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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NOT ‘ROSES ARE RED’ — current poem

I know, I know.  Poets are supposed to be writing about wine and roses, the arrival of spring, zephyrs, and so forth.

My Muse isn’t the least BIT interested — this is her truth this ‘cruellest month’…  Bear with me…

 

CALL IT BLASPHEMY

 

listen, God

I’ll trade You

I’ll take those three hours, any day!

 

forget this sentence of eight entire decades

even the scourging – what was that

an hour or so?

 

when you have a cruel mother

you are afraid everywhere

even in utero

 

o.k., so there was the Via Dolorosa

mine the VIE Dolorosa

and nobody helped carry the heavy wood burdens

 

no kind person wiped tears from my face

on that foreign balcony above a sea

when I finally realized that both daughters

 

were now the property of a cult

–over thirty years ago, Lord,

longer than they were IN my life

 

ah, You say, but there was the Agony in the Garden

indeed, every seed and bulb I planted

was the attempted burial of agony

 

“Will you not watch one hour with Me?”

I have been watching eight decades, Lord

waiting for faith like a mustard seed

belief in just touching the hem of Your garment

 

believing in mercy

 

Listen, God

I’ll trade

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

April 12, 2018

 

 

 

 

Christmas Arrives in Unexpected Settings

 Waterville Valley Vistas

When one has a difficult mother,  it can become essential to distance one’s self and  family, particularly at the time of significant holidays.  If one has a courageous husband, he may announce, as the parental car pulled out of our Princeton driveway after a particularly grueling visit, “That’s it.  We are not letting her ruin another Christmas.  We are going skiing at Waterville.”

My husband, Werner Oscar Joseph Edelmann (for full effect say with German accent) was 100% Swiss.  Although he had not grown up skiing, we took it up as a family, the year we moved to Princeton – 1968.  Shore friends, sitting on their dune-cushioned deck, insisted that our families learn together.  It was August and steamy.  Winter?  WHAT Winter.  We said yes.

I secretly hoped some disaster, like a broken leg, or death, would intervene before that crucial February challenge.  None did.  So we all began to learn to ski.  The girls were in kindergarten and first grade.  At Killington, they looked like bunnies in their fuzzy snowsuits and fat mittens, among a gaggle of other little beginners, huddled at the base of ‘the bunny slope.’

They, being half Swiss, did not remain beginners very long.  In the year of our deliverance from my mother, they were teens who preferred ‘bombing the black lines’   – the expert slopes.  Especially “Oblivion” in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.  The White Mountains were Werner’s choice for our runaway Christmas, because their ski school and an authentic Swiss lodge were run by Paul Pfosi.  All Paul’s instructors were Swiss.  Extremely demanding.  “Ski marks on the inside of your ski boots” to prove you had your legs close enough together.  Off-slope, they all delighted to converse in their native (unwritten) language with this tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed very determined American skier.  Stein Eriksen in those years was our hero, our model.

stein_eriksen

No one would mistake us for Stein, but his example formed Pfosi’s Instructor Corps.

Anita Kathriner and Raphael Wyss make Alpkase, Mutschli and butter by hand in the traditional manner in a giant copper kettle over a wood burning fire at their cheese-making hut above Wengen, Switzerland

Swiss Copper Cheese Kettle in situ

Pfosi’s Lodge held the huge copper kettles we’d first seen in Emmenthaler, in which magnificent Swiss cheeses were precisely concocted.  Only Pfosi’s kettles overflowed with silky evergreen boughs from nearby endless forests.  Swiss Christmas music, such as relatives had carefully sent to Diane and Catherine over the years, pealed from hidden speakers.  Conditions were ideal on the slopes, and for any number of days we almost forgot it was Christmas.  But not quite.

Our family, over the years, had no experience of that Holiday beyond our own formal tree and hand-made-ornament tree, one by the living room fireplace, one by the family room’s slate hearth.  Heaven to us was a fire in each room, the three of us in long plaid skirts and white lace blouses, playing our guitars and caroling for Werner in the family room.  There’d always been the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, and caroling in the neighborhood near Princeton’s Snowden Lane.  Could Christmas find us in New Hampshire?

There was a tiny church in the village below the lodge.  It felt very odd to go to church in ski clothes and apres-ski boots.  Instead of a jungle of poinsettias in the Princeton church, but two tiny ones ‘decked’ this austere altar.  Instead of instruments sustaining voices back home, a motley choir with cracking voices sang in a small wooden balcony high overhead.  But it was Midnight Mass, and it did hold all the magic we needed.  And the quivering voices underscored a somehow more memaningful reality.

We drove back up the mountain, past the restaurant where we’d had Christmas Eve Supper.  We’d sat next to a live birch tree, somehow able to live and thrive indoors, reaching for the midnight sky.  Between dinner and church, we’d been astounded by stars beyond counting, which seemed nearly blinding.  But between church and the lodge, no stars.  Instead, white swirls, glistening to be sure, of new snowflakes — no more welcome blessing in ski country at Christmas.

Swiss Santa in Boat

Back in our rooms — it must have been near 2 a.m. by now — we found dark Swiss chocolates wrapped in bright gold foil upon our pillows,.  Pfosi’s had signed lacy old-fashioned Christmas cards with gilt arabesques, such as those which arrived every year from Tante Li, Onkel Joni, Cousin Vera and the rest of the family in and near St. Gallen.  I cannot spell their Christmas message, but we all knew how to say it in Swiss — it sounded like FRO-LIKKA-VIE-NOCKTEN.  One said this with certain notes in our voices which the girls had heard since babyhood..

Frohlichi Wiehnacht Swiss Christmas Card

Diane’s and Catherine’s room was right across the narrow hall from ours.  They burst in, laughing all over.  “Come Quick!  Come Quick!  Carolers!”

We “thrust open the windows, threw up the sash” onto a scene I will never forget.  Snow circled, enfolding us as though we had been transported into the Milky Way. itself, Horses snorted and their visible breath mingled with the flakes.  Yes, sleigh bells jingled.  Tucked into hay in an old fashioned sleigh were male and female carolers, dressed as we had been for Mass, in ski parkas and ski mitts and knit hats.  These voices sounded like tiny silver chimes, like bells, rising into the heavens in celebration.

And we’d thought Christmas was only in our family room…

It wasn’t every Christmas morning that opened on a trail named “Oblivion”!

The Mountain, Waterville Valley

May each of you find your special holiday exactly as you need it this year — and may its real message of Peace on Earth, Good Will, suffuse our entire planet.

Here is an ad from the 1970’s, when we were there:

ski watervi w va NEW HAMPSHIRE PFOSI S LODGE Willkommen! Paul Pfosi, Director of the Waterville Valley Ski School, invites you to enjoy the Swiss-American hospitality of Pfosi’s Lodge. Alodge unique in every way combining old world charm with the most modern American accommodations and conveniences; …

The future would bring Christmas in other realms:

Aspen skiing scene,jpg

In Aspen, we could ski through forests.

In Zermatt, the Materhorn always tantalized:

Zermatt Materhorn from Internet

 

But the slopes held the magic:

 

Swiss skier from Internet

BUT NOTHING EVER TOPPED CAROLERS IN THE HORSE-DRAWN SLEIGH OUTSIDE THE OPEN WINDOWS OF PFOSI’S LODGE OF WATERVILLE.

Poem Written in Lobby of Mass MOCA art museum – A Saga of Transformation

Sunshine at MASS MOCA October 2014

 

MUSEUM LOBBY      (a.k.a. Mass MOCA – Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art)

 

conduits of yesterday-metal

vie with writhings pf formidable tubes

against the striated ceiling

 

columns unretouched in this century

allow the past to bleed through

–here, the hue of Mohawks in rain

–there, the tone of too many tears

 

beams scoured by time

jostle too-shiny

modern replacements

 

I resist descending

this fierce metal stairway

leading to that basement

where factory workers headed

to restrooms lacking all rest

where harshness and high walls

surround sinks that still insult

 

this lobby, capacious and echoing

streams with guests

–eager and savvy

–even the children

skipping toward grim gate and guard

 

everywhere

pillars / ceilings / room dividers

flaunt splotches and scars

vivid as palettes of the brilliant

whose lifework adorns

relentlessly eloquent walls

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

Mother’s Day, 2017

***

Factory Wall MASS MOCA October 2014

***

Factory Bathroom MASS MOCA

***Factory Washroom MASS MOCA

I actually thanked the Mass MOCA guards for the policy of not retouching the industrial past of this glorious museum, –full-to-the-brim with the most challenging art installations.  They were gratified, especially when I added, “This reality honors all who worked within these walls.  And underscores the powerful meaning of each artist’s work.”

As a creative person, I viscerally feel how stifled those factory workers must have been, laboring deep within these endless, now empty, but then emptying, spaces.

On this week’s Berkshire Journey, I realized that the transformation of Mass MOCA echoes that of the miraculous Michener Museum in Doylestown, –once a prison where my friends (mothers, nursing mothers, grandmothers) were impounded over an entire weekend for daring to lie down in front of bulldozers who would destroy the banks of the Delaware, so that the dread PUMP could be built to deplete our sacred river.

James and Mari Michener’s vision has been realized, that art triumph over incarceration.

I salute all the visionaries who knew that thought-provoking installations could surpass industrial dehumanization.  Being at Mass MOCA is like standing under a shower of fresh mountain waters, mixed with electrifying ions, generous helpings of stardust, and more than a dash of cayenne.

***

Campanile MASS MOCA Entry October 2014

The Untold Story — Triggered by Memorial Day

Memorial Day — remembering….

Sometimes, it’s just too much.  I am expected to keep on working, hiking, writing poems and blogs, taking pictures, that this should be antidote enough.

It is not.

Part of me warns, do not send this post.

Another part knows that there are others for whom Holidays are ordeals.  Shared Holidays.  Holidays never to be shared again.

Even something so simple as a picnics, let alone a chance encounter with one of my daughters’ friends, brings up memories not to be borne, memories never to be re-lived, let alone expanded.

Loss of the highest magnitude is my fate, since the 1980’s.

It is said that the worst loss is the death of one’s children.  There is something worse. – when they are taken from you.  When, still alive, you do not exist to your children.

There isn’t a hike or a kayak or a trip anywhere on the planet that counters agony of this magnitude.

One of my daughter’s Princeton classmates brought about this tragedy.  He, evidently, has recovered from it, and is restored to his family.  Mine have heroically tried many routes to healing, and I honor them for it.  But the brainwashing that severed them from the entire family remains indelible.

It happened because my girls cared about community service from the time they were very young.  I worked at what was then called “The Old Folks Home.”  Nobody calls it that any longer.  I went there one day a week, to serve their patients.

My daughters’ two sets of grandparents were not with them in summertime — two settled into their native Switzerland, seeking various cures at baths that went back to the Romans.  The others lived far away The girls wanted grandparents.  So I took them with me every Wednesday.  We didn’t have the concept of ‘virtual’, then.  But this is what they sought.

Grown-up volunteers wore ghastly uniforms, a hideous hue, meaning nothing to wearer nor viewer.  My girls wore bright dresses I had sewed.  Both girls had that long Swiss luminous hair.

Barely anyone touched the patients.  Board members would come and go, ducking right down to the Board Room, without going near a resident.

My girls skipped down the hall carrying the welcome mail, scurrying eagerly into each room, knowing everyone’s name.  They went right up to each person, engaging no matter how gruff some of them could be.

The old people loved to see and touch the vivid dresses, stroke the blonde hair.  I see now, the girls were life, were the future, grandchildren whom these people could not see, let alone touch.

We’d been warned not to try to talk to certain ones, let alone try get them to complete their menus (lunch and dinner). The eager girls could get through, even to the deaf, the stubborn and the blind.  Each did know exactly what to eat, and the girls merrily marked it down, skipping triumphantly back to the front desk, bearing their trophies.

Relationships were built and they strengthened weekly.  Everyone was crushed if I came without the girls that particular Wednesday.

We’d bring our guitars sometimes, and play simple, old-fashioned songs for them in the different sunrooms.  They could sing right along.  Some had forgotten almost everything, but not the words to those songs. They also liked “Puff the Magic Dragon”, and “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore,” though those had not been part of their own young memories.

At Christmastime, we would bring the girls’ friends along, because those friends had witnessed the girls’ enthusiasm for this service.  I think it was two different weekends, each year.  One to decorate the trees with all the people sitting around in each sunroom.  And one to sit by the lit trees and sing carols.  One of those other children told me years later, “Mrs. Edelmann, of all the things we did with your family, doing the trees and singing the songs are my favorite memories.”

One woman patient was from Germany, so she sounded like the girls’ Swiss grandmother,  A very strong connection was made with her, and with her o, so faithful, very proper and dignified husband, Dr. X.

One day the girls came scurrying back to me, for they made rounds alone by this time — those patients belonged to them.  “Mommy, Mommy, something’s wrong with Mrs. X!,” they cried.  “Come with us!”  I asked, as we hurried back to the room, “How do you know?”  “She keeps saying ‘schmerzen, schmerzen” they chorused.     I murmured, “O, Honeys, that means pain.”

We could see that she was suffering, so much that all English had fled.  We had his phone number, I don’t remember why.  We called and told Dr. X and he came right over.  Whatever that crisis was, passed.  However, Mrs. X was not with us much longer.  A few months after her death, we had a dear hand-written note from her husband, thanking us for caring so much about his wife, inviting us to a formal tea in his lovely, almost archaic, Princeton home.

Service always mattered to my girls, though they were so young at this point.  In school, they took on official roles.  In all schools, and sports, they shone.  They cared about the community and its creatures, one, at seven dictating a letter to the editor of the Packet about deer in our town.  The other learned sign language in school, used it to reach autistic children at what was then New Jersey Neuropsychiatric Institute every week.  She later taught French with sign language to a student at a nearby New England college.  Service always mattered.

The Princeton classmate took advantage of their need to make the world a better place.  He ‘fed’ them to his guru.  It has been decades since I, myself, have touched their shining hair, let alone hugged either daughter.

Memorial Day is the least of the family Holidays, in terms of painful memories.  But it’s one more when we’re not together, when I can’t call them up and remember our backyard festivities in the Braeburn years.

Don’t let anyone insist you can get over loss.  No.  It grows.  It leaps.  It sabotages you when least expected.

Their guru taught all his captives that families are diabolic.  What he meant by his lie was, all families who disapproved of the cult.

Bereaved parents have all my sympathy, always:  No matter how or when they lose their dear ones, it’s always too soon.

Can you imagine that I envy other parents the funerals, even the flowers, gravesites where they may make pilgrimage?

When you’ve lost your children, every day is Memorial Day.

You don’t know how you are going to go on.

But you do.