Opinion: keeping Squaw’s old stories — a ritual of remembrance, grief
October 18, 2016
I have failed to make it through the door of the town meetings where the argument continues around Keeping Squaw True. Upon disembarking from my car, the emerging sobs swell in my throat as if I'd swallowed a loaf of Wonder Bread.
I turn around and go back to the car and let loose, ashamed not to be joining those who give their time to this cause. These days, I feel despair when people are polarized, not listening to one another; or more accurately, not hearing one another, interrupting, too busy thinking of their next argument to listen.
I feel traumatized in the same way I felt when I watched the Vice-Presidential debate recently, or when I accidently turn on CNN. I want to find a way to stop the noise and find some healing.
Honestly, I do not see Squaw's developers suddenly backing down and becoming tree-loving dirt worshippers, devoted to conservation and sustainability. I don't support the vulgarity and egocentricity of the sort of "development" proposed for Squaw Valley, and I am not lying down waiting for the steel wheels of the developers to flatten me; I am just weary of all the toxicity inherent in these kinds of wars.
Water parks, high rise hotels, expensive shops, more cars on the roads, and sapping water from the dwindling sources are destructive behaviors, not progressive behaviors. Yet there are many old, ugly structures from the Cushing days that must be razed, e.g., that awful box at the base of Red Dog.
I want a park and a building commemorating all the indigenous people killed or chased off so white opportunists could take over and "improve" the land. I long for a place of refuge from all the noise and over-stimulation, no televisions or video games or loud music; just quietness, with books and pictures of Squaw's history to appreciate and remember?
"What would John Muir do?" (a familiar catchphrase) is easily answered. John Muir would have left Nature alone. His love for Nature did not consider chairlifts, trams, hotels, and water parks an "improvement" on Nature's design.
Alex Cushing was no steward of the environment either, quite the opposite. He behaved carelessly and recklessly in realizing his grand vision, and much was stolen from the breasts and bellies of the mountains now shaved of their trees, and irreparably scarred by lift towers and ski runs.
Indeed the new regime has made significant investment in restoration, but so much more can and should be done to make what exists sustainable, rather than yet another expression of this culture's unwillingness to conserve Nature's preciousness for the sake of profit.The dollar sign-covered glasses the developers wear obscures the truth; Tahoe's land, including Squaw Valley's has already given nearly its last drop of blood for the sake of development.
If I were a Crone with the power to wave a crooked finger and make magic happen, I would restore Squaw Valley to its pre-Olympic perfection and start anew, first humbly asking for the land's permission and guidance in my quest for occupancy, perhaps channeling John Muir, who would have suggested that if people wanted to ski, they could enjoy a long climb up the mountain on snowshoes to earn the joyful descent, certainly not riding on high-speed chairlifts.
But I'm just an ordinary Crone with crooked fingers that don't have any magic and a heart that aches for a collective softening where all the anger stops.
On a long bike ride recently, I imagined a healing gathering somewhere in Squaw Valley, where all would be welcome, especially those who really need to hear the old stories and to be part of a ritual of remembrance and grieving for the disappearance and dismissal of what was once a true community.
What a gift for all of us to be as one to hear the old stories told by Squaw Valley's living elders; stories of the days when we were a sweet bouquet of families who always left their doors unlocked and whose children wandered from house to house to see if there were better cookies in the jar, or someone to play with.
Perhaps the vehement resistance to development is caused in part by the experience of being occupied and run over by a heavy-footed corporation that does not seem to be conscious enough or to care about acknowledging that many of us feel that something has died.
If the new regime could take a break from hard selling the re-development idea and spend some time witnessing the grief, it might go a long way in opening hearts. Before any change, however grand we think it is, we must first act with humility in honoring what has been lost.
Kimball C. Pier, Ph.D., LMFT, founded Sierra Agape Therapeutic Services in Truckee in 2010. She can be reached for comment at email@example.com.