For the past couple weeks I've been spending three to five hours most days on a project to restore an abandoned trail that my peers and I took for granted in middle and high school, but has since fallen into ruins.
Clearing thorn bushes and the ubiquitous invasive vines along the edge of the woods, so that the portal into the trail can be seen and easily walked into. Logging the fallen and leaning trees (and some dead standing ones), plus all the branches strewn along the tread. Re-positioning logs so they don't dam up a bunch of leaves and water whenever rain flows downhill. Dislodging large hanging branches so that every step doesn't feel like you've got the sword of Damocles dangling over your head. Raking away all the debris that not only obscures the tread but makes it slippery to walk over — leaves, rocks, sticks, etc. Clearing leaves out of drains...
I've noticed how abandoned the woods have become for awhile, but now that I've started to try doing something about it, in a place that I knew well as a teenager, my mind struggles to comprehend how many areas need attention, and how effortless it used to be in the good old days when everybody pitched in here and there.
Part of the cause is the status-striving and inequality trend. Government funding for trail maintenance and similar programs has dried up since that benefits ordinary middle-class white people, when those funds could be better used to give mortgages to Mexicans, or to bail out the Jews on Wall Street who bet on the Mexican mortgages.
Status-striving also leads to a withdrawal from civic participation (less time, money, and effort to spend on self-advancement), a la Bowling Alone, so don't expect to see legions of volunteers regularly pitching in. Even the Boy Scouts these days seem to be more about fundraising for the Boy Scouts (how many bags of popcorn should we put you down for?), so they can attend the national Boy Scout jamboree, than practicing stewardship in the communities they live in.
The collapse of deliberate and concerted maintenance wasn't so noticeable in the context of woodland trails during the '80s and early '90s (well into the era of civic disengagement), because the society was in its outgoing phase of the cocooning-and-crime cycle. Every trail-goer who kicked a branch out of their way or bashed up a thorn bush in their way kept the trail in decent shape. Since the return of cocooning and helicopter parenting over the past 20-25 years, though, hardly anybody wanders back through there, so there aren't even the unwitting volunteers to keep it people-friendly.
I haven't been posting or reading comments here during this time because hours and hours of barely skilled labor in the woods is one of the most fulfilling activities I've ever done. It reminds me of my childhood when my Pap used to take me back into the Appalachian woods and we'd cut back thorns, push over dead trees, and take care of other public-space groundskeeping.
Although ideas for posts strike me while I'm out working, and I even elaborate them into fuller thoughts out there, I just don't feel like plugging my brain into the internet when I get home, nor would I feel like plugging in before I left for the day, putting me in the wrong state of mind.
I'll try to write some of this up soon, but in case it takes awhile, here is the gist of several, to get people thinking and talking again.
- Trail creation and maintenance is rooted in transhumance pastoralism (not nomadic). Why don't Slavs, chinks, spics, and blacks seem to care about the very presence of trails through nature, let alone practice stewardship over them?
- The long stretches of unskilled manual labor is rewarding because there's a point, and the effects can be clearly seen and appreciated. Working out at the gym has no point, other than toning your buns to please your gay lovers. Even the paleo exercises that are more in touch with the tasks we're adapted to do, are in the end still pointless leisure. If you want to be really paleo, get some damn work done while you're exerting yourself. It'll give you a sense of accomplishment and pride that you must otherwise force / con yourself into believing when it's just doing X many reps for Y many sets, or the equivalent end-points for a paleo routine.
- The hiker / rockclimber / outdoors culture is also purely leisure-based. Conspicuous leisure and conspicuous consumption (their "gear" is more encrusted with logos than a middle schooler's). And focused entirely on advancing the self in a status contest, rather than stewardship of shared common spaces. Look at how few tools those stores sell.
- Conservatives who do nothing to preserve, in whatever little way they can, the shared common spaces that made this country great, need to answer for their negligence, or be brushed aside as worthless whiners. "There's no point — the country is being over-run with Mexicans, so what's the point in preserving something that the Americans of 2050 won't appreciate and will allow to fall back into disrepair?" Well why don't we just burn the whole place to the ground, then, including your own house with you still in it? White Americans are still going to be around in 50 years, and they're going to be counting on us to keep things as well preserved as possible. Otherwise they'll just go to what is being preserved, i.e. Walmarts full of lardass spics. Innumerable people before your time shaped the places you connect with, so you've got to do your part too.
- Getting less political, what accounts for the split between woodsmen, woodworkers, and carpenters on the one side, and mechanics on the other? In the hardware section of Sears (burn down Home Depot), I was struck by how much mechanics tools there were, and how little any of it resonated with me (my mother's father was a carpenter). People-oriented vs. thing-oriented? Wood in the shop or in the woods as a natural substance, hence more people-like than exhaust pipes and drive trains? At least there's a preference for natural vs. artificial objects to work on.
- Warning coloration to ward off wildlife that may want to tangle with you. There was a decent-sized buck staring me down from about five yards away, who had a high-ground advantage over me, where I also had no maze of trees or anything to run back into or up into. Usually they'll walk a few steps at a time to see if you back away. This time, I'd taken off my coat since it had gotten warm, and I had on t-shirt with a very busy black-and-white Southwest Indian tribal print. That was the only time so far that I won in a staring contest up that close, at such a disadvantage. He blinked first, turned his head first, and walked away uphill. I wonder if having such a high-contrast pattern, like a skunk or badger on cocaine, played a role in driving him off.
- Why are both the outdoors and hunting scenes so averse to wearing "gear" from animal sources? It seems like they're finally learning about this ancient invention called wool, but it is damn rare to find animal skins or furs at a hunting store, outdoors store, or army/navy surplus store. The answer is not price, since their over-engineered Franken-fabrics cost an arm and a leg. I put it down to the trait of following natural vs. engineered solutions. Animals that have been shaped by millions of years of natural selection to adapt to cold, wet, thorny, outdoors conditions are going to have superior protection compared to whatever the latest lab fad is with consumers who have too much disposable income. We ought to copy what adaptations those animals have evolved — and if we can't copy them, we can just steal them.