Open or Closed?
“Closed Today,” has read the sign in front of Point Lobos State Reserve many days this winter. Thankfully it’s not state budget cuts keeping some of the half a million annual visitors from entering what is called “the crown jewel of the state park system,” or “the greatest meeting of land and sea.”
No, it’s possible danger to those visitors, from high surf, high winds, downed trees and mudslides. It’s shaping up to be wild, wet winter, and the roads, trails and coastline are risky places to be. A tree actually fell, on a pretty nice day, directly on a visitor who was obediently on trail (and not seriously hurt.)
But some locals (and probably some tourists) grumble that the Parks folks are being too cautious. On any day, wet or dry, winter or summer, a guest could risk life on the wet rocks, slip on a trail, trip over a branch. Life is dangerous. We go to that great meeting place, to the wild, as Thoreau said, to see our limits pushed.
And we wonder why is there more damage this year? Trees stressed and weak from years of drought? Wild weird weather patterns because of climate change (or the new phrase I’ve heard, climate chaos)?
Lobos is a State Reserve, not a park, which means it is managed not with people in mind, but the wild life there. Parking is limited, no ball fields, stay on the trails. If a tree falls down, unless it is across a road or trail, it is not tidied up, but left alone to provide habitat for wildlife and decompose to enrich the soil. Even when National Geographic wanted to come in early before opening to film, they were told no, we are closed when the animals eat at dawn and dusk – it’s their home, we are visitors.
So maybe State Parks is just doing their job, being good stewards. The land and trees and animals need some recovery time free of thrill-seeking tourists, some respite after the storm. It’s not all about us and what we want. Stewardship sometimes means saying no.
Metaphor time: If we, like Lobos, are natural gifts of God (maybe not quite so spectacular, but not bad), can we choose times when we should be open for business, and others when it’s best to say, “closed today?” Or are we being too cautious? Should we let people in even if there is some risk? And if something crashes and falls, do we let it nourish us or do we tidy it up to look better? Are we parks or reserves? What are our wild edges? Where do our wild lilacs bloom and lupine bud? On our “closed” days, do “the trees of the field clap their hands, as we go out in joy?” (Isaiah 55:12)
Open or closed today?
Our Blue Theology ministry of ocean stewardship and spirituality is always open. Our youth service trips and adult pilgrimages on the Monterey Bay often include a poetry walk-and-write at Point Lobos. Bluetheology.com. Photo: Steve Lonhart, NOAA