Here’s a confession. The thought of being three days without my computer in our tent cabin in Yosemite Village was daunting. It has come to that. When something becomes such a central part of your daily life— e-mails, Facebook, these Blogposts, course sign-ups, Zoom classes, Youtube dailies, Internet research— it is hard to imagine three days without it.
Yet once arrived, it was much easier to hang the “Gone fishing” sign in my psyche then I thought. In fact, glorious. What helped was the grandeur of this spectacular place on the planet. Swept up into the sheer granite walls of El Capitan, the breathtaking Yosemite Falls, the serene watchful eye of Half Dome, the sheer size of it all made the tiny screen of the computers and even tiny screen of the phones assume their proper proportion. Meaning, “no contest.” So much of our screens are poor compensation for our inability to get swept up in the grand spectacle of this living, breathing, planet. To revel in the roar and rush of the rivers, delight in the ice caps on top of the river rocks, feel the broad expanse of the snow-covered meadows, humble down to our proper size amidst Ponderosa pines and white firs. What is a Facebook chat or cute Youtube clip next to that?
Even driving out of the valley, I tried out some Mozart piano sonata recordings as a soundtrack to the vistas and it didn’t fit, this music composed in and for indoor courts. Silence was the far better option.
We can’t all live in—or even visit (so many people there!)—Yosemite Valley, but hopefully we can all find a bit of night sky to gaze up to, a patch of grass to lie down in, a tree of any size to sit under or embrace or observe or climb. I believe this is what Gary Snyder had in mind when he wrote:
“This living flowing land / is all there is, forever / We are it / it sings through us- / We could live on this Earth / without clothes or tools!”
At my age, I’d prefer some clothes, thank you very much, but I agree with the spirit of these words.