great horned owl, by Ken Lamberton
I finished reading Ken Lamberton’s Wilderness and Razor Wire
on the plane home. The feeling it leaves me with is sadness, not because it’s a sad book, but for the pain we seem unable to avoid inflicting on ourselves, each other, and on the world. So much of our lives is spent trying to heal the wounds that pain leaves behind.

But the book itself isn’t sad, because it shows a way back, one that worked and continues to work for the author. In a much less dramatic fashion, I think the same way works for me. When I’m feeling disconnected from home, or swimming upstream in my life, I can always find relief – and often delight – in other living things:

We are a species prone to worship creation rather than the creator. But, I think, as is the case of other gifts we are born with, that bond must be nurtured or it withers. It’s encouraging for me to see the men stop and take notice of wildness. It demonstrates their humanity, their connection to nature as an integral and essential part of life. This connection to nature may even be more essential than freedom. The worst kind of punishment forbids any form of contact with another living thing: solitary confinement, the "hole," a concrete cell without windows, without crickets and cockroaches. But imprison a man with trees and he will sit under them, with insects and toads and squirrels and he will make pets of them, with swallows and he will count them.

A fence is not a barrier to my expressing my innate need to love life. But the mind can be. If I walk laps around our half-mile exercise track with every step clouded with thoughts of what I’m missing being away from my family, I withdraw from life. The walls grow thicker, the fences higher. And, ironically, my family becomes more distant with the years remaining until I again join my wife and children stretching out between us. I won’t even see the weeds blooming at my feet.

For me, creation and the creator are one and the same, and that is why a connection to nature is so essential, why it can be so healing: it is a direct connection to the divine.

Last month I wrote
that I could not forgive Ken Lamberton for his crime, but now I don’t know how I could add to his burden. Since I wrote it, I have read his book, sent e-mail and spoken to him on the phone – one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received.

Ken, his family, and everyone else affected by his crime are still figuring out how to go on – in the very best sense. They are more aware of themselves than most of us ever are. Their relationships were cut down to the bone, and held. The memory is frightening, but the knowledge that they held is even more reassuring.

I look forward to hearing more from Ken and his remarkable family. I expect great things from all of them. I believe in them.