Archive for February, 2016

Feb 24 2016

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The Swirl of Natural Order

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gastropod2Well, I’m back to the old scribble, scribble, revising the pantheism manuscript after nearly a year away from it. Feels good to be writing again. I must admit, though, that this is a tough subject – as challenging as cosmology and closely related to that. If I were smart, I’d stick to writing hiking narratives. But no, I have to get philosophical every once in a while. What can I say in my defense? When it comes to writing, I follow my passion.

Some of you might recall that I went to Fisk Quarry a year and a half ago to check out the fossils there. It’s amazing that we can read in stone the history of this planet going back hundreds of millions of years. It’s also amazing that the swirl of a gastropod’s shell is so much like the swirl of hurricanes and galaxies. Those swirls suggest natural order reaching across time and space. “All is not chaos,” they seem to say, which strikes me as a deeply religious notion – one that I embrace wholeheartedly. Hence the book now in progress.

A tough subject, indeed. Natural order suggests that nature exists beyond our conception of it. Nature with a capital “N” that is, which is nothing less than God-talk. When it comes to rational discourse, no subject is tougher than that.

Incredibly, I am writing natural theology. It’s hard to say what exactly has brought me to this point. I came away from the Alaskan wilderness with pantheistic inclinations, I suppose. Before that I could have passed for an existentialist.

It’ll be another year before I finish this book, and another year after that before it’s published. But I thought it important for those of you who have been following my wanderings and wonderings to know what I’m up to these days. Yeah, I’m in the deep end of the pool now. Good thing I know how to swim.



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Feb 15 2016

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The Power of Wind

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Lake Champ in FebFeeling cooped up after three days of subzero temps, I went to Kill Kare State Park for a short walk. My dog Matika was just as happy as I was to get out of the house.

I walked the icy road from the park entrance to the parking lot, stepping aside for passing cars as several ice fishermen left the area. Others hunkered down in their shanties, while one hearty soul sat exposed to the elements with his back to the wind. My eyes teared up as a gust of frigid air hit my face.

Walking out to the point, I leaned into a powerful wind blowing from the southwest. With temps rising rapidly, I knew this was a warm front moving in but it sure didn’t feel that way. I buried gloved hands in the pockets of my jacket and pressed forward.

The lake was iced over as far as I could see. Ominous clouds gathered over the Adirondacks. I didn’t stay on the point long. Matika had already turned back and was waiting for me to follow.

Returning to the car, I marveled at that one exposed fisherman on the ice thinking more about fish than comfort. As for me, well, I’d had enough, struggling across the windswept park as if making my way up Everest. If the weather forecasters are right, temps will be well above freezing in another day or two. I’ll go back out then.



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Feb 07 2016

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Midwinter Hike

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Feb LT with MatikaMy dog Matika was all excited when I pulled out my daypack the other day. She knew what it meant. I’ve been so busy working lately that I haven’t gotten outside much. She has been feeling as cooped up as I have.

I drove to Johnson, parked my car along a logging road, and hiked up the frozen mud track until it became a skidder trail. Then patches of ice transformed into a few inches of hard-packed snow. I passed one fellow checking maple sugar lines and another eating lunch in a pickup truck parked next to a skidder. Aside from them, I had the forest all to myself.

The rush of open streams and a solitary chickadee were the only sounds that broke the silence. Not until later, on the way out, did I hear a chainsaw in the distance. The running water and thin snowpack gave the surrounding landscape the look of early spring. A bone-chilling wind blowing through the woods told me otherwise.  A mild winter this year but, at 1800 feet, winter all the same.

When I left the skidder trail, following Long Trail blazes across the crusty snow, mine became the only human tracks. Matika found plenty of animal tracks, though. As empty as the woods seemed, we were not alone.

Reaching French Hill Brook, I stopped long enough to feed Matika lunch and scratch a few lines in my field journal. When I started to chill in my own sweat, I turned around and hiked out. No rush. The expression on my dog’s face mirrored my own mood: happy to be tramping through snowy woods and thinking about nothing but the elements and wildness for a while. The beautiful simplicity of these quiet, forested mountains keeps me coming back to them time and time again.



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