We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation and wildness.
David Orr from "Earth in Mind"

May 31, 2007

Dolores LaChapelle

The following is my next article to be published at Travels in Paradise.

The first winter I was in Colorado I took an avalanche course at Hesperus Ski Hill, a one lift hill where cows grazed in the summer. It was not the full course that they gave up at the Silverton Avalanche School but it was a solid start for someone who liked to cross country ski in the backcountry. Among our instructors was a married couple who were full of stories of the old days of backcountry skiing. As the years have past the memory faded. Until the other day when I was reading a magazine and there was an obituary for Dolores LaChapelle. In thinking about what I know about her life I believe the couple was her and her husband.

LaChapelle is among a group of environmental writers who shared a philosophy known as Deep Ecology. As Alan Drengson of the Foundation of Deep Ecology explains Deep Ecology is "the long-range deep approach involves redesigning our whole systems based on values and methods that truly preserve the ecological and cultural diversity of natural systems."

Dolores focused on the sacred connection between people and the natural world. She explored this through ritual, backcountry skiing and the sacred connection between the earth and women. Her writings were hefty and academic and her ideas we spiritual in nature. She felt that "If we are to truly connect with the land, we need to change our perceptions and our approach more than our location." LaChapelle lived out her philosophies in Silverton Colorado where she divided her time between writing and directing the Way of the Mountain Leaning Center. In her spare time, Dolores also skied the back country.

As a mother I find myself looking for spiritual connections more often. LaChapelle's belief that ritual as a form of connection to the earth and ones community has infiltrated our life. She saw the connection between our lives and the planet we live on in a feminine way. How was I to know who the funny old woman with her tales of teaching members of the Army Corps of Engineers how to detonate avalanches in the seventies had so much more to teach.

As a family we are creating our own rituals, we hike in the canyon with the apple trees every spring when they are in bloom to welcome their sweetness. As my son is drifting off to sleep I sing him songs of the mountains and seas. When choosing our wedding date we decided to coincide it with Lammas which is the celebration of the first wheat harvest in the Celtic tradition. To recognize both our marriage and Lammas the spot where we were married has a garden that blooms around that time.

It is my understanding of the importance of these rituals that we seek out that is the gift that the words of Dolores LaChapelle gave me.

One of her articles is here

For more information on Deep Ecology you can find it here

No comments: