Another election has come and gone. I was about as disappointed as I expected to be, but many of my friends seemed more or less distraught. Maybe you were happy with all the results, so good for you. I executed my duty as a citizen, took Urban Girl on a walk up the mountain to Sarah Moore Greene Elementary school and cast my ballot. Special thanks to Kelly Absher who noticed Urban Girl had gotten so enthralled with the democratic process that she dropped Jiminy Cricket. Kelly, no doubt, averted a true disaster. Scarred by the memory of her loss she likely would have never voted again.
After reading repeated glum Facebook posts the next morning, I attended the Million Mask March. What was it about? This is a good question. A litany of causes were listed on their Facebook page prior to the event. Among the forty or fifty who attended, I saw signs saying, “The Corrupt Fear Us, The Honest Support Us, The Heroic Join Us,” “Re-examine All You Have Been Told,” a “Politicians” sign with a noose, “No More Left, No More Right, Only the People, This Isn’t Football,” “Justice, Fairness and Freedom are more than Just Words. Expect Us,” a peace symbol sign with the symbol made of a long gun and knives, “I was born in 1984, I Refuse to Die in 1984,” “Cannabis is the Cure” – a list of 13 things it cures – “Legalize It Tennessee.”
One sign attempted to cover the spectrum with the large word “Change?” at the center. It include the following spin-offs from the theme: “The Only Chip Going into this Body is a Dorito,” which was oddly paired with “No GMOs.” “No New World Order,” was followed by lengthy passages which seemed to advocate banning people with Ebola from coming into the US and defending our right to bear arms because, “Should a terrorist come into your neighborhood killing innocent, good people, how do we protect ourselves and our loved ones?”
I have sympathy with some of the causes represented under the Guy Fawkes/Anonymous umbrella. Certainly most of us who are grown-ups have had occasion to “re-examine all you have been told.” I’m not big on GMOs, but I’m not crazy about Doritos which, in fact, contain GMOs. I’ve never had a terrorist in my neighborhood and don’t really hold that as a daily fear. A peace symbol made of weapons breaks the heart of anyone who remembers when it was more than a fashion statement.
As for marijuana, well, Tennessee just got around to allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores about forty years after the rest of the country, but I guess dreaming is a good thing. At least these young people were engaged. It takes a certain level of commitment to march around like that. I hope they all voted, though based on the hodgepodge of signs, I’d speculate they may have canceled out each other’s votes – or maybe even their own. While many of us feel their disenfranchisement from our government, I’m not sure how we’ll make any real changes. Probably not by trading a few Democrats and Republicans around.
So, another way to deal with your political or any other frustrations is get away from your electronics and your twenty-four-hour news cycle – which is really about an hour of actual news with lots of shouting, drama and fear-mongering inserted to fill the time – and get out of the city. One of the magical qualities of our area is that about an hour away we have the park that more people travel to see than any other park in the country. Why not get out there to air out your brain when you think your head is about to explode?
There are lots of options, of course, but the one I’m picturing here is the gentle hike to Laurel Falls where Urban Girl and I hiked this past summer. It’s 1.3 miles each way and the path used to be paved, but is now crumbling and I’m assuming paving isn’t considered cool in the park anymore, so it is uneven. It features a few vistas and a steady, but not extremely difficult climb to the falls. There’s a bit of space at the top to snap some photos and splash around, if you like.
It’s not a great place for solitude. The day Urban Girl and I made the climb there was a steady stream of people coming and going and we had a bit of a challenge finding a spot to have our picnic at the top. But it got her into the mountains, gave her a taste of adventure away from electronics and her everyday life and, hopefully, planted a few seeds for a life-long love of nature in general and the mountains specifically.
You all know I love cities and, particularly, Knoxville. I know that many of you do, as well. Still, there’s a time to leave the city and air the brain out. A time to rejuvenate and refresh. I’ve talked about it before, but we need an occasional re-acquaintance with nature. It keeps us balanced and it reminds us that politics comes and goes and, in fact, most of the “news” that gets us excited one way or another is really ephemeral.
So, whether you are down about this week’s elections or perfectly satisfied, you might consider a trip outside the city – even if it is closer, like to House Mountain or our urban wilderness. A bike ride along a greenway can go a long way to bring us back to what really matters. And if you’ve got a young one, take him or her along. Teach them from an early age that we are just passing through a magnificent place that deserves to be appreciated. Maybe that’s something we can all get behind.