Archive for November, 2011

Nov 30 2011

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A Place to Ponder

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Every once in a great while, I go up to Aldis Hill to sit on a downed tree and just ponder matters. Usually I have a cigar in hand, which I smoke in celebration of some small accomplishment. In this case, I was celebrating the publication of the latest Wood Thrush Books anthology – no mean feat considering how busy I’ve been keeping myself lately. But maybe this celebration was just an excuse. It was an unseasonably warm day in late November and I badly needed to get out of the house.

Remnant patches of snow from an early winter storm remained on the ground despite several days of thawing temps. A pile of wood chips at the base of a dead tree caught my eye. Evidently some hungry critter had been digging there for bugs. I’m guessing a raccoon. My dog Matika watched intently as a squirrel ran the branches overhead. Some unseen bird squawked unrecognizably from a nest.  I couldn’t make it out in the twilight. The sun had set a half hour earlier, just as I had entered the woods.

My mind wandered as it does on such occasions. I congratulated myself for completing yet another literary task, pondered current projects, then considered what the future holds. Then I thought about matters on a grander scale: the people I know and love, and the human condition in general. It doesn’t take me long these days to leap from the personal to the universal. For better or worse, I’m in the habit of philosophizing.

Funny how these woods-sitting sessions of mine always end with a thanksgiving. I can’t help but count by blessings whenever I stop moving long enough to consider my place in the greater scheme of things. The pursuit of happiness breeds unhappiness, I think. Only when I stop and think about what I already have do I start feeling good.

I walked out in darkness, feeling my way along the trail.  A galaxy of city lights sparkled through the naked trees as I meandered downhill.  I delighted in it.  A half hour later, I was back home and busy doing things again.  But this time with relish.  I had been miserable about something earlier in the day, but couldn’t for the life of me recall what it was.


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Nov 17 2011

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The Wildness Beyond

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There are as many different ways to experience the wild as there are people to experience it. That’s the premise behind the latest anthology that I have put together and published through my small press, Wood Thrush Books. And I’m quite pleased with this one, despite all the delays that kept it from reaching print until now.

The Wildness Beyond is a collection of poems, essays, and short narratives as diverse as wild nature itself.  I doubt that any reader but me will like all the pieces is this anthology, but I’m sure that no one will set it aside saying it’s the same old thing. I tried to be as open-minded as possible when putting this book together, while still including some of my favorite writers hard at work in the small press world. If nothing else, this is a good sampler of the kind of cutting-edge nature writing being done today.

The Wildness Beyond showcases writers familiar to all you staunch WTB supporters out there: Walt Franklin, Benjamin Green, and Rob Faivre to name a few. It also includes work by Marianne Boruch, David Budbill, Scott King, Neil Shepard and others. Altogether there are twenty-one contributors in this slender volume, including something by yours truly. Yes, I was brash enough to include one of my own essays. Why not?

Sorry folks. You can’t buy this one with a click or two at either the Barnes and Noble or the Amazon websites. If you want a copy, you’ll have to go to all the trouble to send a check to me via snail mail. To find out more about this book and how to get one, go to Or you can go elsewhere and order something much more predictable. It’s up to you.


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Nov 05 2011

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Recreation. Making good use of a precious day off from work, I head for the hills to re-create myself. It’s a cool, sunny day in late autumn and everything I need is stuffed into the small rucksack on my back. I step into the woods, following a favorite stream deep into the Green Mountains. My dog Matika, wearing a blaze orange vest, bounds ahead of me all smiles. She’s just as happy as I am to be here.

It’s a hunter’s forest. A few brown and gold leaves still cling to branches but most of them are on the ground now. Slightly overdressed in thermals and wool shirt, I quickly break into a sweat. And yet I feel a chill in the air whenever I stop to catch my breath. Oh yeah, it’s that time of year.

It’s a hunter’s forest but I’m not hunting for anything in particular today – not game, not adventure, not deep thought. I have no agenda, really. I’m just out here to groove with the elements and forget about all that nonsense in the lowlands. It’s enough to simply move, to sweat, and occasionally rock-hop across the stream. And yet a moment comes when I start pondering the order and chaos of the natural world, wondering half consciously where the laws of nature come from. Then I stop and look around me in pantheistic ecstasy, convinced on the most visceral level that the universe is far from being random.

I recently read The God Delusion, a manifesto of atheism penned by a renowned biologist named Richard Dawson. I was deeply disappointed by it, as I am by most religious and anti-religious texts. Professed atheists do not take pantheism any more seriously than religious fundamentalists do. These two camps are too busy warring with each other to consider any other possibilities – namely that the laws of nature have to come from somewhere, that “god” and “nature” are different words for the same thing. A few pensive souls like myself speak up but we are quickly dismissed.  There is little room in most human minds for the obvious. Warring – the battle between good and evil – is so much more engaging.

“Let it go,” I tell myself, as I tramp through the woods. I didn’t come out here to think. I came out here today to leave all that nonsense behind. I came out here to groove with the wild, feel the truth of it, and reconnect with What-Is in a way that doesn’t translate into any kind of -Ism. So I whistle to Matika to follow as I change direction, rock-hopping across the stream one more time. By the end of the day, I will be re-created and ready to return to the lowlands.  But right now, I just want to worship nature in the simplest and most direct way possible.


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