The gentle slope of the alpine meadow is broken by the forms of six tents. From here we see the dusty trail appearing as a connecting ribbon. Below the tents the clear water of the narrow creek eddies among the long slim water reeds and gurgles playfully, spilling over well-worn rocks. Here is a community and an environment suggesting an absorbing adventure on the wings of thought.
Not without a purpose has man invaded the backwoods of the Idaho Bitter Root Mountains. The camp below us is one of the many camps engaged in the work of white pine blister rust control. The vast stands of the Idaho white pine are the life-blood of the state's timber industry which is directly correlated with the people's prosperity. The blister rust, a fungal disease, has offered a serious menace to this timber resource, but the United States Forest Service has found, and is applying, an effective means of control. The fungus is easily controlled because of its inability to spread from tree to tree. Wild currant and gooseberry, known collectively by the generic name of ribes, serve as mid-hosts. By destroying the mid-host the disease cycle is broken and the white pine is saved to that extent. Yet, even with an army of workers, complete eradication of this disease may require many years. Each summer camps are set up and college forestry students are given the opportunity to work with experienced woodsmen from the nearby communities, acquiring practical experience in the forest and earning the expenses of further education.
Towering cedars, stately spruces, and the princely white pines are the progeny of the encircling hills. The wind-mangled snags offer a weird contrast to the harmonious beauty of the rest. Here is a scene, representing an environment, different from anything I had known before. By coming to Idaho I exchanged the enlightening experience of college for the more sublime association with nature and her rugged offspring, those woodsmen, my fellow-workers.
Let us relax in the yielding duff of pine needles. We shall not become lonely in the depths of the forest. The forest is a community and its life is self-unfolding. To sit beside a trickle of water in the secret fastnesses of the tall trees is to be refreshened.
Were you surprised when the rock at your feet suddenly grew legs and splashed into the water to reappear as a frog on the other side? Can you read the story impressed in the soft earth of the creek banks? Had you noticed the clever camouflage of brush concealing the game trail to the creek? Search for the minute and you will find it. A cleverly concealed spider's web above is almost completed by its designer and builder. Your hand is disturbed by two curious ants who have mounted your fingers in challenge to your careless destruction. You completely blocked the entrance to a tiny ant hole by the mere shifting of your fingers. The forest is not a place of loneliness; it abounds in life and companionship.
In this mood, the inanimate is living. In the distance a deeply chiseled gorge reveals its own story. Red rock, gray rock, gold-bearing quartz, and slate, in layers and intermingling, are quiet reminders of a time when our Mother Earth was once a restless parent. Water, now splashing recklessly among scattered boulders, seems to be living its own adventure. Plunging down the slopes, the icy liquid is on its way to the lowlands. Here is refreshment for the water fern or perhaps a wandering elk. Lacking patience, it dashes to join other creeks far below; thence, to flow as one to the ocean far away.
The harmony of this quiet observation and meditation is soul-satisfying. This is nature's gift, a lovely thing to share.
Such reflexion is temporarily diverted by a disrespectful disturbance from the direction of the tents. In solemn procession appear the mules of the pack train. The call of the packer is answered by many shouts, and men appear as if by magic. The men break from the circle of their gleeful comrades as their names are called for mail, each hoping that his name will be called next. Let our thoughts reach out to this group. I have come to know my fellow-workers well. The desire to know each one individually has brought an abiding reward. There is an inner beauty in all human nature. It is interesting to observe the inner beauty revealed by my tent-mates.
Have you noticed how large timbers are split with a steel wedge? The wedge is inserted in a crack, if one can be found, and splitting is made easier. Each divine quality of these men is a "crack" by which the "inner nature" can be laid bare by correct usage of the theosophic "wedge." Nature, not schools, has been the instructor of many of these men, yet, nature has been an excellent instructor. Truth, sincerity, perseverance, tolerance, courage, and sympathy are the qualities they have acquired from the forest and their hardy forebears. With matchless precision they can sharpen a saw, wield an ax, and build structures of hand-hewn timbers. No sacrifice is too great for the well-being of a friend. These men do not claim any "religion" but there is an intuitive reverence for natural law. In this melting-pot the college and the local boys have learned to respect each other; each type of personality has made an effort to understand the other. Practical woodcraft is exchanged for textbook information. In all respects it is an even exchange. The camp is blessed with fine human timber, yet the wedge has not been driven. These divine qualities are part of all of us; yet my comrades are not self-consciously aware of this. They have not learned to anchor their desires permanently to the dictates of their "finer selves." The boys, when together, permit their childish desires to gain the upper hand. Hard-earned paychecks are squandered foolishly. Evenings are idled away with card games and the reading of cheap magazines. Conversation is usually boresome, without intelligent aim. Is being "tough" the acme of perfection? To a few, it appears to be since they have supposed that they must reflect the attitude of their associates. It is an attitude which travels in a circle, a circle without a solid foundation.
If they can be interested in learning to "know themselves," they can acquire this foundation. Several of my mates, not so easily satisfied by the camp pastimes, have expressed their interest in my Theosophical correspondence work. These few with their intelligent questions are a pleasing contrast to the others with their insipid gossip. For these, real interest has followed curiosity. I am optimistic as I note a gradual change of attitude; the "tough personality" is being challenged by the "natural individual." This is the first acquaintance for these men with Reincarnation, Karma, and other such doctrines of Theosophy. Each inquirer is ready for the "wedge." I know that as my friends read the Theosophical pamphlets that I lend to them, they will absorb those great truths that harmonize with their preconceived intuitive knowledge. Within the canvas walls of this tiny city, I sense a gradual unfolding, a yearning, the kindling of an interest for the sacred truths and ethical obligations of life.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE