Some say Haleakala National Park, established in 1916, protects the bond between the ‘aina and its people. Overseeing the protection of over 30,000 protected acres is Park Superintendent Marilyn Parris. I talked with her in July 2007, and discovered why she turns to golf and history when seeking escape from the wilderness.

What I’m Reading | Marilyn H. Parris
Haleakala National Park Superintendent

Q&A with Christine Thomas

–What are you reading?

I’m an avid reader. A lot of my work is reading and reviewing documents so I have to make sure my reading for pleasure is just that—pleasure. So usually I get about three to four books going at once. I just started “So Sad To Fall In Battle” by Kumiko Kakahashi, a Japanese general’s writings during World War II; it’s what the movie “Letters from Iwo Jima” was from. It’s writing and correspondence from this particular general about some of the battles in the Pacific.

I’m just finishing “Paper Tiger: An Obsessed Golfer’s Quest to Play with the Pros” by Tom Coyne. He’s an author who decided to put his life on hold for a year and see if he could qualify for the PGA. I’m a big golfer so it’s very interesting to read how he went about doing that. …

Kind of an ongoing golf book that I read a lot is “Golf Dreams: Writings on Golf” by John Updike. I’m reading it for the fifth time—it’s his stories about golf. And the fourth book I have going is “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv. This gentleman is doing research on the science of how the rise in obesity and attention disorders and this generation of children is directly related to their lack of contact with nature. His conclusions are that direct exposure to nature and the outdoors is essential for healthy childhood development both in physical, mental and emotional health of children. It’s a really fascinating book but it’s a little heavy and deep, so it can sometimes appear like work. . . .

–What do you most like about these diverse books?

I like to read nonfiction and fiction. Usually I don’t have this many nonfiction going at one time. My mother instilled in me a huge love of reading. I don’t like audio books because I’m not giving away that last pleasure of reading. I just like a variety of books. I’ve been doing a lot of reading over the last couple of years about World War II. … I also really enjoy books on arctic exploration. … I like a wide variety.

–So it’s almost as if your full time work keeps you in one place, but reading allows you virtual adventure?

Sure, to me reading is a mental release; it’s a stress release for me. To me the perfect day is to curl up with a book and finish it in one day. …I find I’m reading more here than I ever had because I don’t have yard work and I don’t have to shovel snow.

–‘Aulani Wilhelm was also reading Louv’s book—did you discover it through others in conservation?

I did find out about it through work. The National Park Service has a national steering committee for Wilderness and I’m on that committee and we meet about twice a year…and some folk were talking about it there, and I thought, well I have to have this. I was also talking to someone at Yosemite about connecting the children and he sent me the book, too.

–Is Louv’s thesis reflected in your work to protect Haleakala for our children, such as opposition of the proposed solar telescope?

Children are our constituency of the future. If we want to continue to preserve and protect these special places that National Parks are, we have to connect children to that experience and the value of National Parks. So as they grow and become leaders, they understand that nature is part of our world and become stewards of our natural environment. That’s a lot of what the National Parks Service is about—protecting for future generations.