Lately, during lulls in my travels, I’ve been re-reading Edward Abbey’s best book, a collection of essays and stories from his early years in the Southwest. It’s been thirty years since I first read Desert Solitaire, and re-reading it has confirmed my opinion that the work is one of the best accounts of an educated person confronting the American landscape.
Abbey has been dead for some years now and I’m certain that he would be horrified by the changes in the landscape and culture in the intervening years. His writings, as the years go by, have become historical documents, one man’s prescient views on the American approach to dealing with wilderness during the late 1950s and 1960s. Abbey had a non-Christian mystical streak which makes me think of such earlier writers such as Henry Thoreau, John Muir, and Aldo Leopold.
Here’s a quote which I deftly extracted from Desert Solitaire while my laundry was whirling around in a laundromat washing machine this afternoon:
“If a man’s imagination were not so weak, so easily tired, if his
capacity were not so limited, he would abandon forever such fantasies
of the supernal. He would learn to perceive in water, leaves, and
silence more than sufficient of the absolute and marvelous, more than
enough to console him for the loss of the ancient dreams.”