The Once and Future River ~ on assignment for Land + People

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photo by Julia Stotz

Curiosity is perhaps humanity’s greatest gift. Our inquiring minds drive us forward into an exciting world of mystery and exploration. With each new question we are inspired to discover what might be over the next ridge or beyond the horizon. It is these questions, the utter uncertainty of our existence that makes life worth living.

From a very young age I have been encouraged to ask questions. Long ago I learned never to trust anyone who claims to have all the answers. You have to see it for yourself. My curiosity has made it possible for me to see much of the world and in many ways I have come to a better understanding of myself. Lately as a writer I’ve been given the opportunity to explore a bit of my past and hopefully use some of what I’ve learned to set a course for the future.

Since the release of my book The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors many people have come to me with questions. As a person of color who has enjoyed a long career in the outdoor industry I have become something of an authority on the issue of diversity and how me might encourage a new generation of young people to become involved in efforts to protect and preserve the natural environment. Perhaps in the hopes of duplicating some of my success a question I am often asked is, “How did you begin your in interest in the outdoors?”

Like most people with a lifelong passion for spending time outside it’s hard to know exactly where or when it all started. And because of that I think it’s no less difficult to know how to help bring about that same love and appreciation for nature in others. But with the encouragement of curious editors at the publications to which I am proud to contribute I have had the opportunity to tunnel down into my own psyche and explore that question for myself.

Land + People is a biannual magazine produced by the nonprofit Trust For Public Land. Prompted by the subject matter of my book and a photo essay I wrote about urban fly-fishing on the Bronx River in New York City last fall, the editors there invited me to write a 2000-word story on how we might close the divide between those who spend time in nature and those who don’t. With license to report from anywhere in North America I desired I was allowed to indulge a recently acquired curiosity about how people in cities, far from national parks and wilderness areas, access and experience the natural world where they live. Which raised the question, “How did I?”

I grew up in South Central Los Angeles, California an urban enclave called Lemiert Park. Yet somehow I managed to experience and enjoy a direct relationship with natural world. On assignment for Land+People I had the chance to go back to my old neighborhood and explore the place of my childhood where my love of the environment first began. And as it happens in our wandering we often return to the place where started and see it as if for the very first time.

Click here to read the essay The Once and Future River

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photo by Julia Stotz

 

The Joy Trip Project is made possible with the support of the Trust For Public LandTPL_Logo_PMS378

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Author:James

I'm a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

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