Desert Solitaire - Edward Abbey
A beautiful piece written by a caretaker in Arches National Park in the 1950’s. His friends are the rocks and trees, his enemies are the steady stream of tourists. He refers to civilization as Syphilazation. My kind of guy.
My poor mother raised five children without any of these luxuries and might be doing without them yet if it hadn’t been for Hitler, war and general prosperity.
Ive had this tree under surveillance ever since my arrival at Arches, hoping to learn something from it, to discover the significance in its form, to make a connection through its life with whatever falls beyond. Have failed. The essence of the juniper continues to elude me unless, as I presently suspect, its surface is also the essence. Two living things on the same earth, respiring in a common medium, we contact one another but without direct communication. Intuition, sympathy, empathy, all fail to guide me into the heart of this being if it has a heart.
The general atmosphere is free and friendly, quite unlike the sad, sour gloom of most bars I have known, where nervous men in tight collars brood over their drinks between out-of-tune TV screens and a remorseless clock. Why the difference?
Old foot trails may be neglected, back-country ranger stations left unmanned, and interpretive and protective services inadequately staffed, but the administrators know from long experience that millions for asphalt can always be found; Congress is always willing to appropriate money for more and bigger paved roads, anywhere particularly if they form loops.
It will be objected that a constantly increasing population makes resistance and conservation a hopeless battle. This is true. Unless a way is found to stabilize the nations population, the parks cannot be saved. Or anything else worth a damn. Wilderness preservation, like a hundred other good causes, will be forgotten under the overwhelming pressure of a struggle for mere survival and sanity in a completely urbanized, completely industrialized, ever more crowded environment. For my own part I would rather take my chances in a thermonuclear war than live in such a world.
I see what you mean. Still, I wouldn’t want to live here. So dry and desolate. Nice for pictures but my God Im glad I don’t have to live here. Im glad too, sir. Were in perfect agreement. You wouldn’t want to live here, I wouldn’t want to live in Cleveland. Were both satisfied with the arrangement as it is. Why change it? Agreed.
Water, water, water. There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount, a perfect ratio of water to rock, of water to sand, insuring that wide, free, open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here, unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.
Morning on the river: up with the dawn, before the sun, Ralph still sleeping, strange invisible birds calling and croaking from the bush, I wash last nights dishes in the muddy river. And why not? That same force which corroded a gorge five thousand feet deep through the Kaibab Plateau will also serve to scour the grease from the tin plates of the Abbey-Newcomb Expedition. The Colorado has no false pride.
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