I hesitate to mention where this painting takes its inspiration for a couple of reasons. Technically speaking, the boys should maybe not be there fishing. When I saw them there, however, I decided I’d much rather paint them than scold them. If we do not allow young people to interact with the natural world, how can we expect them to grow up with a love of it that will move them to protect it? Personally, I think it is a miracle they had fishing poles in their hands instead of cell phones. Or really, that they were there at all.
My other reason for reticence is I’ve recently learned that professionals are no longer allowed to take photos or make images of the preserves. !!!! What?! A friend of mine is a steward, and she saw a ranger hunting down a photographer who’d been reported taking photos. I have to say, even typing these words makes me furious. We pay the taxes that make these preserves possible. We dedicate hundreds of hours volunteering to restore them, and now we can’t take pictures of them? Holy smokes. I cannot even call the person responsible for this new rule, because I fear I won’t be able to be civil to her.
There is a third aspect I’d like to mention, and that is the decision to include people. Just today a woman complimented me on a painting she saw of mine, specifically because it had no people in it. Well, hmm. It’s true that beautiful places sometimes get “loved” to death. But I would like to suggest that this hands-off attitude is part of the problem. Those of us who love nature have gotten the idea that humans are bad and must be kept away from nature. And there is the natural backlash, people who despise nature because they’ve been told it matters more than they do. If you think about it, humans and nature have had an uneasy relationship right from the beginning. I mean, let your guard down and it will kill you! So, for a very long time, humans taught each other that the way to survive was to beat it down. Fell the trees, plow the earth, pave everywhere else. Now the pendulum has swung the other way, with many feeling nature must be protected from humans at all costs.
I think there is a better way. I think this underlying belief that people and nature must be held separate isn’t good for people or nature. Both lose and it isn’t working so well. Instead, I believe we should see how we can weave ourselves back into the fabric of Life. We who love the natural world can’t pretend that people don’t matter, just as the human race as a whole can’t keep pretending the natural world doesn’t matter. Me? I like to see boys leaning on a fence, fishin’.