I attended a lecture the other day; thought-provoking on several fronts.
First, because that sentence above actually came out of my head, or fingers. I wrote it. Me. Is this what I’ve become? I “attend” things now? “Lectures,” no less? And I describe them as “thought-provoking”? Whew, I am getting old, it appears. This is a far cry from the Black Flag punk concert I attended, I mean, crashed at the Lost Horizon in Syracuse thirty years ago. Well, in my defense, there was nothing particularly thought-provoking about the Black Flag concert. If I even have the right band, genre and venue. Like I said, I am getting old, it appears.
The second reason I say “thought-provoking” is due to where the lecture was delivered. (There I go again, “delivered” a nod to my antiquated thinking.)
The talk was hosted by an organization called the Presidio Trust, a unique federal agency charged with transforming a former U.S. Army installation into a profitable arm of the National Park Service’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Congress created the Presidio Trust in 1996 with the stern mandate of achieving financial independence from taxpayer support, else the lands would be auctioned off as excess federal property. I suppose that had the Presidio Trust failed, we’d see parcels of the Presidio up for grabs on the U.S. General Services Administration’s website. Right alongside aircraft, vessels, firearms, and animals. An ornate, Civil War-era cannon pictured next to a riding lawnmower, a Surveying Ship, and an Extreme Fitness Leg Curl Machine — with a bright red “PLACE BID” button beckoning.
Fortunately, the Presidio Trust climbed into the black last year. So instead of sitting in a virtual shopping cart belonging to a GovSales.gov bargain hunter, that cannon stays where it is. It and all the assets making up the Presidio belong to us, the public.
The third and final reason I say “thought-provoking” is the most obvious: The content of the talk. If this were a lecture on annual salamander migration, I probably wouldn’t be blogging about it. No offense intended to people who study annual salamander migration, nor to the salamanders themselves, come to think of it.
The speaker, Richard Louv, is a journalist and author who preaches the importance of preserving the connection between kids and nature. In his most recent book, he takes on the idea of balancing technology with the natural world. For every hour of time your son has his face buried in his iPhone playing “Flappy Bird,” he should spend another hour untethered from the iPhone, outdoors, in search of an actual bird that actually flaps, for example. Louv is of the opinion that the world will belong to those who can both configure their DNS server using an iPad and avoid a Brown Bear attack by developing the ability to recognize the bear’s fishy scent.
A “Hybrid Mind, ” he calls it. MacGyver meets Bear Grylls, you might say.
In the immediate aftermath of Louv’s lecture, I admit to harboring some thoughts that were likely around the bend from what Louv had in mind. Here’s one:
Let the boys out of the Prius at the far end of the Presidio, in the dark, and see if they can make it home a couple miles away on their own. Without an iPhone, ClifBars, Odwalla smoothie, Petzl headlamp, or anything else smacking of modern comforts. With only their wits to avoid being eviscerated by coyote or raccoon. But then, I don’t think the sometimes-overzealous Park Ranger who spots them running through a Eucalyptus grove like wild animals would appreciate my parenting style. Even if I explained to the Ranger that I got the idea from Richard Louv, whom the Presidio Trust hosted to give a talk in the Golden Gate Club just yesterday, right across Dragonfly Creek from where the Ranger took custody of my feral children. Also, I think my boys’ pediatrician might not be amused by the Giardia parasites living in my boys’ bellies due to them drinking the water from said creek in their filthy, cupped hands.
So I have had to ratchet down my plans to avoid this whole thing careening into some mashup of Doomsday Preppers and Zombie Apocalypse. Back away from the bug-out bags and canned spam, sir.
I have, however, upped their dosage of unstructured outdoor exposure. Both Max and Ev run around outside, by my calculations, for 15 hours each week, give or take. But I don’t think that counts, since those hours are spent within the confines of chalk-drawn rectangles and diamonds. Not enough Bear Grylls.
So, since Louv’s lecture, we have hunted lizards on the Baker Beach Sand Ladder, identified bird calls and tree-types while circumventing Phoenix Lake, and studied sprouted acorns littering the trails of the Presidio itself. Sounds bucolic, and just what the doctor ordered. And indeed it was, so long as you can ignore the gaggle of 60 year-old nude men sunbathing at the foot of the sand ladder (conveniently cropped out of the photo at the top of this blog post), the 8 year-old’s whines whenever the Phoenix Lake trail’s pitch tilted up past perfectly flat, and the “dog poop shawl” our puppie fashioned and wore by rolling in other dogs’ poop somewhere along the trails of the Presidio.
Fortunately, I am an expert ignorer. A pretty good maker of lemonade out of lemons, you might say. 🙂
Thanks for reading.