by JOSEPH HARRIS - September 27, 2020
White wisps of clouds dot the ocean blue sky, and towering evergreens spread as far as the eye can see. The occasional mountain looks down on man as God looks down on Earth. Nature triumphing over man, she sits upon her throne with the state of Oregon gently lying in her hand.
A servant of Nature, he views his humble log cabin as a castle in Nature’s kingdom and himself as Nature’s knight. The evergreens that envelop his house are the walls that protect his castle, and the wildlife that scurry about are his fellow citizens. Grandpa Jack is especially keen on the youngest child, his grandson, mostly because he has an attentive ear and a deep love for family. Every Saturday the grandson calls Grandpa Jack, not out of obligation, but sincere interest into what the old man has to say. This simple gesture of calling on a regular basis means more to the old man than the grandchild could ever know. Hearing the voice of his son’s son makes the countless miles between them only a few feet—a distance shortened by love.
This Saturday was no different, and the instant Grandpa heard the insistent ringing of his ancient 1987 dial telephone, a grin emerged from his wrinkled countenance. After they exchanged greetings, they talked about everything from the Oregon Packers to the fish in the lake, until the grandchild asked a question that changed the demeanor of the conversation from casual to contemplative. “Grandpa, why live in Oregon when it’s so far away?”
Taken aback by the question, Grandpa Jack had to pause and consider his words carefully. He knew this was the perfect opportunity to impart his own two cents onto the child.
“Well, ‘cause in Oregon, I’m free.”
The child, with a quizzical tone, remarked, “You’re yanking my chain, you can’t be free’er than me.”
“Oh, boy, you’re oh so wrong. In Oregon, there ain’t a chain shackled to my arm with the phone on the other end. I ain’t forced to live any way, but one way—the free way. I don’t go to Church, I don’t slave for a boss. That’s right, I am as free as I can be, as long as I respec’ Nature.”
“Grandpa, how can you respect Nature if Nature’s not a person?!”
Eagerly, Grandpa Jack snatched the opportunity to explain the heart and soul of his own philosophy. Fervidly, he continued, “Child, Nature is the Alpha and Omega in Oregon. Nature is the essence of freedom. Nature don’t have any laws or taxes or demands. Nature gives peace, life, freedom to all in her kingdom. Nature ain’t a person, but that doesn't mean it don’t deserve respec’.”
A few minutes passed in awkward silence, both parties waiting for the other to speak, until the boy interrupted once more, “Grandpa, you're still not making a whole lotta sense.”
With a sigh, Grandpa mused, “You'll just have to come visit for yourself.”
And later that same summer, the grandson did visit. Grandpa Jack showed him the bright, blooming wildflowers. He taught him how to spot the agile frolicing deer. He showed him the stickiness of the sap on the overbearing evergreens. He showed him the everlasting beauty of Nature’s gift to man. The boy was struck with awe as he experienced the true meaning of the great outdoors and Grandpa Jack smiled, knowing Nature had gained another knight.