Aware, or Not, Here I Come!

You may normally think this would be an acronym – A.W.A.R.E.

But it’s not. At least not right now. Nor for this posting.

But being aware of your surroundings is something taught by those who know how much we disregard what’s around us and how easily we become caught in a dangerous moment.

All because we were not aware. Some call it the lack of “situational awareness.”

We have lived in Washington State nearly 14 years. Through these years we have a heard of folks killed and injured annually because of things that fall. Mud, Rock and Snow slides seem to take a toll as our hills let loose from the weight of the snow pack, or from the over saturation of rain. When you deforest a hill, you no longer have roots holding it together, so rain causes it to let loose and head down with gravity!

Even trees fall, killing and maiming the innocent. Just like yesterday. A 17 year old girl was killed walking a trail from a parking lot to the beach north of us. A few months ago a tree fell on a car driving through a scenic area killing the driver.

It makes me wonder if anyone is aware of their surroundings enough to know when it is dangerous to enter certain areas…. 

My bride and I have driven through some favored scenic routes between our home and town, all the while watching for the trees that inevitably land across the road. Many drivers carry chainsaws with them to clear the obstacles, just like you may carry a bottle of water… They are aware of the dangers and are prepared for them.

Through the years we have watched people take on steep slopes with their snow mobiles. They call it “high marking.” The object is to see how high they can go up a steep hill before gravity forces them to turn their snow mobiles downward. Back in 1999 we were living in Anchorage, AK. South of us on the Kenai Peninsula is a favorite place for snow mobiles. Turnagain Pass. A sudden slab avalanche killed 6, and upwards of 12 escaped with their lives. In all, 9 snow mobiles were totaled, and several bodies were not found for days. [Source] There were upwards of 200 snow mobiles in the slide area, and the reports indicate that they ignored the warning signs.

Tragedies happen, for a host of reasons, but if you understand your surroundings you may not venture into dangerous territory, or at least be prepared to react to the dangers.  Some are things you can become aware of via reports, or by experience, or by listening to experts.

You may remember the Oso Slide [Source], again, north of us here in Washington State. Back in 2014, and after heavy rain, a hillside let loose and washed across a river and into the community, killing 43 people and destroying 49 homes. It was over 8 months before the last body was found. [Source]

It’s like knowing that your actions, and location, can be prone to tragedy. How do you handle the situation?

When hiking, hunting, or even berry picking in Alaska, you are constantly aware of dangerous situations. Bears and Moose seem to be the largest animals you watch out for. Get between a momma and her young ones, and you better have a tree to climb! Surprise a bear who’s ambling through life, and you better know which kind it is because your response may be different for each. A brown and a black each have different personalities, and they react differently.

There have been many times I have walked into situations, unaware of the undercurrent of a political swirl. It’s not that I dislike politics, but being caught unaware is dangerous. I’ve been victimized by not being aware of the politics, and I’ve learned valuable lessons that help me in the future. Why? You know of “fight or flight”? That immediate evaluation of a dangerous situation and your body is ready to fight, or take flight.

I do not like the “fight” mentality presented in some meetings, because my fighting swing is not pretty, nor is it well thought out. A long time ago I found I was a reactionary fighter. Aggressive. Ready to swing first, ask questions later. You know:

Ready! Fire! Aim!

It was over 30 years ago that a friend took me on a sheep hunt. I was not physically ready for the challenge, but it was an interesting trip. We were allowed to stay in an old trappers cabin, and were told that the front door was always left open so that the bears would not destroy the place if they inadvertently found themselves trapped and desperate.

We approached the cabin (pictured with me in front) from two directions, guns ready, and when we got close, Ron tossed a clump of wood toward the open cabin door. No bear charged out, but inside, the mud floor did not have a square inch of undisturbed markings of bear prints.

Bear hair, everywhere!

We cleaned out the cabin, made it safe for sleeping, and slept with our loaded guns… Aware… Just in case!

As a Christian, I believe it is our duty to be situationally aware of our surroundings. The Apostle Peter warned us to be cautious of our environment. Aware of where we are, and what surrounds us.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NKJV)

His words tell me that the danger makes a sound that we should recognize, but that we should also be vigilant. In other words, “keep careful watch for possible danger or difficulties.” Being aware.

The first time I traveled to New York, I was warned of pick pockets, so I kept my wallet in my front pocket and my hand in the pocket holding on for dear life… Foolish? Sure. But this is what you do until you gain experience! You overreact. Learn, we must, or we will always fall victim to our surroundings.

Lets become aware of our surroundings. Watch out for danger. Be ready to act, and react appropriately.