Scientists are predicting that by 2012, most lodgepole pines in the Colorado Rocky Mountains will killed by beetles. I saw this sad reality in Grand Lake this past week, as my family took a quick vacation. We rented a paddle boat and chugged out into the lake. A truly gorgeous morning to be out in the mountains. And on every side of the lake, I saw more beetle-dead tress than living trees. And it made me sad. I hunted up here once with my dad when I was in high school. I camped up here one summer as a kid. My wife and I honeymooned here. And it’s all dying. You can see in the picture that the hill in the distance is covered with dead or dying trees. Forest experts say that the only way to truly kill the beetles is to burn them. I doubt that the forest service will ignite entire regions of forest land in the Rocky Mountains. Sadly, scenic drives may result in a gray and brown rocky landscape, much like McCarthy’s The Road.
As I sat in my paddle boat in the middle of Grand Lake, my family bobbing happily along, I thought momentarily about cultivation. In Genesis, God commands man to take care of the land. Even now, the land still needs our help to be healthy. Nature is equally destructive towards itself as we are, something Emerson failed to acknowledge in his Transcendentalism utopia. Our earth has the ability to restore itself, and we see it as destruction. But forest are healthier when we remove the dead wood. Various animal herds are healthier when they aren’t over-populated. There’s something to be said for intentionally nurturing, cultivating, and caring for our home. The beetle tree problem is just another example of how our world needs us as much as we need it.
And the same goes for creativity. Our natural inclination is to move towards contentment, be okay with where we are. There’s a time for that, but if we, as artists or as people, ever buy into the lie that we have arrived, that we are the ultimate in our field, the moment the beetle begins to eat away at our creative spirit. The same applies if our audience becomes more important than our actual writing, or if success and the American Dream supersedes our art. I don’t say this to suggest that we should ignore our audience. Readers are part of the process, and alienating them doesn’t really help anything. Keeping an audience in mind is different than making the audience more important than the art.
What are some things that you do to stay fresh? To nurture your creativity? To refocus on the art instead status?