Joni Mitchell Was Right...


A couple of weeks ago, I went to Yellowstone National Park. It was my first time, and it is something you should definitely put on your bucket list. As I was sitting at a picnic table having lunch, I started thinking about why I considered this such a spectacular place.

When I lived in the mountains in Telluride, Colorado in my early 20's, I was probably in awe of the place for the first summer. Then I just stopped looking up at the majestic walls of the canyon that surrounded the town. When visitors came, they would comment on how lucky I was. It was true, but the excitement had become normal. I moved four years later, and have been thinking about those mountains ever since.

While sitting alongside that river in Yellowstone, I started to think that I recognized the beauty of the place mainly because I usually don't see it. I'm in Los Angeles. I don't get to be in that type of environment very often, so when I do, I appreciate it. 

It is a similar feeling that drove Teddy Roosevelt to create the US Forest Service and the National Parks System in the first place. He was a New Yorker who noted the diminishing herds of buffalo and elk across the plains. He didn't live day-to-day on the frontier, but thank goodness he got motivated enough to carve out land on the frontier to preserve it.

Joni Mitchell sang, "sometimes you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone", and she is right.  What is gone now?

Many of us are noticing the lack of connection in our communities and wondering where it went. Trust among people in neighborhoods is down across the country. Maybe we took it for granted and thought that the world would stay its course. But now, it's going to take all of us to conserve and protect the things that make community work.

And just like Roosevelt's preservation of some 230 million acres of open space, it's not a thought experiment. It takes action — big and small. For us, we start with the mere act of showing up to help. It does a lot for those that need help, but it probably does more for those that are helping.

I'm sure that my tax dollars and $30 entry fee into Yellowstone helped the park, but as I am sitting back here in Los Angeles, the park helped me a great deal more. It's the same when you get out and lend a hand.