Archive for January, 2013

Jan 30 2013

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January Thaw

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A five-day stint of subzero weather broke over the weekend with a little snowstorm. Then the wind picked up, blowing in unseasonably warm air. This morning, I couldn’t resist. After a short round of writing, I pulled on my hiking boots, put Matika in the car and headed for Aldis Hill.

The trail underfoot was half-frozen earth in places and soft mud in others. I knew it was going to be a messy walk but I didn’t care. I badly needed what John Burroughs once called, “Wordless intercourse with rude nature.” In other words, it was time to get out of the house.

The wind roared overhead, knocking dead limbs out of the trees. I tried not to think about climate change even though the ground was nearly clear of snow. This is the second big thaw we’ve seen this month, following the second significant cold snap. Crazy weather. Whatever. For an hour, I shrugged off the implications and simply enjoyed it.

Halfway up the hill, I took off my hat and gloves.  A little later I left the beaten path. Matika ran ahead of me until she found something to sniff, giving me time enough to catch up with her. Together we tramped aimlessly through the woods, grooving on the stark, wild beauty of it all. Soon we tagged a trail again, completing the loop back to the car. A large patch moss clinging to rock caught my eye. Its brilliant, lively hue made me think of spring even though I know better. I reveled in it. Green is green.

Back home again, it has taken me a while to clean up my dirty dog. No matter. I feel pretty good now, and will be able to focus better on my literary work because of that walk. I just hope I don’t start daydreaming about the coming warm season. It’s way too early for that.



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Jan 17 2013

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Call of the Wood Thrush

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In the summer of 1980, on the second day of a solo trek into Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, I stopped for lunch. A wood thrush landed in nearby bushes and began singing its flute-like song. Intoxicated by that melody, I left the trail shortly thereafter and wandered for hours through alpine meadows before making camp for the night. And there I stayed for two days, grooving on wild nature in what felt like the lap of God.

That same year I self-published my first chapbook. Five years later I started up Wood Thrush Books, naming it after the bird that has called out during so many of my deep woods excursions. As I see things, the wood thrush symbolizes life and hope and joy and beauty. Its song is mystical. It is nothing less than the call of the wild.

As any one who has attempted it knows, running a small press is a kind of holy madness. It’s a lot of work, plenty of frustration, very little recognition, and even less money. To call it a business is to miss the mark. To call it a hobby is to insult the publisher. Those who have done it as long as I have know it’s more than an occupation or a pastime – much more. It’s a vocation.

Last year was a dangerous year for WTB. I came close to calling it quits. Then I realized that I could no more give up publishing than I could writing or woods wandering. Together these three activities make me what I am, for better or worse.

Thirty-three years later, I still hear that divine, flute-like song. I hear it even when I am stuck in the developed lowlands, doing mundane work, trying to navigate the matrix that we call the modern world. I just cleaned out my office – WTB world headquarters – and am ready to take on a whole new set of challenges. Even now, in my late fifties, I still heed the call.


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Jan 07 2013

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Coming Soon

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At long last, a hiking narrative to rival my Long Trail book has gone into production. The folks at North Country Books have assured me that my Adirondack tale, The Allure of Deep Woods, will be released this spring. I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect.

Back in 2006, I hiked the Northville/Placid Trail, which meanders for one hundred and thirty miles through five wild forests and sprawling wilderness areas, from the southwestern quarter of the Adirondack Mountains to Lake Placid. It was a good trip despite all the rain, giving me a taste of deep woods in early autumn.

In addition to being a detailed account of my encounters along the trail, this book outlines the history of the Adirondacks. It also recounts the early days of the wilderness preservation movement, since the origins of that movement can be traced to this part of the country. And there is plenty of talk about the importance of wildness, as well.  Yeah, this book covers a lot of ground.  I look forward to sharing it with all of you very soon.


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