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Helpless | by kern.justin
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Blue, blue windows behind the stars, yellow moon on the rise.

Big birds flying across the sky, throwing shadows on our eyes.

Leave us helpless, helpless, helpless. -Neil Young


Time has been too short recently for me to do more than an occasional post, too short indeed to do much photography or editing of the thousands of photographs I took while up in Glacier National Park. Here’s one of my favorites, scroll down for the story – click through the image to see its full resolution (over 25 images went into this composite) on my Flickr page.


This is the lodge at Many Glacier – built shortly after the turn of the last century to emulate the great Swiss Chalets and to draw tourists into Glacier National Park while the park system was still nascent. I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ new film “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” over the past weeks and was inspired to find some time to put into finishing some of the images I collected while out and about in this amazing scenery.


I am at once ashamed and grateful that these parks are here. Ashamed that the reckless race to conquer the American continent ravaged nearly everywhere else and made these parks a necessity, yet grateful that they exist. Ashamed that for all our collective desire to visit and experience these parks, we build huge lodges inside what Muir would have revered as a cathedral so that we might gaze out the veranda onto the scenery without muddying our feet; yet I’m grateful that these lodges bring enough tourists into the park so as to keep the business going and grateful that they draw the most people to one very small spot, where their damage can be most easily managed.


Walking out onto the rocks behind the lodge to take this image, I stood on the rocky soil and breathed deep the gathering twilight. The stars were brilliant and the din of the lodge was just low enough so as to hear the wind through the grass. I love to camp and wander around these places because it reminds me that every inch of the earth is alive; afterward I am loath to return to our Western, aseptic world where we go to such great lengths to separate ourselves from the natural world. Ultimately, I’m helpless to do anything but try to get back here. Be it frigid waters and rocky sediments of a glacial lake washing over our feet, or a silty river soil slipping between our toes, to root oneself ankle-deep into the world and absorb great moments of light and scenery is a transformational experience. Don’t believe for one minute that life’s peak moments necessitate anything more luxurious than looking back on a day’s hard work as our day-star fades and reveals sky’s true form and those blue-blue windows to which Mr. Young was referring.


In our forebears’ efforts to dispossess and destroy the native peoples, it seems as though the one thing we could never steal was some perspective.

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Taken on August 16, 2009