10 Aug Joy & The Obligations of Fortune
It’s a rare travel day when I can sleep past 6AM. On this particular occasion I had more than four hours to kill before my flight was scheduled to depart. As the dogs padded circles around our bed I heard the click, click, clicking of their nails on the hardwood floors. Mekela, our blond Great Pyrenees, leaped up on to the bed between us, snuggling her face close to mine, licking at my nose until I rubbed her furry belly.
“That was your last night in a bed for while,” Shamane said to me as she petted Sasha, our Black Labrador Retriever Mix. “We’re going to miss you.”
With one last rub of her tummy I pressed my face into Mekela’s neck for a kiss and pushed her off the bed. Rolling over I pulled my wife into my arms and kissed her too in spot behind her ear. Then I whispered. “I’m going to miss you too,” I said. “Nothing I do would be possible without you.”
Throughout my long career I’ve claimed to be the luckiest guy in the world. After 20 years of marriage to a wonderful woman I enjoy an obscenely fortunate existence as a freelance journalist and independent media producer. With the support and encouragement of Shamane I’ve written and had published countless print and online articles, a work of historic non-fiction and a feature documentary film. Though I earn a good living as a creative person the steady income of her career as a distinguished radio reporter offers a stable platform from which I can launch my flights of fancy as an objective observer of outdoor recreation and environmental conservation. I’ve been called an adventurer. But as her husband I do what I can to provide at least some of the comfort and security she has given me.
“Just don’t die,” she said returning my kiss.
When you get an invitation to share a Grand Canyon rafting permit for a private expedition you say, yes. On short notice my friend Sergio Ballivian contacted me out of the blue and asked if I was free to join a six-person paddle crew. As it happens I was between projects in the month of August 2018 and I did indeed have two weeks to spend traveling along the Colorado River in Arizona from Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek on Hualapai Nation Land. Having made the same trip two years earlier I know what lies ahead. Apart from the vicious desert heat of mid summer and several class-5 rapids this expedition doesn’t pose much in the way of objective hazards. So the risk of death is fairly minimal. But I’m never one to press my luck. I promised Shamane I’d come back home to her safely.
Trips like this one are not uncommon. Sergio and I met in 1998 on a similar expedition by kayak on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. Many of the opportunities I’ve had to see the world I owe to the generosity of those who were kind enough to share their adventures and have me along for the ride. From the jungles of Panama, to the desert of the Serengeti through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge I have traveled with friends and colleagues who have asked little in return other than to share my experiences with others in my stories and efforts to encourage our elected officials to do all they can to protect our natural resources and wilderness areas for future generations to enjoy.
Along with the lobbying efforts of many non-profit organizations I have worked with the Next 100 Coaltion to advocate for the preservation of public land. Focused on ensuring access to public land for all segments of the U.S. population with a particular interest in people of color, the Coaltion has lobby Congress to address the 11.6 billion dollar backlog of National Park maintenance and renewing support of the Land And Water Conservation Fund. With any luck well help to assure the posterity of our natural heritage well through the next century.
With the good fortunate I have enjoyed for so long comes the obligation to make sure that everyone has at least the potential to experience some the same opportunities I have had. Though I am hardly curing cancer or laying down my life in service to my country I take great pride in sharing the story of environmental advocacy. As we leave today and head down into the Grand Canyon I am most grateful to Shamane and so many who make what I do possible. Thank you! I’ll see you on the other side.
Author’s note: This entry was written and posted on the fly on an iPad without the benefit of long editing and review. Sorry for the poor quality. I’ll do better next time!
~ James Edward Mills