Growing up in the wild Idaho outdoors, we were taught at an early age to deal with your own sh*t. I mean that literally — we would often go hiking and camping in the Sawtooth Mountains and a cardinal rule was packing out what you pack in (toilet paper included). After all, it was your duty to leave the trail better than you found it. The task is by no means glamorous, but when you find yourself at the end of a hike in front of a wide mountain vista — untouched by human development, glistening in the sun of a clear blue sky — you’re struck dumb at the importance of caring for the trail behind you. Who are we to make a mess of God’s perfect creation?
I was lucky to grow up in a place like Idaho. We’re surrounded by untouched creation — the Rocky Mountains, the Owyhee Mountains, Hells Canyon, Craters of the Moon, Frank Church Wilderness — lands just teeming with natural wonders. My grandpa would often take us out to these spots to fish, hike, and hunt. And even as a kid you’d be struck by the beauty of it. Here was God’s artist pallet let loose. Big swatches of paint and crashing boulders of millenia past. It was ours to marvel at, and ours to protect.
As we think about our current age of climate crisis and the devastation of our human impact on the Earth, I’m reminded of the lessons learned from simple outdoorsmen like my grandpa and life in Idaho. The majesty of the land reminds us how small we are. Basic decency demands we clean up after ourselves. The desire to share its beauty with the next generation means we protect it. It’s not ours to control, it’s ours to steward. You don’t fish past your limit — you want to make sure there are trout for the next summer.
That’s what we’re exploring over the coming weeks at Grotto: the awe and wonder of the environment, the peril it faces at human hands, and our responsibility to care deeply about it. Have you breathed in Canadian wildfire smoke? Had rain water flood your basement? Sweat through your shirt in record breaking heat? Then you know we have our work cut out for us. It might not be our fault, but we’ve got to deal with this sh*t!
“Leave the World Better Than You Found It” — that’s our mantra at Grotto in the weeks ahead. In the same way a good hiker cleans up the beer bottles and empty hot dog bags from a more selfish camper, we’re asking what we can do to right the wrongs that have landed us in our current climate crisis — all while still enjoying the beauty of God’s gifts around us.