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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARVELS OF THE WINTER BEACH, Phase 1

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that my favorite time to be almost anywhere is when most people aren’t.  Give me “too early”, “too late” and especially “out-of-season”!  Except, that –especially for the Intrepids — there is no “out of season” in New Jersey!

DECEMBER STILL LIFE — BARNEGAT BAY — REED’S ROAD — ISLAND BEACH

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Birds’ Restaurant – Last Leaves of Autumn, Ripe Fruit of Winter

Intrepids Jeanette Hooban and Bill Rawlyk and I met fine-art photographers Angela Previte and her husband, Bob, and the redoubtable Ray Yeager, last Sunday, for an extended Barnegat Bayside breakfast.  Fellowship reigned supreme, until our photographers “had promises to keep”

 

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Barnegat Bay Breakfast-Time, December

 

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Dock Outfitters with Cafe, Seaside Heights

 

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Barnegat-Bayside Table, Dock Outfitters, Seaside Heights, NJ

 

Jeanette, Bill and I set off to bird the day away.  Indeed, it was December, but there’s no better time to stroll Reed’s Road, just around the corner from Seaside Park, barely into Island Beach State Park.

 

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New Moss of December!

 

In no time, we were deep in a forested glade, silvery sugar sand underfoot, seemingly new moss burgeoning on both sides.  Beach heather, Hudsonia tomentosa, and lichens vied for our attention.

 

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Iconic Sugar Dand Trail, Reed’s ‘Road’, Island Beach State Park

 

There is nothing silkier than the normal, natural sand that forms Reed’s Road, nothing more alluring to the foot(e).  Although well into the twelfth month, autumn’s palette erupted first on one side, then another.

 

 

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October in December, Reed’s Road Forest, Island Beach, New Jersey

 

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Native, Natural Sugar Sand — LIGHT YEARS beyond Army-Corps-of-Engineers Imported Harsh Yellow Hideous Sand!

 

There is nothing more irresistible than the tranquillity of Barnegat Bay, like an enormous silver platter, beckoning, beckoning to the west.

 

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Sugar Sand Trail to Barnegat Bay, Reed’s Road, Island Beach, NJ

 

There wasn’t a breath of wind.  Waves were delicate, hushed.  Black sparkling swathes of garnet particles beckoned, underfoot and underwater.  Off in the far distance, we could just peek at (but not photograph) Barnegat Light.

 

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Crushed Garnets in Barnegat Bay Wavelets and Foam

 

We could have found cedar waxwing and robin flocks, as many have on this trek in previous high winter walks.  Or pine warblers in early spring.  Or stately swans in other Novembers.  This day, our bird stars were the merry bobbing buffleheads, making us laugh out loud in delight.

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Spotting Buffleheads from Reed’s Road Trail

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Dapper Bufflehead Male by Brenda Jones (on Carnegie Lake!)

 

The maddening part of that excursion was that some officials in our misguided 21st Century equate slashing with trail maintenance.  We spent a long time picking up their debris, mourning over literal ‘greenstick fractures’ in towering native shrubs of all species on all sides, apologizing to nature yet again for man’s depredations.  We wanted to go straight to the State House with our fury, were it not that politicians have other issues on their minds right now.  Obviously shrubs’ and trees’ health, shrub and tree rights are very low on Trenton ‘totem poles’ of interest and respect.  Citizens’ rights don’t seem very far ahead in terms of honor.  WE THE PEOPLE have a right to our native species’ being protected everywhere, and MOST ESPECIALLY IN OUR STATE PARKS!

 

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Even the Weeds of Reeds Road Majestic, When Left to Their Own Devices!

 

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DAMAGE in the Guise of Trail Maintenance, Reed’s Road, Island Beach, NJ

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Pillage in the Wake of Trail “Maiantenance”, Reed’s Road, Island Beach State Park, New Jersey

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After Reed’s Road was “Maintained” by the Vicious

NJWILDBEAUTY readers have ‘heard’ me go on and on about reading “This Changes Evetything”, by today’s Rachel Carson: Naomi Klien.  She’s won the Sydney Peace Award from Australia, comparable to the Nobel — for her courageous expose of the multi-national, mega-funded organizations devoted to climate change denial. 

Central to the paradigm of these planet-destroyers is downright hatred of Nature, a vicious delight (obediently promulgated by the Weather Channel) in blaming every storm on so-called Mother Nature, terming even Hurricane Sandy – the anthropogenic disaster of all time — “Mother Nature’s Revenge.”  Face it, watchers and listeners.  These terms ascribing rage and revenge to the magnificent nature that surrounds us are utilized to justify destruction.  Get it!

NATURE IS EDEN.  WE ARE DRIVING OURSELVES OUT OF IT!

Meanwhile, back in Paradise:

Reed’s Road is home to proprietary pair of exquisite foxes, and sundry nocturnal raccoons.  Many the track did we follow.

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“Who Walketh Here?”

 

The animals have always known to ‘leave only footprints’.

 

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Inverse Tracks in Crushed Garnet Sand

 

Silence surrounded us, underfoot, overhead and out on the bay.  Beauty was everywhere, that had never been altered (until this brutal pruning session).  I am fond of saying that Island Beach has not been built on since initial development failed in the 1930’s Depression, and is pruned only by wind, sand and storms.  I’ll pretend that’s still true…

 

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Undisturbed Forest Floor, Reed’s Road, Island Beach State Park, New Jersey

 

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Pin Oak’s Last Gasp, Sugar Sand

 

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TRAIL GUIDES — superfluous!

 

REMEMBER, we can stroll these impeccable, usually unspoiled trails because this land has been preserved.  NEVER HAS IT BEEN MORE URGENT TO SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL AND NATIONAL LAND TRUSTS. 

See to it, with your memberships, that every possible wild inch of our sacred country is preserved in perpetuity, no matter who wields what power. 

“This land is your land.  This land is my land…” — but only due to our absolute constant courageous vigilance.

While you can, get out into the Parks of our beleaguered state, let their unspoilt magnificence seep into and restore your souls.

 

Childhood Summers — Michigan

The lovely weather of recent weeks allows me to keep windows and doors open, so that not only light, but also air, nature sounds, and fragrances waft into my ‘new’ Lawrenceville apartment.

This morning, the departure of a small plane, –purring like the aircraft of my Michigan childhood –, thrust me right back into the silken grass of our smoothly rounded ditch in front of our little red brick house.  It was newly built by my parents, in the tiny town of Lathrup, well outside Detroit.  Hardly anyone drove down ‘California Drive’ except neighbors, guests, and the bakery truck.

There was nothing in Lathrup, not even a post office — we were officially ‘Birmingham.’  If we needed food, my father would have to drive us to ‘the store’, in the NEXT town.  ‘Store’ meant grocer.  He stood behind a weathered counter, near a worn butcher’s block.  A huge wheel of real cheddar, which we called ‘store cheese’, rested under glass to the right of the cash register.  Which was shiny black and now we’d say, ‘had all the bells and whistles,’ especially bells.  I’d give him my Mother’s list, and he’d have to go all over the tiny store and up and down a rickety ladder, to bring provisions to us.  When my father moved us here, his German mother wept:  “You are moving to the wilderness.”

By no means was Lathrup wilderness.  But we did have woods nearby, a side yard (which turned into a skating rink in winter, thanks to my father), and a ‘vacant lot’ which became a Victory Garden during the war.  (WWII)  As I wrote in an early poem, “one year the fathers, gardens overrun, waged cucumber war.”

There wasn’t much privacy in our childhood.  One of the few places where I wasn’t pursued by the grown-ups, — not even the kindly ones–, was that silky ditch.  In summer, I’d lie back into its welcoming contours, and watch blue skies hatch clouds.  I pretended that God had a cloud pipe, puffed them into existence.  Then I would seriously study, trying to find out what creatures were billowing into existence overhead.

Planes were so rare then, although we were not far, as the crow flies, from Willow Run (where Lindbergh was running wartime plane production – so we’d’ve been prime Hitler targets, had he been able to turn out sufficient transatlantic planes).  Any time one of these little miracles (I remember especially biplanes) would come into view, I could not take my eyes nor my ears away from that phenomenon.

There were bees then.  One of the key memories of lying in the ditch was hearing bees, yes, busy, in all that short white clover.  It was ceaseless, seemed deafening.

My sister liked to be out in, even to run away into, the deep woods.  I preferred the vacant lot with its myriad of wildflowers.  The colors of summer in Michigan were white Queen Anne’s lace, spiky blue chicory, and the glare and blare of gold/orange brown-eyed Susans.  The dark centers of the ‘lace’ looked far more like insects to me than the only true flower of that weed.  It never did any good to bring the ‘lace’ inside for bouquets to set in Mother’s antique pewter — the little white parts shriveled, as though shocked, into something a little thicker than dust, tumbling all over the maple tables.

The chicory always seemed to be struggling.  Towering above me in the ditch, it seemed faded, as though just giving up in summer’s heat, always closing early.  Later I would learn that Indians could tell time by the opening and closing of chicory’s washed-out blue stiff blooms, even on cloudy days.

Our mother didn’t like to cook, really, and especially turned her back on gardening.  A few spring iris grew spikily behind the house, but turned hideous as soon as each bloom twirled shut.  A few raucous marigolds, and sometimes multicolored portulaca, made up the flowers of the yard.  Everything in the side yard, especially the minuscule ‘Chinese lanterns’,  was far more fascinating to me.

As August appeared, the wild weeds put forth a parched yet spicy fragrance.  That, along with almost deafening crickets of the Fourth of July, and locusts not long thereafter, meant summer was already rolling to a close.

We knew nothing of wilderness in those days.  My sister and I had never heard of preserves, where she in Illinois and I in New Jersey, spend key nature hours in all seasons.  Nobody gave us a bird book, let alone binoculars.  When we try to remember, we ‘see’ jays, robins everywhere (the Michigan state bird), hefty crows in and around our yards.  Mallards swam in cemetery ponds.  Gulls called loud and clear as we would reach first the ferry, then the BRIDGE, to the Upper Peninsula, our absolute favorite place to be.  Never was there a gull anywhere but Northern Michigan.  And, once, above the Tahquamenon River, an eagle coursed above us on the root-beer-hued waters.

There must have been butterflies.  If so, they ‘were all monarchs’.  No fireflies in Michigan.  Each summer, we’d poke holes in Mason jar lids, fill the jars with grass, catch fireflies in Ohio and bring them back home in the back seat of one of the Pontiacs, whose hood ornaments my father resembled.  As an adult, here in Princeton, someone revealed, re lightning bugs, “Carolyn, only one sex lights.”

We’d keep summer Crayolas in the refrigerator, so they would not melt when we used them on the screened-in back porch.  Totally lacking needlework skill, I nevertheless had crocheted long strands which my father attached on the outside of the screens.  I planted blue morning glory (his nickname for me) seeds, and they exuberantly twined all the way to the top of the screens.  We colored all summer in a blue haze.  As I would write in a much later poem, there were, of course, houseflies, “bumping, disgruntled, against the tall porch screens.”

Re-experiencing “ditch days” now, in the 21st Century, my clearest memory –beyond the small planes, the huge clouds– is the sound of all those bees, singing as they worked the clover.