Archive for November, 2014

Nov 25 2014

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Back from the Cosmos

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M51Yesterday I finished writing the cosmos book. I’ve been hard at work on the last draft of it for a couple months now. A year ago I pulled the manuscript from storage, where it had been languishing since 2005. A quick perusal convinced me that the manuscript was worth finishing and eventually publishing even though it’s not the kind of thing one expects from a nature writer. What can I say? Sometimes passion trumps practicality.

The cosmos is nature on the grand scale. With a 4.5-inch telescope, a little help from astronomy books and the Internet, I have wandered through the night sky for years, frequently visiting spiral galaxies, nebulas and other mind-blowing phenomena. These wanderings have fueled my wildest speculations about the nature of the universe and our place in it.

Whenever I tramp through the woods, I marvel at the dance of order and chaos that is wild nature. Whenever I spend enough time alone in the forest, I feel that wildness emerge from deep within me. Now I see that same wildness in the swirl of galaxies millions of light years away. It is all connected

No doubt those of you familiar with my work can see where I’m going with this. Back from the cosmos, I’m headed for that ethereal realm where mystics, philosophers and theologians spend their days. I’m already deep in it, actually. The path between cosmology and God-talk is a short one. But don’t worry. I’ll keep at least one foot on the ground. I’ll step away from my mad speculations long enough this winter to self-publish the Maine hiking narrative that so many of you have been waiting for. Above all else, I want to keep it real.


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Nov 17 2014

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Winter Begins

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SnowTreeAfter a pleasant weekend spent with visiting friends, my restless dog and I head for the woods. A wet snow falls from a grey sky but we don’t care. We need to spend some time outside.

Snowfall clings to rocks and trees. It also covers the ground. This is the first of it here in the Champlain Valley, really.  Last week a few flurries came down at midday and a dusting of the white stuff appeared on the grass before the sun got to it. But this snow is accumulating.

Winters are a challenge here in the North Country. You don’t want to live here if you can’t handle the cold, long dark nights, or the ground covered with snow for months on end. Although tomorrow afternoon’s temperature could melt off the snow now landing, it could easily stay with us for the next four or five months. It’s happened before.

I’m not big fan of winter and all it entails, but it’s good for literary work. If I lived in California I’d probably do a lot more hiking and a lot less writing. Sunshine and warmth have that effect on me. As things are, though, my life is more balanced. The seasons suit me.

During my first winter walk, I place my feet carefully so that I don’t fall. I go down once all the same, slipping on a slanting, snow-covered rock. While getting back to my feet, I laugh knowingly while saying, “There it is.” It begins.

The season of slip-sliding around is upon us. So is shoveling, treacherous roads, getting up in the dark, and frigid walks. But those crisp, blue-sky days when snowshoeing is such a delight are also coming. So are the many pleasures of indoor life.

Yeah, bring it on. I’m ready. I love Vermont year around. If I didn’t I would have moved away a long time ago.



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Nov 09 2014

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In the Now

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FrHillNovA trace of snow on French Hill. My dog Matika and I tramp down the leaf-strewn trail. No sound except our shuffling through leaves.

Rifle shot in the distance. No matter. We’re wearing bright yellow and blaze orange. No one here but us… and a spooked partridge.

The sun plays peekaboo through the clouds overhead. Dried leaves still clinging to beech trees rattle in a slight breeze. Stick season: the world mostly brown and grey.

The air cold enough to justify the wool and thermal layers I’m wearing. I break a sweat while moving all the same.

Leaving the main trail, I follow the tracks of animals. It’s like this sometimes. Getting out of town isn’t enough. Sometimes I have to leave any semblance of human improvement behind in order to clear my head.

Glad I am not carrying a rifle. I take a few photos but even my camera is a distraction.  I put it away.

In due time I achieve no-mind – the goal of true woods wanderers everywhere. Not so much what I think as what I don’t think… until the forest and I are one, until I have nothing to say. The ancient Chinese wanderer Han Shan would approve.

I wander aimlessly. Oh yes, now I remember: the wild defines me.


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