Saturday, December 26, 2015

JOHN MUIR ON NATIONAL PARKS

"Any fool can destroy trees.  They cannot run away; and even if they could they would still be destroyed, chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones.  Few who fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much toward getting back anything like the noble primeval forests.  During a man's life only saplings can be grown, in the place of the old trees, tens of centuries old, that have been destroyed."
"It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods, trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra.  Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ's time, and long before that, God has cared for these trees saved them from drought, diseases, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods, but he cannot save them from fools, only Uncle Sam can do that." (Our National Parks, 1901)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

WHEN YOU ARE OLD



When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

W.B.Yates, 1892

Sunday, November 8, 2015

BY CHANCE

Until a couple of weeks ago this area was lush with red chokeberries, but the berry loving birds have foraged it clean, leaving only some milkweed to blow away, and apples ready to fall. 


In Maine it pays to keep an eye on the sky because unique sights are plentiful, but can fade quickly.
  This was taken two years ago at sunset in November.

Monday, November 2, 2015

PINKHAM NOTCH CAMP

If you spend a couple of hours walking around the Pinkham Notch Camp watching what gear is taken out of cars, listening to the questions and the serious advice being given, and especially having lunch where this sign hangs, you will start to feel the spirit of the place. 
Affectionately known as Joe Dodge's, it sits next to the Tuckerman's Ravine Trail, perhaps the most storied hike in the White Mountains for both skiers and mountaineers.




Just as things were getting interesting it was time to turn around.

FOLIAGE

The brilliance of this year's exceptional foliage season has passed now, but it can be revived for a few minutes by the setting sun.



Saturday, June 6, 2015

PARIS

"I don't really know what happened," he said. "The moment I entered those gardens I was a man overwhelmed by a sense of living."
     "How could a garden, just seeing a garden, make a man happy," the maid asked."
     "And yet what I am telling you is quite an ordinary experience and other people will often tell you similar things in the course of your life.  I am a person for whom talking, for example, feeling at one with other people is a blessing, and suddenly in that garden I was so completely at home, so much at my ease, that it might have been made specially for me although it was an ordinary public garden.  I don't know how to put it any better, except perhaps to say that it was as if I had achieved something and become for the first time, equal to my life.  I could not bear to leave it.  The wind had risen, the light was honey- colored and even the lions whose manes glowed in the setting sun were yawning with the pure pleasure of being there.  The air smelt of lions and fire and I breathed it as if it were the essence of friendliness which had, at last included me.  All the passers-by were preoccupied with each other, basking in the evening light.  I remember thinking they were like the lions.  And suddenly I was happy."

Quoted from The Square, Marguerite Duras, Grove Press, 1965.

Jardin des Plantes, September 1981.

Friday, June 5, 2015

SAMUEL BECKETT

"Not that Watt desired information, for he did not.  But he desired words to be applied to his situation, to Mr. Knott, to the house, to the grounds, to his duties, to the stairs, to his bedroom, to the kitchen, and in a general way to the conditions of being in which he found himself.  For Watt now found himself in the midst of things which, which if they consented to be named, did so as it were with reluctance... Looking at a pot, for example, or thinking of a pot, at one of Mr. Knott's pots, it was in vain that Watt said, Pot, pot...It resembled a pot, it was almost a pot, but it was not a pot of which one could say Pot, pot, and be comforted."

Watt, Samuel Beckett, Grove Press, 1970, with Missy.

NEW HAMPSHIRE


The Swift River



APPALACHIAN TRAIL

Vintage trail marker, New Hampshire

Pine Knob Shelter, Maryland

Trail Junction, Maryland

Fontana Dam, North Carolina, October 1971, nearing the finish of my end-to-end hike that began in Maine in June.
(Lowell Branham photograph)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

LOUISIANA LOU

Hiking on the Appalachian Trail in Maryland several years ago was a woman trail-named Louisiana Lou.  She was an elderly woman by trail standards and she carried an enormous pack by anyone's standards.  She even had it covered for rain though it was a chilly January day with plenty hazy sun.  There was no rain or snow in sight.
     We said hello and agreed that it was a great day for a hike.  I couldn't help but comment on the size of her pack:  it was the usual sign of a novice or a long trip.
      "I camped near the Pogo spring last night.  I'm on the way down to the parking lot at I-70.
     She was midway of only a 4 mile hike.  But she was no novice.  The fact she carried so much gear for a minor hike was her style; she was cheerful, and wasn't burdened by anything it seemed, including her pack.
     "I've got my cell phone with me," she went on to say.  "I keep hiking in and out of service areas, but luckily I had service where I camped last night.  My boss called me this morning and said he needed me at work by eleven this morning.  I work at the Burger King in Hagerstown."
     As she turned south and walked away I looked at my watch.  It was almost ten o'clock.

Friday, May 29, 2015

MARCEL PROUST


"All day long, in that slightly too bucolic residence, which looked like no more than a place for resting between walks or sheltering from a downpour, one of those houses where every sitting room looks like a conservatory and where, in the bedroom wall-paper, either the garden roses or the birds in the trees are brought vividly before you and and keep you company, in a rather isolated way -- it being of the old-fashioned sort in which each rose was so clearly delineated that if it were alive one could have picked it, each bird so perfect that it might have been caged and tamed, without any of the exaggerated modern decor in which, against a background of silver, all the apple trees of Normandy are arrayed in profile, Japanese-style, to turn the hours you spend in bed into a hallucinatory experience; all day long I stayed in my room, which looked out over the fine greenery of the park and the lilacs by the gateway, over the green leaves of the great trees shimmering in the sunlight beside the water, and over the forest of Meseglise."

Finding Time Again, Marcel Proust, Ian Patterson translation, opening sentence.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

ORIOLES

If I hadn't been up early and gone for a walk I never would have learned the satisfying news that numbers of Baltimore Orioles had arrived in coastal Maine the day before the Preakness.
I make no apologies for the blurry photo of an Oriole in an apple tree that I took that early spring morning:  after all, we had lived in Maryland for decades and rarely saw them. The seed store lady said that she had never heard of anyone successfully feeding them.  You'll hear that Orioles like grape jelly, which is probably why I never had any luck:  I would never feed a creature of nature any human food.  But more than once I did precariously climb our pointy Hawthorns to nail orange sections to the branches to lure them closer to us.  However, a bird knows that Hawthorns produce bitter red berries and not sweet fruit, so they were not fooled and we never saw them. 
     Our neighborhood in Maryland was a cul-de-sac shaded by plane trees and tall tulip poplars that formed an amphitheater all around and over us.  For a short period of time in the spring the Orioles moved around the treetops singing their wonderful songs until they inevitably went silent for the summer.  It was as disappointing a time as when the Wood Thrush in the forest did the same thing a month later.