Nearsighted

Myopia. Nearsightedness. I notice with the advent of the smart phone that people have become very nearsighted. For instance, it appears they cannot see nor read the signs that say, “Give plants a chance,” dotting the pumice meadows past stone barriers here at Crater Lake National Park. I watch a man from Texas get out of his car at one viewpoint, leap over the mortar and stone barrier, walk past the “Give plants a chance” sign—all without a thought. Tarn yells for him to return as there are many rare plants being trampled. The man looks surprised and a little miffed but acquiesces.  

In most other parks in the country, the protected areas behind established barriers are getting trampled by the nearsighted. Everywhere we go people are trying to get the best selfie by trashing the environment. One famous landmark in Crater Lake is called the twisted tree. It grows from a promontory far past a stone barrier. On this particular trip I saw five folks hanging onto what is left of the stump to get that all-important self-involved photo—no matter the killed plants, steep slope, and possible plummet to one’s injury or death. I have to admit, I have difficulty generating compassion for such lunacy.

But, when I settle down, I realize they have no idea what they are doing. The social media fueled ego takes over and rational thinking drops away. Talk about suffering and causing suffering! If plants could squeal in pain maybe folks would pay attention. It is up to us wildflower lovers to give them voice. Unfortunately, there are far too few of us to compensate for the ever increasing encroachment of insensitivity.

Which brings me to the Pumice grape-fern (Botrychium pumicola). This little plant only grows on loosely packed volcanic soils between about 4,200 and 9,000 feet in elevation. It ranges from northern California to Central Oregon. The species reminds me of those plants one sees in campy sci-fi movies or episodes of Lost in Space. The set designers would grab miscellaneous pieces of rubber, fabric, and hardware to make the weirdest looking plants. The grape-fern would fit right in. 

But, in this case, the green fern leaves only grow about 4 cm high. They look almost rubbery. The brownish spore stalk hosts little spheres that look like tiny grapes. Tarn and I make a pilgrimage to Crater Lake every year to see this rare plant and others. This year, however, one pumice plain where the fern grows hosts mostly footprints. As is our custom, we look through binoculars from behind the stone barrier, scanning to locate a grape-fern. After calling a few folks back from trampling the area and almost giving up, I finally glimpse a specimen. It ironically grows just below a “Give plants a chance” sign. Maybe it knows this is the only safe place.

I wonder if there is a corrective lens for destructive self-involved activity. Perhaps check out your local Dharma dispensary. I hear there is a prescription waiting to be picked up …