"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Sunday, June 18, 2006

don't take no cutoffs

We just returned from two nights at Donner Memorial State Park, a spot selected less for its quiet mountain solitude than for its accessibility from Sacramento (some of C's family met us there) and the fact that the Legal Services picnic was in Auburn on Friday, not to mention Donner Lake, where I was eager to test the waters. We had a good campsite though...plenty of open space around us, so we weren't aware most of the time that we were up there with the masses.

Naturally a visit to this area invites many tired references to the lore of the ill-fated-you-know-who, and of course we had to squeeze the limbs of C's nephew and tell him how tasty he looked. We toured the little museum and watched the 1970's-era 20-minute "documentary" (closeups of paintings of pioneers trudging in the snow with a maudlin soundtrack). Even so, the story provoked some reflection. The will to survive is as powerful a force of nature as any. Whenever a story comes along with a really bad ending, people try to make it into a morality play so that they can detach themselves from it: they were in a hurry to get to California and get rich, they took bad advice, they weren't prepared, they left too late, they fought with each other on the way...and look what happened!

By no means am I suggesting that we can't learn from other's mistakes...sometimes a less painful way to learn than from ones own. My beef (or boiled oxhide, or...other protein source) is that more emphasis is not given to the fact that despite the bad planning, bad luck, disaster and death, quite a number of men, women and children in the Donner party actually survived. That is the only part of the story that captures my imagination at this point.

The nearest brush with disaster we had on our camping trip was when I locked my keys in the truck--with that evening's cache of marshmallows trapped inside! I called our roadside assistance (NOT AAA, but that's a story for another post) and a man in a big towtruck came and plied his ingenious devices to the door, eventually unlocking it and freeing our imprisioned supplies.

Donner Lake and Donner Pass is an historically rich area in ways not related to the Donners. See this from Anthropology.net

No comments: