24 December, 2015

On Denali

 ©2015 Sibu Puthenveettil
At this point, this isn't a very timely post, but it's coming to mind because I recently went on a trip to Jasper National Park in Calgary(where I took the photo on the left).
I visited Alaska in 2013, and though I spent some sum of my life beforehand marveling over mountains in Nature documentaries, it wasn't until this 2013 trip that I was truly able to appreciate geologic wonders such as these, especially in terms of sheer scale.
I was happy to hear that President Obama recently re-named the highest peak in North America back to its original moniker, Denali. In Koyukon, the most geographically wide-spread language spoken in Alaska, Denali means 'the high one.' To much opposition from native Alaskans, the highest peak in North America was re-named Mount McKinley(after the 25th president) by the US government for reasons that are strictly political. And, when the name was recently changed, there was yet more opposition from the former president's home town.
Now during my trip two years ago, I hadn't really used 'Mt. McKinley' as the name with which I referred to the mountain, both because the national park is named Denali and that I read that Denali is how it's commonly referred to in Alaska. I hadn't even really considered the name Mt. McKinley, until my trip to Calgary.
Waking up in Anchorage or Northern Alberta, surrounded by the mountains, you are ensconced within a horizon that rises and falls, like a heart monitor for the earth-an encircling, endless track of the planet's beating heart. It is then that the environment reveals itself, especially to those who would otherwise not consider it, as being no more procurable or purchasable than a wisp of cloud or the fading light of a memorable day.
The branding of Mt. McKinley and the recent outrage is an underlying-and dangerous-habit of people to try to claim ownership over things which cannot be owned. Returning it to the original Denali, which served only as a descriptive title, even one of reverence, is a sound psychological step towards not only the appreciation, but the awareness of nature, of the earth, which is necessary if we're to continue living on it. It is necessary, as Alan Moore writes in Swamp Thing, because "If nature were to shrug... or raise an eyebrow...Then you should all be gone...."

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