14 Aug

Painted rocks

“Painting a landscape is not always a good thing” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (August 14, 2007).

The rocks have stood there virtually unchanged for 20,000 years, giving visitors a present-day glimpse of a long-ago past.

It’s known as Boulder Field, and its nearly 17 acres of sandstone and rock is an awe-inspiring site to anyone visiting Hickory Run State Park in the Pennsylvania Poconos.

Coming upon Boulder Field, the eye cannot help but be impressed by the grandeur of the landscape. Rocks dot the horizon, some of the boulders stretching as long as 26 feet. In the distance, park-goers gingerly dance across the field, dwarfed to ant-like size in an odd Martian-perspective sort of way.

Such are the time-stand-still remnants of the last ice age. Shifting and melting glaciers acted as a slow-moving bulldozer some 20,000 years ago, heaving rock and unearthing the surface in Earth’s ever-patient style. Not much has changed since.

Or so I thought.

Joining the pint-sized people on Boulder Field, my wife and I began the rocky dance across the surface, holding our toddlers’ hands with clenched fists. The landscape was spectacular, but one quickly realizes that to successfully traverse Boulder Field without suffering a broken ankle, one’s eyes need to be fixed low – at one’s feet, and at the next rock.

Looking down, I am loathe to discover some not-so-long-ago evidence of recent geological shifting.

“Tim ’08.”

Apparently today’s visitors to Boulder Field weren’t its first. Seems “Tim” happened upon the rocky landscape, during a heroic Lewis and Clark exploration of the great outdoors, I’m sure, way back in 2008 – with spray paint in tow.

Sadly, Tim was not alone.

Walking across Boulder Field, one quickly discovers that Boulder Field has been visited by more than its share of rock artists.

Jason was there too. Along with lovebirds John and Mary. Not to mention T.J. and other semi-anonymous initialed trailblazers.

What strikes me most about this is that all of these explorers had paint with them on their trek to Boulder Field. They did not simply yield to an impulsive ego-driven temptation to preserve themselves in bright blue or orange. Rather, they knowingly went to Boulder Field with aerosol can in hand.

Even the entire Jones family was there! Packing up for their summer vacation to the Poconos, I can hear Mr. Jones going over the checklist with his kids:

“Okay, we’ve got the tent and camping stove.”

“Check.”

“Lantern and binoculars.”

“Check.”

“Bug spray and Frisbee.”

“Check.”

“Spray paint.”

“Whoops! Almost forgot, Dad! Let me run into the garage and get some. What color should we use this year?”

“Red would be good. Holds up well under the elements.”

Ah, Americana. The great outdoors and the smell of aerosol!

Standing on the rock, I could feel bitterness begin to well up within me. A disheartening sense of discouragement at humankind. Are we really that arrogant? Or is it insecurity with our lives’ meaningfulness? Perhaps it simply can be chalked up to boredom.

I began to rationalize other less-permanent acts of the artistic ego in action. The dilapidated brick wall. The freshly painted storefront. The bridge overpass. All tempting targets for the modern-day male and his empty search for manhood. And much of it for bragging rights. This I could understand. Though still discouraging, such youthful rebellion is hardly ever permanent. Fresh can of paint; fresh canvas.

At what point does the ego yield to the greater power of nature?

For 20,000 years, Earth has slowly crept along since the last ice age, and the beauty and permanence of Boulder Field humbly stands before us as a testament to time, patience and the beauty of creation.

Disheartened, I begin the trek to the car. Once off the rocks, I turn and look back once more at Boulder Field.

Suddenly, my heart is captured again by its grandeur, its spirit of resiliency, its knowing sense of hope. From afar, not a single spec of paint is visible.

In the community of rocks, only beauty can be found.

12 Aug

A little Bling

“A little Bling can go a long way in Nicaragua” in the Denver Post (August 12, 2007).

Twenty percent of the world’s population does not have enough water. The United Nations expects that number to rise to 30 percent by 2025, with possibly 2.3 billion people lacking access to improved water supplies.

I propose a solution to the problem, but it will take the goodwill and generous nature of our country’s elite to make it a reality: Bling H20.

If you haven’t heard of Bling H20, you certainly haven’t been hanging out with the right crowd. Bling H20 is bottled water that can fetch up to three figures at some of the trendiest celebrity hotspots.

Bling H20 was introduced last year by Hollywood producer Kevin Boyd. He noticed that bottled water has seemingly become an accessory for the celebrity set. Capitalizing on egos, Boyd set out to create the hippest, trendiest and most expensive bottled water ever.

Thus evolved Bling H20, which sells online at $40 for a 750 ml bottle. Trendy nightclubs sell the same bottle for twice that.

Gourmet water, it is being called. It hails from a spring in Tennessee, not exactly the type of place I would imagine to find gourmet water. Rather, I envision something more along the lines of Glacia Nova, which bottles pure glacier water from melting icecaps around Mount Rainier National Park. At $40 a bottle, I could understand the ego-driven thirst to drink something that has been frozen for more than 10,000 years.

But that wouldn’t sit right with the socially conscious Hollywood crowd, I’m sure. Instead, their water of choice is Bling H20, which comes in a collector’s edition bottle dotted with Swarovski crystals.

Boyd has correctly identified a need and a thirst for his product. The crystal-laden bottle routinely shows up at award shows, including at the Emmys, where celebrities received facials with the holy grail of water.

I call on the Hollywood crowd to join me in bringing about an end to the world’s water shortages. If Ben Stiller can ship 10 cases of Bling H20 to a film shoot in Cabo San Lucas, then certainly there is room in his heart to ship water to other impoverished spots on the globe.

Take Waslala, Nicaragua, for example. Two-thirds of Waslala’s 45,000 people do not have access to clean water, resulting in disease and death. Studies show that a person needs 4 to 5 gallons of water per day to survive.

That would mean the citizens of Waslala would need at least 180,000 gallons of water a day to survive. We’re talking roughly 360,000 bottles of Bling. That’s $14.4 million, plus shipping.

If only each celebrity or über-rich Blinger would adopt an impoverished town, the water shortage in the world would cease, and Kevin Boyd’s mission of providing the best water to the world would succeed.

Admittedly, Bling H20 is a bit out of my price range. I get my water from Aqua Pennsylvania, and last month I went through nearly 5,000 gallons at $0.006817 a gallon. That’s a lot of Bling (and a lot more than I need to survive). How’s the average faucet-drinking man to contribute?

Matthew Nespoli, a 2004 Villanova University grad, thinks he has found an answer. After graduating, he joined the Augustinian Volunteers, an international faith-based service program similar to the Peace Corps, and founded Water for Waslala. Through fund- raising and networking, Nespoli and fellow volunteers have helped raise over $250,000 to build water systems in Waslala over the past three years, providing 2,500 Waslalans with clean water for a lifetime.

That’s 6,250 bottles of Bling that could be sent to Waslala. It may not be much, but at least it’s a start.