At the end of my life, after however many pirouettes around the sun I have left on my dance card, I hope to be able to reflect and say with confidence that I led a darn near perfect life. That's what Oregon fly fishing legend, Frank Moore, will you tell you; that he has woven a life story from threads of romance, rivers, family, and steelhead, and despite the trauma and heartache of war, A Darn Near Perfect Life would indeed be his story's title.
Of course we all want what Frank Moore attests to having. But a perfect life, or darn near, is ubiquitous, and generally unnoticed unless in hindsight, or dreamed of in the elusive future. If we could define for ourselves right now what "a darn near perfect life" means for each of us, then perhaps we would be able to see it in the present moment, and not wait until life is behind us to catch a glimpse of it in the rearview mirror. Most days, I am able to do this. I can look around me and say with confidence that I am living a darn near perfect life. I can do this because a few years ago I decided emphatically that I would pursue a life on my own terms, that my North Star was to make a living by being my best self, never compromising my integrity for a paycheck, or blindly minding marching orders designed for someone else's unclear agenda. I didn't want to have a work self and an after-hours self. I wanted a whole, un-fractured, unapologetic self around the clock. I wanted my relationships to strengthen my best self, and to be open to opportunity and resilient to change. If I could do that, it seemed to me, then somehow everything else would cooperate and fall into a healthy balance. My North Star is the spine that connects the body of my entire life. On days when I'm not able to do this, it's because I feel like I could be doing or giving more, and the state of the world demands it, but I'm not sure how best I can help. Those days are not darn near perfect. They're ambivalent and abusive. They're weak knees and wobbly ankles on a scree slope. They're days that beg for sanctuary.
The legend of Frank Moore and his equally legendary conservation champion wife, Jeanne, was introduced to me two years ago when I watched "Mending the Line," a documentary by Uncage the Soul Productions. It was a love story. It followed Frank and Jeanne from their romance that began over 75 years ago, through the turmoil of World War II, with a return to the rivers of Normandy during peacetime, fly rod in hand. Their love is palpable and vibrant. And their independent lives flow like two streams that feed one mighty river. The fairytale of Frank and Jeanne Moore is one of enduring love, and a shared and active passion for wild and natural spaces; the spaces that provide sanctuary to wildlife, and sanctuary for people.
In light of so very many local, national, and global concerns that are affecting real human lives everyday, it may seem like the conversation about conservation and the need to protect natural sanctuaries is trite. Why should we care about enacting federal legislation for sanctuary preservation when spaces that are already protected are threatened to be sold off to the highest bidder? Why should we fret over protecting wild spaces when Nazis are once again making headlines? We should fret because they are not isolated concerns. They are coexisting cancers within the same body.
We -- humans -- have been chiseling away at our own home planet, trying to conquer wildness and eradicate it where it may be deemed inconvenient. As a result of increased urbanization, over-consumption, and exponential population growth, we are being strangled. We are struggling to exist on a planet that was not meant to be bound by the impact of our short-sighted development. We constantly speak of the search for balance because we are out of sync with the natural rhythm of our earth, the one we were born to rock with, not against. We have been gassed by the poison of a poorly projected notion of "progress," and our collective mental health is suffering. The mental health crisis and the environmental crisis are more alike than they are different, and their impacts are equally catastrophic. We go to war over exhaustible natural resources. We go to war over perceived differences. We go to war out of hate that is founded in fear, and empowered by those who know there is revenue in the spoils of it all.
This is no trite concern.
Frank and Jeanne Moore have built their lives along the North Umpqua River, tucked in among the Douglas fir and western hemlock. They are stewards and protectors of the river, her tributaries, and all who live and find sanctuary there. Frank found sanctuary by fly fishing the North Umpqua when he returned from World War II as a soldier with hidden wounds that we now refer to as PTSD.
We are living in a time of war. Soldiers and civilians alike are suffering the ravages of a war that is tearing like a wildfire throughout our communities. Our natural spaces are dwindling even as we need them more than ever. The Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary would federally protect 100,000 acres of the Steamboat Creek Watershed, ensuring that the wildness and sanctuary of the North Umpqua is preserved. Protective efforts like these are key ingredients to war's antidote, and they need our support. Sanctuaries provide habitat and healing, and we must advocate for their protection.
I recently had the honor of taking casting lessons from the legend himself at his pond behind the home that he and Jeanne built along the North Umpqua. We would practice awhile, and then we'd take a break, sitting side by side along the grassy edge of the pond. During one of our breaks, he clasped his strong and well-lived hand over mine and he said "How lovely is the hand of God that smooths the rough place man has trod." Then he gestured to the pond, glinting in the late morning light, and said, "I just love watching the mayflies dance, don't you?" I agreed. It was a peaceful and harmonious dance. It was therapeutic, a balm of serenity and connectedness within an increasingly disconnected world.
We can gain traction on this scree slope. We can heal despite the war and regain our strength to put out its fire. We can eradicate the cancers of crises that have spread across our communities. We do not have to choose between fighting Nazis (again) and fighting for clean water (again). We can speak up and show up to protect our world and each other, we can consume less and put our money where our mouth is, we can demand respect for our natural world because our very lives depend on it. We can save our sanctuaries, and experience first-hand the smoothing of the rough places we have trod.
Please contact your representative and let them know that you support The Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary. Because sanctuary is good for everyone. #SaveSanctuaries
We believe good things come from people spending time outside. It’s about more than standing on the mountain top. It’s about nourishment and learning. It’s about protecting what sustains us. It’s about building relationships with the outdoors and each other. LEARN MORE and share the pledge to Adventure Like You Give A Damn.