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Telluride, CO – Miles to Mordor

San Juan Mountains in Telluride, CO

It felt like we only had minutes before the snow was coming in. If I squinted my eyes, I thought I could see white starting to crest the San Juan mountains that surrounded us as we stood along Main Street in Telluride, Colorado. 

I could see the worry in my wife’s eyes. I knew she was thinking about the weather forecast we had heard that morning; calling for 8-12 inches of snow. A typical southerner, she grew up with little experience driving in snow or cold for that matter.

I looked down at my watch. 10:45. We were cutting it close. 

Breathing in, I took one last look at Main Street of this old ski town with a vanishing point disappearing into the mountains and we hopped into our rental.

Punching in our next destination into my GPS, I couldn’t help but feel my wife’s nervous energy and the apparent urgency of the moment. I smiled because next to us was the site of the old San Miguel Valley Bank, now The Mahr Building, the site of Butch Cassidy’s first bank robbery. As I eased out of the parking space, I couldn’t help but think we were leaving this town in a similar flight. 

As it would happen, this would not be the last time my wife and I crisscrossed the trail of Cassidy and company; what later in his career would be called the “Wild Bunch”. 


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Miles to Mordor


Originally from the plains of the American Midwest, I was galvanized at a young age to get out, explore, and find mountains. I have a passion for hiking, traveling, and learning about the history of the places I explore – sometimes I also write! 

Why Miles to Mordor? Growing up, I saw my hometown as the Shire (of course I read the Lord of the Rings at a young age) and though happy, I did not have the adventures my soul longed for. Ever since leaving my hometown after high school, every step has taken me farther from home. Like the characters from my favorite book, I am on a journey, although mine is far less perilous. What better way to live your life than to see it all as one big adventure?

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The End of Night – Bogard

The End Of Night by Paul Bogard Commonplace Book Entry

Author: Bogard, Paul

Genre: Creative Nonfiction

Category: Nature/Science, Conservation, Darkness

Summary: 

I flinch when I read the words “vanished” darkness as I have been fortunate to see truly dark skies in the American West and in other remote areas. Yet I understand what Paul Bogard professes when he says that the dark sky is “vanishing”. In his treatise aptly titled The End of Night, Bogard brings attention to the fact that generations born now don’t even know what they have lost when it comes to describing a dark and starry sky as light pollution is commonplace. How can you protect something that you don’t even know you are losing?


The End of Night presents a compelling argument for a resource that needs protecting; darkness. Through his book, Bogard not only paints a dire picture of a future without darkness but also calls for readers to take action by rekindling an inherent love for wild places and their connection to darkness.



Important Points

Light Pollution as Metaphor or The End Of Night

One of the main culprit’s to rampant and ever growing light pollution is unregulated and widespread lighting. Examples of this lighting can be found both commercially and in homes across the world. Parking lots with widespread beams that are on all night. Homes with security lights and wall packs flooding into their neighbors living rooms. These lights make us feel safer from the monsters and robbers who roam at night but Bogard reveals that the research says otherwise. This harmful and wholly inherited stigma related to more lighting and less crime is detrimental to our health and clouds the skies with escaping light; obscuring even some of the more distant and darkest skies. 

As a metaphor, light pollution is an example of a perennial and contemporary issue in society today; waste and excess. This waste and excess has unfortunately long been both a marker of industrialized society but more importantly speaks to a mindset that characterizes society today – ignorant of the impact and blind to the future. Though, when it comes to conservation, most people think of wildlife populations, carbon emissions, and rising sea levels, Bogard and other conservationist’s stress that dark skies are another metric in which to measure the impact of human’s on the environment. 

Why protect the Sky?

Bogard and others before him stress that the night sky and darkness is not something just to be appreciated for it’s beauty. Aesthetics aside, the night sky is one of the last wild places. Why preserve Wildness? Like quality sleep is essential for the human body, wildness is essential for preserving the world and the biome we call home. It is a quality much taken for granted until you notice when it is lacking. Bogard stresses the world that exists after dark and how this wildness is essential for sustainable life.

Aside from impacting the nocturnal world and the species that exist after dark, by taming the night sky and flooding it with excess light, we disconnect ourselves from the lessons we can learn from wild places. Philosophers and conservationist’s emphasize that on an existential level, our ability as a species to question our place in the universe keeps us humble and moral as our significance is clearly before us every night. We disconnect ourselves from the rest of the universe when we cloud the night sky. 

National Parks as Reservoirs

Without action, we will continue down our blind path of waste and excess. Light pollution is only one example of this mindset. Concerning darkness, Bogard introduces many organizations that are fighting to preserve darkness and wildness across the world. Groups like the International Dark Sky Association have already made strides in spreading awareness  in order to preserve swathes of land and sky for future generations. Bogard stresses that the National Park Service is one such opportunity for night sky preservation and “Dark Sky Reservoirs”. These preserved pockets of darkness are not invulnerable however. As we know, unprotected lighting from neighboring cities encroaches on even the darkest skies today. An increase in awareness and a change in values, values that stress long term conservation of our finite resources as well as the impact of our decisions on the rest of the world, must be adopted by individuals and organizations alike to preserve the night sky for future generations. 


Quotations

Ethics:

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise” – Aldo Leopold

Night:

“Night, full of newly created stars that leave

Trails of fire streaming from their seams

As they soar in inaudible adventure

Through interstellar space:

how, overshadowed by your all-embracing vastness, 

I appear minute! —-

Yet, being one with the ever more darkening earth, 

I dare to be in you.

– Rainer Maria Rilke 

Preserving Wildness:

“…Though it is now dark, the wind still blows and roars in the wood, the waves still dash, and some creatures lull the rest with their notes. The repose is never complete. The wildest animals do not repose, but seek their prey now; the fox, and skunk, and rabbit, now roam the fields and woods without fear. They are Nature’s watchmen, – links which connect the days of animated life.” – Thoreau

Similar Books/Further Reading

Walden by Thoreau, Henry David

The Outermost House by Beston, Henry

The Forest Unseen by Haskell, David

International Dark Sky Association

Paul Bogard’s Website

Previous Commonplace Book Entries

Being Wrong by Schulz

Mindset by Dweck

Mastermind by Konnikova

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Translation II: Obituary and Origin or “On the Shortness of Life”

This is a “Translation” post used to illustrate and complement Epic entries. For a full list of the Epic, click here. To start at the beginning, click here.

We return again to the wisdom of the Stoics and a complement to the previous translation; The Tutor or Choose Yourself a Cato. Rather than choosing a model on which you can align your actions with and guide yourself, today’s translation revolves around the Shortness of Life. We began before by highlighting the relationship that exists between a good life and good actions. You are responsible for your actions and your “imaginary tutor” or Cato is the mentor whom you can judge these actions by. 

In the chaos of the modern world, choosing good actions is difficult enough. What plagues the human condition is the unconscious belief that “later” is where action can be made. People believe that they have a limitless supply of time and live without urgency. With this carelessness, it is easy to throw away the present moment and think that actions can be delayed or life can be lived later. Why then do most people arrive at death with regrets?

“You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply…”

Recognizing the Shortness of Life emphasizes the significance of the present moment for, in truth, it is the only moment we have. 

We return again to the writings of Seneca who reminds us:

“…we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it”

Seneca writes to a friend to illustrate that learning how to live and developing wisdom is not a task to be delayed. He implores his friend and us to recognize that time is passing whether we use it or not. Today the meaning of this message comes in a different form. We think that the numerous opportunities provided to us by the modern world are an advancement. History and philosophy show us that they are the same as the ancient world. 

We strive for empty goals, we value the wrong things, and we endlessly worry about perspectives and opinions other than our own. The modern world makes these distractions ever present – clouding our minds and allowing us to squander our time. Without reason and intention, we live idle and distracted lives.

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason?”

Philosophy reminds us that time is passing and we waste a lot of it. Let this remind us that we should not delay our actions. That we should live now and not put off our lives for the invisible later. We should not live shadow lives.

Resolve to take good actions today and waste no more time. 

Glenwood Cemetery

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