ED ABBEY: FOUNTAIN OF WISDOM RE NATURE, POLITICS AND PROTEST!

“When the world is too much with me,” — and, ever since 11/16/16 it has been overwhelmingly so! — I turn to my heroes of old.  Thoreau.  Rachel (Carson). Eleanor (Roosevelt).  Ed Abbey.  They inspire me, stiffen my spine, balance me, serve as quintessential examples.  Ed does all this, PLUS, he makes me laugh.  Yes, right out loud, in the middle of the night, when I least expect it.

But it’s Ed’s prophetic wisdom that sustains me now, in this time worse than 1984, worse than Lord of the Flies

Pictures of Ed seem few and far between — this isolate one who reached the entire world.  Here is a stock photo of Ed in his beloved Red Rock Country.  Thank you, Alamy.

edward-abbey-author-of-desert-solitaire-shown-here-in-the-desert-at-JY6K00

I wrote in the first page of Ed’s The Journey Home,:  (first published in 1970) “Oh, Edward, where are you now?!  There is no one to speak/write/CRY OUT against greed, destruction, war on the land itself.  No one to protest the ruin of our land/air/water/future!”

As though Ed himself (no one calls him Edward – it’s my ‘pet name’ for my hero) had answered, I wrote his stunning proclamation:  “WE HAVE CONNIVED IN THE MURDER OF OUR OWN ORIGINS.”

Wizard.  Prophet.  So long ago, to have realized, to have dared call attention to the wasting of the West, of liberty itself!  “The earth is not a mechanism but an organism.”  “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”  Truth-teller, par excellence:  “Yosemite is no more wild nature than Central Park!”  Insisting that we should ban cars in our parks, he asserts, “You’ve got to be willing to walk!” 

America’s parks Abbey considers essential to the survival of democracy: –“treasures best enjoyed through the body and spirit, not through commercial plunder!.”  Which leads to one of my all-time favorite Abbeyisms:  “The best cure for the ills of democracy is MORE democracy!”  

Ed Abbey holds a particular hatred for those who would destroy his beloved desert, all in the form of ‘progress’:  “Vegas is creeping out everywhere.”

Abbey warns against “ration[ing] the wilderness experience.”  One of his quotes I’ve used as my e-mail signature proclaims “Long live the weeds and the wilderness!”

At his most exuberant, this author –who refuses to be called a naturalist–, exclaims, “O, to be a buzzard!”  One appeared at his (forbidden desert) funeral, delighting every mourner, all of whom has memorized so many of E.A.’s salient points, –circling, slowly, lazily, approving procedures below.  Those who know me, know I’m sure Ed borrowed that vulture’s physical body, for a fitting farewell.

Most chilling, always, are Ed’s musings on the dangers of our country’s losing true liberty.  “Our own nation is not free from the dangers of dictatorship.  And I refer to internal, as well as external, threats to our liberties.”  Abbey decries “the tendency upon the part of the authoritarian element always present… to suppress individual freedoms; to use the refined techniques of police surveillance…, in order to preserve, not wilderness, but the status quo, the privileged positions of those who now so largely control the economic and governmental institutions of the United States.”

(Have you noticed how rarely is used the term “United States” in post-1916 Amerika?  cfe)

In 1970, Ed warns of “the two-legged flesh-skinned robot, her head, his head, its head, wired by telepathic radio to a universal central control system.”

(Does anyone besides me cringe whenever I hear ‘the man or woman in the street’ use that ghastly Weather Channel command, “Stay Safe.”  It’s right up there with “Shelter in place,” which commands were rampant after the Boston Marathon Massacres. We are being coached during every storm to follow mandates that were the tools of tyrants.   cfe)

Edward Abbey probably had very little patience with matters of clairvoyance.  How else, though, do we explain his agony over, “When reality becomes intolerable; when the fantasies of nightmare become everyday experience, deny that reality; obliterate it; escape, escape, escape.”  “Every train of thought seems to lead to some concentration camp of nightmare.”  

The heart of the matter with Edward Abbey comes down to his conclusion in this final chapter of “The Journey Home“:  “WE CANNOT HAVE FREEDOM WITHOUT WILDERNESS.”  He quotes one of his own heroes, the legendary Dave Brower, in case we are missing the point:  “A WORLD WITHOUT WILDERNESS IS A CAGE.”

(David Ross Brower was a prominent environmentalist and the founder of many environmental organizations, including the John Muir Institute for Environmental Studies, Friends of the Earth (1969), the League of Conservation Voters, Earth Island Institute (1982), North Cascades Conservation Council, and Fate of the Earth.” Wikipedia)

 Abbey goes out on yet another flawless limb:  “I SEE THE PRESERVATION OF WILDERNESS AS ONE SECTOR IN THE WAR AGAINST THE ENCROACHING INDUSTRIAL STATE.”

 

“IF WE WISH TO GIVE OUR CHILDREN A TASTE OF THE GOOD LIFE, WE MUST BRING A HALT TO THE EVER-EXPANDING ECONOMY, and put the growth-maniacs under medical care.”

In case we didn’t get his point, about the importance of wilderness as a place where humans can rediscover themselves; as well as as “coyotes, lions (he means mountain lions), eagles and badgers; a place to re-experience freedom, the place “to learn what the lion has to teach,” Abbey declares, “All government is bad, including good government.”

“I am an extremist,” he insists in his naturalist-denying preface, merrily confessing his “extreme intransigence.”  Edward Abbey raves about being “far out on the very verge of things, on the edge of the abyss, where the world falls off into the depths.  That’s where I like it.   E.A.”

My hero describes his writings as having been “stirred in a blackened iron pot over a smoking fire of juniper, passionflower and mesquite.  Agitate. “(italics Ed’s).  He calls his words “a slumgullion”, which, “like any stew, makes a tasty, nutritious and coherent stew…  Society, too, is like a stew 00 If you don’t keep it stirred up, you get a lot of scum on top.”

Travel with Ed.  Revel with Ed.  Experience and re-experience Canyonlands and Arches and Death Valley and even Hoboken, and always the sere, saguaro-studded landscape in which he earned is deathless nickname, Cactus Ed.

Realize that to lose untrammeled wilderness is to lose the very liberty for which this country was founded in the 1770’s.  Let Edward Abbey, seer, open your eyes, stiffen your spine.  The times, our troublous times, demand it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A FEW GOOD SCENES – Recent Excursions

Memorial Boardwalk Brigantine April 2017

FINALLY! BACK TO ‘THE BRIG’ — Leed’s Eco-Trail

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NJWILDBEAUTY readers know how important weekend adventures are to me, –the essentiality of refilling the well, emptied daily in our work, saving the Planet.

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Leeds Point Classic Scene Fishing Village Brigantine early April 2017

And Beloved Leed’s Point, (near home of the Jersey Devil, whom I long to meet!)

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Some of you also know about February’s torn meniscus — healing enough that I’ve been back on the trails.  But p.t. takes hours daily, –some in private, some with kind, gentle, dedicated coaches.  There remains too little time for creativity with all this body-building.  The whole point of this work on “glutes, hamstrings and core” is to get back outside.  Come with me to recent restorative havens.

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Snowy Egret in Full Breeding Plumage, in WIND, The Brig

Snowy Egret Misty Brig Spring 2017

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Visitor Center, Purple Martin Houses, Perfect Clouds – The Brig

Visitor Cednter for Martins, for Humans Brig Spring 2017

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Spring Mimics Autumn – Swamp Maple, Waterlilies, The Brig

Spring Mimics Autumn at Brig 2017

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Essence of Spring – Geese and Goslings — The Brig

Goose Goslings Gander Brig Spring 2017

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Jeanette Hooban (Intrepid) Rights Horseshoe Crabs,

Fortescue, Delaware Bayshore

Jeanette Righting Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs Spring 2017

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High Tides Upset Horseshoe Crabs, Fortescue

Life and Death Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs and Eggs Mem. Day 2017

BEACH COBBLED WITH HORSESHOE CRABS — 2 weeks late for the Full Moon of May

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Primordial Drama Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs Spring 2017

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SACRED EGGS OF THE HORSESHOE CRABS 

But red knots and ruddy turnstones may have come and gone, ill-nourished, to Arctic

The Sacred Eggs Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs Mem. Day 2017

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Fortescue at Its Best — Late Light, Late Fishermen

Delaware Bay Day's End Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs 2017

“DAY IS DONE, GONE THE SUN” – Fortescue

For these scenes, these full days in the wild, all those intense hours of physical therapy, with John Walker of Princeton Orthopaedic Group; and of chiropractic with Brandon Osborne, D.C., are worth it.  Whatever it takes to give yourselves the wild, do it!

I dare to rephrase Thoreau:  “In wildness is the healing of the world.”

“SOURLANDING” — New Poem

IMG_0584

Sourland Mountain Preserve, “Mr. Smiley Face” major rock at entry

Lately, the Muse has become relentless, interrupting key reading to dictate her latest devisings.  Tonight, she’s kept me at reformatting and meticulously improving page after page in her new poetry notebook.  Maybe she’ll ‘get off my back’ for awhile, if I turn one of her latest into a blog for you.  Might even go so far as to illustrate it a bit.

Ladder and Birdhouse

I always considered this Hauptmann’s Ladder — this site so near the hasty grave of the Lindbergh baby...

I’ve been out on this trail (in Hopewell, off Greenwood Avenue, which is off Route 518 mid-town at the light at the vintage pharmacy.)  Its magic only increases with each visit.

Sourlands Rocks 08 08

Rocks Exhale Lenape Presence

An assignment for US 1 (Business!) Newspaper, at their request, features the Sourlands Mountain Preserve as one of four shady hike sites.  As I say in the story, along those trails, there is no Philadelphia or Manhattan; no Princeton; not even Hopewell.  Matters political are so remote as to be impossible, although their results can extensively and even destructively affect sacred sites such as these.

Without determined preservationists, we would not have had these hikes.  Nor would you, and others, (including my daughter’s literature class) have this poem.   Enjoy, and walk this shaded trail, as summer burgeons.

Marilyn as Lookout Sourlands 08 08

My sister, Marilyn Weitzel, Janet Black and Betty Lies Bird the Sourland Mountain Preserve Trail (see what I mean about SHADE!)

 

SOURLANDING

 

 a short walk in the dense woods

where temperature and season

remain irrelevant

silence itself audible

 

now and then broken

by ovenbirds’ shrill cries

 

in the right light

blessed by

orotund tones of wood thrush

 

domain of terrestrial turtles

and the occasional owl

 

dark ponds all a-shimmer

with polliwogs

 

towering rocks

still breathe Indian presence

 

at trail-top, we might ride

the grown-ups’ teeter-totter

hand-hewn from a wind-felled tree

 

“If you would attempt exercise

go in search of

the springs of life,” asserts

Henry David Thoreau

 

“The world today

is sick to its thin blood

for lack of elemental things,”

Henry Beston mourns

 

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

Summer Solstice 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

BRILLIANT NOSTALGIA — UPON RE-READING E. B. WHITE: All for the Love of Books

Sometimes, when you order from Amazon, your request is archaic enough that it arrives as a library book.  Complete with faded cardboard sleeve in the front, intricate / cryptic numbers, handwritings of some vanished librarian.

In quest of excellence, I recently arranged to receive works on and by E. B. White, Ur-New Yorker writer of yesteryear.  This founding writer, in the days of Ross, lived and cavorted in the Village.  He would read seed and farm equipment catalogues for pleasure.  A man of such wit as to cause me to laugh right out loud, reading his essays in the middle of the night.

In The Second Tree from the Corner, I hoped to have purchased a collection that included the idyllic, profound, Return to the Lake.  I needed ‘to re-experience those indelible scenes of Elwyn pere and his young son, in the New England haven that mattered most to both.  Part of me desired a virtual trip to a lake, any lake.  The other part yearns always for the miracle of sharing important childhood places with one’s own offspring.

“Lake” wasn’t in “Tree”.  But, Farewell My Lovely is!  What a romp, this salutation to the Model T!

Out-loud laughter, and sometimes tears, accompanied each turning of a page.  EBW had named his seminal new vehicle, “My Lovely.”  [There may be extra layers of appreciation in this former resident of Detroit, then suburbs, suffused with Henry Ford from 2-years-old, on.] Ellwyn exults: “‘My Lovely’ is mechanically and uncannily like nothing that had come into the world before.”  He reveals, “The driver of the Model T was a man enthroned.”

He drove his purchase “directly to the blacksmith” for “appurtenances to support an army trunk.”  “A speedometer cost money, and was extra; like a windshield wiper.”

White carefully explains the cranking process, –its subtleties and dangers–, concluding, “Until you had learned to ‘Get Results!’, you may as well have been cranking up an awning.”

Catastrophes large and small were the norm, price of passage.  Everyone knows about the tires (did he spell it ‘tyres’?), those abrupt sudden stops necessitating patching by the driver.  But this comedic genius conveys the entire litany of ordeals, with a light touch suitable for a stand-up comic.  Because of the multiplicity of perils, White insists, “Model T drivers ride in a state of thoughtful catalepsy.”

He seems not to have been skilled at those incessant repairs.  “I have had a timer apart on an old Ford many times.  But I never knew what I was up to.  I was just showing off for God.”

Sometimes, White looks back with intensity and even longing.  He considers Thoreau’s Walden to be “a document of increasing pertinence.”

Sometimes, Ellwyn B. White is a prophet:  “Audio-visual devices require no mental discipline.”

Reading a writer so skilled, so rich in language, and so unafraid to be quirky, strengthens my spine.

From Charlotte’s Web to Is Sex Necessary, with Thurber, and the essential Elements of Style with the revered William Strunk, who equals White’s range?  Who is the E. B. White of our era?

But there was an added bonus to this book order — holding that old library volume of The Second Tree from the Corner in my two 21st-Century hands.  It triggered memory like Proust’s tea and madelene.

The library card is marked in faded ink:  Ashtabula, Ohio, Library, followed by Kent State University.

Site of our country’s great shame, –right up there with civil rights abuses beyond measure — where our own government officials turned clubs and weapons upon Kent State students, upon our own children, who dared to protest war.

Kent State, which refused George Segal’s arresting statue of Abraham and Isaac, –portraying in his unique human-generated mastery– father about to slit the throat of his own long-awaited son.  Only Segal’s figures are not garbed in biblical robes.  Rather t-shirts and jeans.  And it was no God who demanded this sacrifice, but bureaucrats, officials and politicians.  This masterpiece preside alongside our Princeton University Chapel. Lest we forget…

What an unexpected link, Ken State, fronting a work by E. B. White, so devoted to his own son, Joel, delightful centerpiece of the Lake essay that I do not possess.

Cradling this book of other times, I inhaled what was the most important scent in the world to me — a whiff of old volumes and old dark and yes dusty and yes sometimes even moldy libraries of childhood.

Suddenly, I am back in one of those venerable rooms.  Sun slants through tall windows with their wavy glass of yesteryear.  The light is alive with particles more alive than I feel.  It illumines towering ‘stacks’, –more essential, more priceless to the child Carolyn than all the gold in Fort Knox.  In this room, dark and light mingle with a kind of delicate power exemplified by dust dancing in sunbeams.  In this room, ignorance and knowledge meet and marry..

I feel very little, attempting to climb up into the heavy dark wood straight-backed chair.  A thick volume awaits upon the scuffed table.  I get tired here, stretching up to the thick wide table, my legs not touching the floor.  After awhile, I kneel to read.  I now see how appropriate is that reverent pose!  Nobody has to tell me to keep silent.

The aromas of this used book whoosh me back, suffusing me anew with my absolute craving for books and all that they held; craving for the places where books presided.

In Michigan, I knew no bookish people.

Teachers did not count.

Textbooks DEFINITELY did not count!

The neighbor mothers in Lathrup Village ganged up on my mother one afternoon.  They surrounded her, towered over her at our little kitchen table, ordering “Do not give our children any more books!”

There is a black and white 7th birthday picture of me, in the pine-paneled living room, clasping a huge (as a bible to the Child Carolyn) volume of Longfellow’s Evangeline to my skinny chest.  My face is all ecstasy.  The faces of all the neighbor boys and girls, ringing me, –“My Jolly Friends”, I called them, from the song, “Playmate–”  look completely baffled.

When I had to fly in wartime to Northern Michigan the following summer, because of bronchitis on top of winter’s rheumatic fever, I clutched that same volume to the smocked bodice of my traveling dress.  It would be at least a month before I saw Lathrup Village again.  One of the best things about the Leelanau Peninsula resort of Fountain Point, was an entire room, fronting the lake, lined with bookshelves, studded with books I’d never seen.

E. B. White is a distillation of books, for grown-ups, for children, all he’d absorbed, and all he wrote for others.

The Child Carolyn would be in her 20’s and living and working in Manhattan before she would be introduced by her upper West Side roommates to Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web.  She was clear that she’d’ve been enchanted, had she met them earlier.  That’s when she met the New Yorker, too.  Basically her life has never been the same.

In an aunt’s attic, on swift Toledo visits, she’d come across leathern volumes with silk-soft tissue pages edged with gold.  They all seem heavy in retrospect, for this little girl, –who knelt there, too, to read them.  What she never could understand was that these treasures were up in the, yes, dusty attic.  Sun-motes there, too.  But those books languished there, unread, except for Carolyn-visits.

I was supposed to want to go to Toledo for the relatives.  I went to Toledo for the books.

No matter how many biographical works on E. B. White I read and re-read, nothing REALLY explains his diversity, wit and wisdom.

As proof, I offer his response to the first space tests, which had gone off unsuccessfully and successfully, “leaving the earth’s people frightened and joyless.”

“Emerging Signs of Spring” — recent Times of Trenton Article

Brave Skunk Cabbage in March, Bowman's

Brave Skunk Cabbage in March, Bowman’s

My NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I am always avid for signs of the coming season, no matter what it may be — including winter.

Rich Rein of US 1 (Business) Newspaper, published my account of being impatient for the spare beauties, –especially the true sculptural form of trees–, of that approaching season.

At the same time, The Times of Trenton kindly accepted my article on the importance of prolonged cold for the full health of wild creatures.

Last week, The Times presented the story I’d titled “Where is Spring?”  They honored me with the title of Guest Columnist, and again blessed my story with a handsome photograph by fine artist Michael Mancuso, who is masquerading as a journalist.

Salamander in hand, early April 2015, by Michael Mancuso of the Times of Trenton

Salamander in hand, early April 2015, by Michael Mancuso of the Times of Trenton

“Emerging Signs of Spring”, Guest Columnist, Carolyn Foote Edelmann

 

This year, not even naturalists can find spring.

We have been taught that the season arrives with the vernal equinox, when day and night are virtually equal; and that equinox leads to lengthening sunlight. Longer days, we have. But where is spring?

Each naturalist has his or her own proof of spring.

For one, it is the blooming of witch hazel. Good, because last night I saw a witch hazel tree in Lawrence in full, brassy bloom. They can blossom in December and January. Does blooming witch hazel make a spring? .

For many home gardeners, spring means snowdrops, which can pop through January drifts. Last week’s snowdrops at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton were up, but they looked frail and drained, as though their journey through snow and ice had sapped them of all energy.

For many, spring means the bird-like chirping of tiny frogs called peepers. A colleague at work heard both peepers and wood frogs in Hopewell a week ago Friday. Although I know well where to look and listen, I have not heard a single trill. Peepers do not begin their incessant chorus until it’s been above freezing for at least three nights. Which it hasn’t.

March 27, Jenn Rogers, our merry Mercer County naturalist, led a troupe of brave souls out into dusk and darkness at Hopewell’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve. Rogers and confreres had set out on an “Owl Prowl.” Not an owl was heard nor seen. But the group was treated to the full dance and aural phenomena of woodcocks, over and over, until full dark. When woodcocks rise, it’s spring.

These fortunate explorers, under Rogers’ tutelage, were then able to see and hold female and male salamanders, moving from winter quarters to their spring egg-laying waters. The group also encountered a number of frogs, still, yet ready for action, visible beneath skim ice on the vernal ponds. If salamanders have made their historic night-time journeys, it’s spring.

Near Greenwich, where New Jersey’s legendary tea burning taught the British we would no longer submit to the crown’s dictates, we could not leave a female American kestrel flitting in and out of a long line of bare trees. Nearby, a spurt or two of crocus, some dark purple mini-iris and one effusion of daffodils seemed to certify spring.

A flutter of vivid bluebirds under the leafless shrubs of Stow Creek, eagle central, seemed more important, dare I say it, than that site’s legendary eagles.

Last Sunday, I spent significant time in Salem and Cumberland counties, where America’s avian symbol is everywhere right now. We studied eagles on nests, incubating eggs, performing nest exchanges and feeding hatchlings down near the Delaware Bay. Eagle spring comes earlier than that of other species. However, regional naturalists are concerned that many Delaware Valley eagles are not yet on the nest. Timing is everything with the eagle family. Much more delay and it will become too hot for the young with all those insulating feathers. Hard to believe in “hot” right now.

Our incontrovertible spring proof may have been the osprey on its unlikely nest alongside Route 55 near Millville. Ospreys winter separately, returning to the same nest on the same day. When ospreys are reunited, spring is here.

If you need to certify spring, go straight over to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, below New Hope, Pa. Return every weekend, until the forest canopy leafs out. Spring’s ephemerals, irrefutable proof of the new season, will be blanketing the ground. In the woods, spicebush shrubs sport tiny chartreuse flowers, almost the color of fireflies. Their twigs, scraped with a fingernail, give off the healing aroma of benzoin, part of this spring herald’s Latin name.

Signage, flower maps and informed volunteers in their Twinleaf shop will lead you to hepatica, twinleaf, bloodroot, spring beauty, trout lily and early saxifrage (rock-breaker). Bowman’s grounds will soon resemble a studio floor, continuously spattered by some errant artist.

In wettest places, an unmistakable spring herald rises — skunk cabbage. This waxy plant emerges like a monk in a cowl, colors swirling from burgundy to bright green. Skunk cabbage can melt ice, as its flower generates 60 degrees of heat. Its rotting meat scent is purportedly irresistible to pollinators. Which, frankly, are what spring is all about.

Above all, remember: Spring is inevitable. Even when trees remain black and brown. Even under skies that Henry David Thoreau described as “stern” back in his laggard spring in the 1800s. For him, as for us, this season must emerge.

Use all your senses. Watch for pollinators, even houseflies. Listen for wood frogs and peepers. Try to scent spicebush and the loamy perfume of awakening earth. Touch the soft green tips of emergent daffodil or narcissus leaves. Even when everything seems brown and grey and black and taupe, know that spring is being born.

Carolyn Foote Edelmann, a poet, naturalist and community relations associate for the Delaware and Raritan Greenway Land Trust, writes and photographs for NJWildBeauty nature blog (njwildbeauty.wordpress.com).

 

Thoreau Upon the Merrimack — POEM

Kayak Prow and D&R Canal in Summer

Kayak Prow and D&R Canal in Summer

Thoreau Upon the Merrimack

it’s 3 p.m. and a Friday

I’m stroking with urgency

within my sleek kayak

upon the placid waters

of the Delaware & Raritan Canal

***

they let us out early on Fridays

from profane corporate halls

to honor summer weekends

but I honor Henry Thoreau

***

who counted the day lost

when he did not spend several hours

outdoors

sometimes taking to his canoe

for day after endless northern days

***

I envy him both boat and brother

time, and strong arms for rowing

upriver all the way

from Concord to Concord

***

but most of all, I covet

his finding a “foundation

of an Indian wigwam

— perfect circle, burnt stones

bones of small animals

arrowhead flakes

— here, there, the Indians

must have fished”

***

in my life at its best

I row with Thoreau