Monday, July 25, 2016

The Potency of Life

A few weeks ago, on a gorgeous, sunshine day, two friends and I made the 103-mile trek from Portland to Goldendale, Washington. Our destination: Maryhill Museum of Art

As always, a trip through our Columbia River Gorge, the largest national scenic area in the U.S., is life-enhancing and mind-boggling and, as always, elicits a blessing on those who worked so laboriously to make sure this scenic wonder was kept natural and undeveloped.

As we arrived at Maryhill Museum of Art after our drive through the Gorge--when we often over-talked each other exclaiming about and pointing to the awesome works of nature all around (Columbia River on our left and on our right, soaring waterfalls, basalt cliffs, natural forest)--I couldn't help but be struck by a dichotomy.

We just experienced two hours of unbridled amazement at natural wonders and now we were heading into a man-made structure displaying man-made items and would undoubtedly be further amazed by the human art and talent on display at the museum.

For three hours we wandered the floors of the museum, enjoying the diversity of art on display. We talked about the singularly visionary entrepreneur, Sam Hill and his goals for the museum (as well as his dedication to good roads in the Pacific Northwest in the early 20th century). 

One of the last displays we lingered over featured Native American art and artifacts. I was struck by this 1994 quote from Elizabeth Woody, a Navajo-Warm Springs-Wasco-Yakama artist, author, educator and Oregon's 2016 Poet Laureate: "All these [the Native American art and artifacts] were made from the earth and did not disrupt its systems. They embodied the belief that the earth provides for us and through the earth we prosper and absorb into ourselves the potency of life."

In our modern, tech-driven world, a world where greed, hate and anger seem now to be the norm, is it possible we humans can prosper without (further) harming the planet? Because, make no mistake, we harm the planet, we harm ourselves. Or, maybe we need to redefine what "prosper" really means to us.  

"She Who Watches"
The large-eyed pictograph has a cliffside perch in Washington's 
Columbia Hills State Park/Horsethief Lake unit
Photo of pictograph by John Nelson -The Dalles, Oregon, USA
Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.