Let It Be
Last fall, I took a trip to New Mexico alone.
I wanted to see the rock formations that Georgia O’Keeffe used as subjects in her famous paintings.
To my great satisfaction, I was the benefactor of other peoples’ kindness. A perfect stranger in a strange land, I was invited to go horseback riding, bird-watching and hiking.
I found that the major advantage of travelling alone is that you are obliged to talk to strangers. If you are lucky enough, those people might be willing to share a story, a saddle or their binoculars.
A newly made friend even took me on a special tour of Georgia O’Keeffe’s home. To my delight, it housed several collections of animal bones, shells and rocks, which the famous painter had collected during her time in the desert.
I thought to myself, “I could be very comfortable here.”
You see, if I lost all self-control, my home would be a nature museum. Each room would be a testament to my travels. The bathtub would play host to salamander eggs, the back porch a butterfly pavilion.
Yet is that piece of quartz rock placed on a shelf in the bedroom ever again quite as important as when it lay in the river where it was found? I do not think so.
This week’s question came from a letter sent to the ranger’s office a few weeks ago. In the envelope, I found a small stone and the following message written in a little girl’s scrawl:
This is a stone I found in a river at Price Park. Please put it back for me. I am sorry that I took it. But why am I sorry that I took it?
Dear A.E., I know how you are feeling. The rock that you took from the river is very pretty, and I am glad that you noticed it.
There is a saying that when you are in a park you should “take only photographs and leave only footprints.” I think this is pretty good thing to remember.
There are more than 20,000,000 people who visit the Blue Ridge Parkway every year. That is a really big number. If every person that came to the park took a rock or picked a flower, the park would look really different, wouldn’t it?
The parks are here forever, and they are shared by everyone. That is what makes parks like the Blue Ridge Parkway so special. If we leave things how we found them, then everyone will get to see them for many years to come.
The next time you are here, I hope that you find many more pretty rocks. I hope that you go hiking with your family. I hope you fly a kite. I hope that you laugh and play and listen to the frogs croak at night. That stuff is good for you.
When you come here one day as an old lady, I hope that there are still pretty rocks for you to find. I hope that you go hiking with your family. I hope you fly a kite. I hope that you can laugh and play and listen to the frogs at night.
Here is to hoping that there are other little girls like you who can learn to care enough about the world to enjoy it and let it be.
If you have a question concerning flora and fauna, please email (email@example.com) All of your questions will be answered. One or two will be featured next week. See you on the trails!
Amy Renfranz is an interpretive park guide on the Blue Ridge Parkway. She is a certified naturalist through the Yellowstone Institute and a certified environmental educator in the state of North Carolina. Her comments are made independently and do not reflect the views of the National Park Service.