distraction lost in the passing of time and the relentless shifting of the forces of a living environment.
The lessons of wilderness are few and lasting; life does not begin – or end – with us. There are things we can learn in the wilderness that we can learn nowhere else.
Time, progress and success are contrived, artificial and arbitrary – but if we listen to nature, it can give us a depth and perspective few would have imagined possible.
This is not a learning of facts or numbers or dollars; it is a learning of ways, stories and living, enduring connections. It is knowledge of patterns and rhythms of life with the sole intention to continue.
Our words, grand or foolish, spoken in pain, rage, desperation or compassion, will be forgotten.
No generation will last forever, but its fears, anxieties and aspirations will be dismissed, forgotten or even mocked soon enough.
The sacrifices or accomplishments of a generation may be commemorated by a generation, maybe two. But most will be lost or ignored far sooner.
The history of civilization is not much more than the neglect –or looting – of previous generations who lived as most of us live, with the assumption that our mark on the earth and human history will last.
Gold-plated names on buildings will not last. Empires and civilizations will not last.
The most seemingly wispy things will last: the wind and the eternal shifting of the seasons.
Up in the mountains, the vast silence can only be comprehended on its own terms.
M. (Morf) Morford is a North End resident, perpetual student of Tacoma and former News Tribune reader columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.