On Friday, March 1st the U.S. government will begin to cut federal spending, bluntly slicing programs affecting nearly every citizen in some way or another.
The coming sequestration fills me with anxiety and angst from so many perspectives, and so provides fertile ground for practicing the dance of grasp and release, of desire and being.
I work seasonally with the National Park Service, as do nearly 39 percent of its employees. The running joke we share when starting a day of work, invariably starring across some beautiful landscape, is “just another day at the office.” It hints at the reality of my work. I work in America’s playgrounds. Collectively, these national treasures stand to lose $183 million in federal spending if our congress continues its hands off approach to doing their job. It’s been three years since they last passed a budget. But lest I digress and follow that tug…
Our parks are not merely playgrounds. They act as a respite and sanctuary for a city weary and nature-deficient America. When the hordes descend on Memorial Day, some in the park service adopt an air of cynicism, but most of us see the deeper message. People yearn for a re-connect, to feel bare earth, to soak in cold streams, and for just a minute to close their eyes, move beyond themselves and experience truly awe inspiring creation. I love being a caretaker for the places that give us back our human perspective. Come Friday, thousands of jobs like mine will disappear.
That is the grasp, and now the release.
Along with the nonsensical cuts to programs that feed our kids, house the needy, fund science and spur innovation, the vast majority of the federal spending cuts will be born by the Department of Defense. As a nation we are addicted to violence and these cuts were purposefully structured to scare a congress to compromise, to talk… and actually listen to each other. No congressman (or woman) wants to loose Defense dollars for their district. It’s un-American.
Here I see a silver lining in the coming torrent. Could this be start, just a small unavoidable start to really beginning a conversation about America’s addiction to violence and war? Could these budget cuts mean that we actually have to rethink the ease with which we start a war, drop a bomb and hold ever so tightly to our guns, to the idea of control? Could this mean one less morally justifiable drone strike on collateral kids. If so, I’m in.
It seems a rather strange choice though.
Which leaves me with desire and being. I wish for a world where these artificial choices don’t leave me struggling with a cognitive dissonance, struggling with a sane place to rest my mind and sit. I desire a world where we replace the uniform of aggression with one of stewardship. I desire a country that treasures its common spaces and natural wonders, within everyone of us, as well as those on the outside. The ones we call national parks and natural treasures.
So Friday will come and this is where I have found myself to be. I hope over the next year everyone gets out to enjoy our parks, to our forests, mountains, deserts and beaches. Go recharge and explore and take a minute to breathe it in. I really hope to see you there, seriously! But if perchance I don’t, bow and sit for the silver lining.
Dave Firmage is a part time ecologist, writer, poet, student, teacher and lover of wide-open vistas, inside and out. He currently lives in Utah where he struggles with the seeming slowing down of time while in Bikram. He can be reached via Facebook or you can follow his very occasional writings on his blog.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta
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