Every once in awhile I get the feeling that I'm being too damn cantankerous about those who would rape and pillage what's left of our natural heritage. That's when I drag out a copy of some of Edward Abbey's writings to see what real cantankerousness is. I'm thankful that Abbey was with us, even if for too short a time, that he cared as much a he did about the country in which he lived, and that he wrote as well as this:
"Benedicto: May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets' towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you --- beyond that next turning of the canyon walls."
from the chapter Terra Incognita: Into the Maze in his book Desert Solitaire
St. Croix River emerging from its mystery
Photo by J. Harrington
I'm also thankful that Abbey provides aspirational goals like the paragraph above as an inspiration for my own writing efforts. My turnings tend to come not in canyon walls but from river bends and curves in two track trails. Most of my swamps are "miasmal and mysterious," and I'm still looking for my poets tower. If you haven't already, check out Abbey and his writing. They were anything but flat.
Flat: Sentences from the Prefaces of Fourteen Science Books
1. Mary-Frances applied continual pressure on me to startthe job and helped in recording and editing.2. Thanks to Sandra for her heroic typing, although thisneed not be taken to indicate her agreement withvarious points.3. Peter provided information about the notoriousperpetual pills.4. As someone who gloried in seeing dogma overturned,he would have delighted in the irony of seeingarguments for the reverse.5. And without their willingness to take on the chore ofresponding to our whims and fancies over a 3-yearperiod, this book would have fallen short of its goals.6. The production of this tome would have beenunthinkable without the marvelous electronic tools thatare now widely available.7. However, Chapter 7 was written in a relatively self-contained fashion, so the serious student may skipChapter 6 and delve directly into the theory.8. The late abbess of Shasta Abbey proved that lookingthrough different windows into the same room is not ametaphor.9. Nick, who is writing a book on oxygen, gave muchappreciated data concerning that element.10. The filmstrip format employed in Chapter 10 originatedwith Elizabeth.11. I have been very fortunate in being able to use suchpenetrating minds.12. In recent months, I have often felt like a small child in asweet shop as astronomers all round the world have sentme the most mouthwatering new data.13. Suffice it at this point to observe that I am not just talkingabout wallpaper patterns on shirts and dresses, althoughmany of these patterns do turn out to have interestingproperties.14. I do not expect that many readers will want to bemasochistic enough to want to read the book in orderfrom cover to cover.
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