Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Journey Home

I love Edward Abbey. I feel the heat and solitude of the desert soaking into my skin as I read his words. I savor the sun on my face and hear the wind pulling my hair. Listen as he describes Death Valley in summertime:

The glare is stunning. Yet also exciting, even exhilarating--a world of light. The air seems not clear like glass but colored, a transparent, tinted medium, golden toward the sun, smoke-blue in the shadows. The colors come, it appears, not simply from the background, but are actually present in the air itself--a vigintillion microscopic particles of dust reflecting the sky, the sand, the iron hills.

While my politics are a bit more moderate than his, I actually like people for example, I also can understand his call to wilderness, not just in the desert, but in our daily lives. He reminds us that the Parks are not parks, they should be an enter at your own risk place. Life is a grand chaotic mess and glorious in that mess. The part of me that chafes at the rules and laws that proliferate in a large state (I've lived in Texas and California, they are both trying to control their populations, just pretending to have different motives.) loves this paragraph:

The permissive society? What else? I love America because it is a confused chaotic mess--and I hope we can keep it this way for at least another thousand years.  The permissive society is the free society, the open society. Who gave us permission to live this way? Nobody did. We did. And that's the way it should be--only more so. The best cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy. (Italics in the original)

We shouldn't always have to ask permission. Yes, I understand why we have licenses and taxes and admission fees and no trespassing signs, yet so much of our life is asking permission for things that are regulated just for the sake of someone in government having a job and some trace of power.

No entrance fee here, just beauty.

Anyway.  Moving on to the real reason I love Abbey. This is how he feels about the mountains:

A taste of mountains. I could not say I had come to know them in any significant way.  All I had learned was something about myself. I had discovered that I am the kind of person who cannot live comfortably, tolerably, on all-flat terrain. For the sake of inner equilibrium there has to be at least one mountain range on at least one of the four quarters of my horizon--not more than a day's walk away.
The view from my front window in Moab

A few more quotes:
From these rocks struck once by lightening gushed springs that turned to blood, flesh,life. Impossible miracle. And I am struck once again by the unutterable beauty, terror, and strangeness of everything we think we know.

Near the summit I found an arrow sign, three feet long, formed of stones and pointing off into the north toward those same old purple vistas, so grand, immense, and mysterious, of more canyons, more mesas and plateaus, more mountains, more cloud-dappled sun-spangled leagues of desert sand and desert rock, under the same old wide and aching sky.

I could never express it so well. That is why I read Edward Abbey.

The Journey Home. Edward Abbey. 1977. Dutton Press.

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