More Thoughts While Hiking on Crutches
Mary Anderson is hiking the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail and writing a book about it. This post was written in early June, while she was taking an alternate route along a Wyoming highway after injuring her knee. She has since recovered from that injury (though there have been others) and is in the area of West Yellowstone, having hiked south through Montana during July and early August.
By Mary Anderson
For a long time I ate no meat, and for a while I was a total vegan. Then I lived on a tiny island near Labrador, Canada, and I realized that being a vegan was not only impractical there, it went against my mammalian nature. If I was to really survive in that place where the only fresh, nonmeat products available were turnips, rhubarb, and berries, I needed to add at least fish to my diet. Recognizing that I had teeth meant to eat both animal and vegetable products I went back to eating meat. But I was more conscious and tried to eat only humanely and locally raised meat. In fact, at times I raised and killed my own meat, feeling if I was going to eat it I wanted to be responsible for the entire process.
This is what most mammals do. Among other things, they kill for food. And each one seems to have its own niche, the place it calls home. I am amazed by the creatures such as marmots and picas who can live at high altitudes. I have a new awe for robins, which I have found in the low desert and at altitudes of over 11,000 feet. And I recognize that there are many people who live in the big-sky country of the western United States who would feel claustrophobic in my now-home state of Vermont.
I love the ocean, but I could never live there. The land in Montana and Colorado is beautiful, but I miss the green mountains of Vermont. They are my home, just as the prairie is home for the prairie dwellers I met and the desert is home to other of my trail angels.
I believe we all have a sense of what constitutes home, and like most mammals we feel a bit out of place when we leave our home for too long. What concerns me is how many people are growing up with a sense of home surrounded by lots of night lights and constant noise.
People move to the country because they love it. Then they install all-night lights, ruining the country life in more ways than they are aware of. Many creatures are harmed by artificial lights.
Reminding myself that I belong to one of Earth's more than 5,000 species of mammals helps me keep my life in perspective. Sometimes that knowledge even guides my decisions. I am concerned that people who grow up without any immersion into true nature miss out on some important mammalian experience that would enhance their lives and feed their souls.