Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey“I am not alone after all.  Three ravens are wheeling near the balanced rock, squawking at each other and at the dawn.  I’m sure they’re as delighted by the return of the sun as I am and I wish I knew the language.  I’d sooner exchange ideas with birds in earth than learn to carry on intergalactic communications with some obscure race of humanoids on a satellite planet from the world of Betelgeuse.  First things first.  The ravens cry out in husky voices, blue-black wings flapping against the golden sky.  Over my shoulder comes the sizzle and smell of frying bacon.

That’s the way it was this morning.”

“Again the fire begins to fail.  Letting it die, I take my walking stick and go for a stroll down the road into the thickening darkness.  I have a flashlight with me but will not use it unless I hear some sign of animal worthy of investigation.  The flashlight, or electrical torch as the English call it, is a useful instrument in certain situations but I can see the road well enough without it.  Better, in fact.

There’s another disadvantage to the use of the flashlight: like many other mechanical gadgets it tends to separate man from the world around him.  If I switch it on my eyes adapt to it and I can see only the small pool of light which it makes in front of me; I am isolated.  Leaving the flashlight in my pocket where it belongs, I remain part of the environment I walk through and my vision though is limited has no sharp or definite boundaries.”


“I wait.  Now the night flows back, the mighty stillness embraces and includes me; I can see the stars again and the world of starlight.  I am twenty miles or more from the nearest fellow human, but instead of loneliness I feel loveliness.  Loveliness and a quiet exultation.”


“How can I descend to such anthropomorphism?  Easily- but is it, in this case entirely false?  Perhaps not.  I am attributing human motives to my snake and bird acquaintances.  I recognize that when and where they serve purposes of mine they do so for beautifully selfish reasons of their own.  Which is exactly the way it should be.  I suggest, however, that’s it’s a foolish, simple-minded rationalism which denies any form of emotion to all animals but man and his dog.  This is no more justified than the Muslems are in denying the souls to women.  It seems to me possible, even probable, that many of the nonhuman undomesticated animals experience emotions to us.  What do the coyotes mean when they yodel at the moon?  What are the dolphins trying so patiently to tell us?. . . If I had been capable of trust as I am susceptible to fear I might have learned something new or some truth so very old we have all forgotten it.”


“Something strange in the air.  I go to the weather station and check the instruments- nothing much, actually, but a rain gauge, an anemometer or wind gauge, and a set of thermometers which record the lows and highs for the day.  The little cups on the wind gauge are barely turning, but this breath of air, such as it is, comes from the southwest.  The temperature is fifty-five or so, after a low this morning of thirty-eight.  It is not going to snow after all.  Balanced on the point of equilibrium, hesitating, the world of the high desert turns toward summer.”


“Progress has come at last to the Arches, after a million years if neglect.  Industrial Tourism has arrived.”


“Viviano, undoubted by the heat and still showing off, sprang on his horse- yes, literally vaulted into the saddle- and rode yelling and flailing and whistling into the herd. (One leap and he was in the saddle; five beers and he was on the floor).”


“Through half-closed eyes, for the light would otherwise be overpowering, I consider the tree, the lonely cloud, the sandstone bedrock of this part of the world and pray- in my fashion- for a vision of truth.  I listen for signals from the sun- but that distant music is too high and pure for the human ear.  I gaze at the tree and receive no response.  I scrape my bare feet against the sand and rock under the table and am comforted by their solidity and resistance.  I look at the cloud.”


“I listened:

Something breathing nearby- I was in the presence of a tree.”


“We stared at each other [a horse and he], unmoving.  If that animal was breathing I couldn’t hear it- the silence seemed absolute. . .He didn’t even smell like a horse, didn’t seem to have any smell about him at all.  Perhaps if I reached out and touched him he would crumble to a cloud of dust, vanish like a shadow.”


“Something dreamlike and remembered, that sensation of deja vu– when was I here before?”


“(My God!  I’m thinking, what incredible shit we put up with most of our lives- the domestic routine (same old wife every night), the stupid and useless and degrading jobs, the insufferable arrogance of elected officials, the crafty cheating and the slimy advertising of the businessmen, the tedious wars in which we kill our buddies instead of our real enemies back home in the capital, the foul, diseased and hideous cities and towns we live in, the constant petty tyranny of automatic washers and automobiles and TV machines and telephones-! ah Christ!, I’m thinking, at the same time that I’m waving good-bye to that hollering idiot on the shore what intolerable garbage and what utterly  useless crap we bury ourselves in day by day, which patiently enduring at the same time the creeping strangulation of the clean white collar and the rich but modest four-in-hand garrote!)”


“Back in the boats, sprawled out comfortably on our baggage, nothing lost but the road map- and there are no gas stations in Glen Canyon anyhow- we drift onward without further effort, paddling in board and rest.“[The map is a Texaco road map]


“Ralph, peaceful as a hanging judge, is already sound asleep.  For myself I choose to listen to the river for a while, thinking river thoughts, before joining the night and the stars.”


“Why, we ask ourselves, floating onward in effortless peace deeper into Eden, why not go on forever?  True, there are no women here (a blessing in disguise?), no concert halls, no books, bars, galleries, theaters or playing fields, no cathedrals of learning or high towers of finance, no wars, elections, traffic jams or other amusements, none of the multinefarious delights of what Ralph calls syphilization.”


“Down the river we drift in a kind of waking dream, gliding beneath the great curving cliffs with their tapestries of water stains, the golden alcoves, the hanging gardens, the seeps, the springs where no man will ever drink, the royal arches in high relief and the amphitheaters shaped like seashells.  A sculptured landscape mostly bare of vegetation- earth in the nude.”


Further more we are lazy, indolent animals, Newcomb and I, half-mesmerized by the idylic ease of our voyage, neither of us can seriously believe that very soon the beauty we are passing through will be lost.  Instinctively we expect a miracle: the dam will never be completed, they’ll run out of cementor slide rules, the engineers will all be shipped to Upper Volta.”


Wilderness.  The word itself is music.

Wilderness, wilderness. . . We scarcely know what we mean by the term, though the sound draws all whose nerves and emotions have not yet been irreparably stunned, deadened, numbed by the caterwauling of commerce, the sweating scramble for profit and domination.”


“Consider the sentiments of Charles Marion Russell, the cowboy artist, as quoted in John Hutchens’ One Man’s Montana:

‘I have been called a pioneer.  In my book a pioneer is a man who comes to virgin country, traps off all the fur, kills off all the wild meat, cuts down all the trees, grazes off all the grass, plows the roots up and strings up ten million miles of wire.  A pioneer destroys things and calls it civilization.’”


“If industrial man continues to multiply his numbers and expand his operations he will succeed in his apparent intention, to seal himself off from the natural and isolate himself within synthetic prison of his own making.”


“If a man’s imagination were not so weak, so easily tired, if his capacity for wonder 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 dream.”


“All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare, said a wise man.  If so, what happens to excellence when we eliminate the difficult and the rarity?  Words, words- the problem makes me thirsty.”


“Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear- the earth remains, slightly modified.  The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break.  Turning Plato and Hegel in their heads I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real.  Rock and sun.”


“When I had regained some measure of nerve and steadiness I got off my back and tried the wall beside the pond, clinging to the rock with bare toes and fingertips and inching my way crabwise toward the corner.  The water-soaked, heavy boots dangling from my neck, swinging back and forth with my every movement, threw me off balance and I fell into the pool.  I swam out to the bank, unslung the boots and threw them over the drop-off, out of sight.  They’d be there if I ever needed them again.  Once more I attached myself to the wall, tenderly, sensitively, like a limpet, and very slowly, very cautiously, worked my way into the corner.  Here I was able to climb upward, a few centimeters at a time, by bracing myself against he opposite sides and finding sufficient niches for fingers and toes.  As I neared the top and the overhang became noticeable as I prepared to slip, planning to push myself away from the rock so as to fall into the center of the pool where the water was deepest.  But it wasn’t necessary.  Somehow, with a skill and tenacity I could never have found in myself under ordinary circumstances, I managed to creep straight up that gloomy cliff and over the brink of the drop-off and into the flower of safety.  My boots were floating under the surface of the little puddle above.  As I poured the stinking water out of them and laced them up I discovered myself bawling again for the third time in three hours, the hot delicious tears if victory.  And up above the clouds replied- thunder.

I emerged from that treacherous little canyon at sundown, with an enormous fire in the western sky and lightning overhead.  Through sweet twilight and the sudden dazzling flare of lightning I hiked back along Tonto Bench, bellowing the Ode to Joy.  Long before I reached the place where I could descend safely to the main canyon and my camp, however, darkness set in, the clouds opened their bays and the rain poured down.  I took shelter under a ledge in a shallow cave about three feet high- hardly room to sit up in.  Others had been here before: the dusty floor of the little hole was littered with the droppings of birds, rats, jackrabbits and coyotes.  There were also a few long gray pieces of scat with a curious twist at one tip- cougar?  I didn’t care.  I had some matches with me, sealed in paraffin (the prudent explorer); I scraped together the handiest twigs and animal droppings and built a little fire and waited for the rain to stop.

It didn’t stop.  The rain came down for hours in alternate waves of storm and drizzle and I very soon had burnt up all the fuel within reach.  No matter.  I stretched out in the coyote den, pillowed my head on my arm and suffered through the long long night, wet, cold, aching, hungry, wretched, dreaming claustrophobic nightmares.  It was one of the happiest nights of my life.”


“They [nighthawks] feed in the twilight between evening and night and again in that similar twilight, unknown to most Americans, between dawn and sunrise, at which times aerial insects are abundant.”


“The dead man’s nephew, excused from this duty, walks far ahead out of earshot.  We are free as we go stumbling and sweating along to say exactly what we please, without fear of offending.

“Heavy son of a bitch. . .”

“All blown up like he is, you’d think he’d float like a balloon.”

“Let’s just hope he don’t explode.”

“He won’t.  We let the gas out.”

“What about lunch?” somebody asks; “I’m hungry.”

“Eat this.”

“Why’d the bastard have to go so far from the road?”

“There’s something leaking out that zipper.”

“Never mind, let’s try to keep in step here,” the sheriff says.  “Goddamnit Floyd, you got big feet.”

“Are we going in the right direction?”

“I wonder if the old fart would walk part way if we let him out of that bag?”

“He won’t even say thank you for the ride.”

“Well I hope this learned him a lesson, goddamn him.  I guess he’ll stay put after this.”

Thus we meditate upon the stranger’s death.  Since he was unknown to any of us we joke about his fate, as is only natural and wholesome under the circumstances.  If he’d meant anything to us maybe we could mourn.  If we had loved him we would sing, dance, drink, build a stupendous bonfire, find women, make love- for under the shadow of death what can be wiser than love, to make love, to make children? -and celebrate his transfiguration from flesh to fantasy in a style proper and fitting, with fun for all at the funeral.”


“Fresh from melting snowbanks in the peak above, the water is cold as ice.  My hands tingle, burning with cold.”


‘In autumn the leaves [of an aspen] the turn a bright, uniform yellow, glorifying entire mountainsides with bands and slashes of gold.”


“‘Hunger stirs within me like great music.”


“The wind stops, completely, as I finish my lunch.  I strip and lie in the sun, high on Tukuhnikivats, with nothing between me and the universe but my thoughts.”


“On the way, in an area where spruce and fir mingle with quaking aspen, in a cool shady well-watered place, I discover a blue columbine, rarest and loveliest of mountain flowers.  This one is growing alone- perhaps the deer have eaten the others- there must have been others- and wears therefore the special beauty of all wild and lonely things.  Silently I dedicate the flower to a girl I know and in honor both of her and the columbine open my knife and carve something appropriate in the soft white bark of the nearest aspen.”


“What can I tell them?  Sealed in their metallic shells like molluscs on wheels, how can I pry the people free?  The auto as tin can, the park ranger as opener.  Look here, I want to say, for godsake folks get out of them there machines, take off those fucking sunglasses and unpeel both eyeballs, look around; throw away those goddamned idiotic cameras!  For chrissake folks what is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare? eh?  Take off your shoes for a while, unzip your fly, piss hearty, dig your toes in the hot sand, feel that raw and rugged earth, split a couple of big toenails, draw blood!  Why not?  Jesus Christ, lady, roll that window down!  You can’t see the desert if you can’t smell it.  Dusty?  Of course it’s dusty- this is Utah!  But it’s good dust, good red Utahn dust, rich in iron, rich in irony.  Turn that motor off.  Get out of that piece of iron and stretch out your varicose veins, take off your brassiere and get some hot sun on your old wrinkled dugs!  You sir, squinting at the map with your radiator boiling over and your fuel pump vapour-locked, crawl out of that shiny hunk of GM junk and take a walk- yes, leave the old lady and those squawling brats behind for a while, turn your back on them and take a long quiet walk straight into the canyons, get lost for a while, come back when you damn well feel like it, it’ll do you and her and them a world of good.  Give the kids a break too, let them out of the car let them go scrambling over the rocks hunting for rattlesnakes and scorpions and anthills- yes sir, let them out, turn them loose; how dare you imprison little children in your goddamn upholstered horseless hearse?  Yes sir, yes madam, I entreat you, get out of those motorized wheelchairs, get out off your foam rubber backsides, stand up straight like men!  like women! like human beings! and walk- walk- WALK upon our sweet and blessed land!”


“Don’t you even have a TV?”

“TV?  Listen lady. . .if I saw a TV out here I’d get out my cannon and shoot it like I would a mad dog, right in the eye.”

“Goodness!  Why do you say that?”

“What’s the principle of the TV, madam?”

“Goodness, I don’t know.”

“The vacuum tube, madam.  And do you know what happens if you stick your head in a vacuum tube?”

“If you stick your head. . .?”

“I’ll tell: you get your brains sucked out.” (Laughter!). . .

Any dangerous animals out here, ranger?”

“Just tourists.” (Laughter; tell them the truth, they never believe you.)”


“It’s a great country: you can say whatever you like so long as it is strictly true- nobody will ever take you seriously.”


“So much for the stars.  Why, a man could get lose his mind in those incomprehensible distances.  Is there intelligent life on other worlds?  Ask rather, is there intelligent life on Earth?  There are mysteries enough right in America, in Utah, in the canyons.”


“Again the road brings us close to the brink of Millard Canyon and here we see something like a little shrine mounted on a post.  We stop.  The wooden box contains a register book for visitors, brand-new, with less than a dozen entries, put there by the BLM- Bureau of Land Management. “Keep the tourists out,” some tourist from Salt Lake City has written.  As fellow tourists we heartily agree.”


“Why call them anything at all?  asks Waterman; why not let them alone?  And to that suggestion I instantly agree; of course- why name them?  Vanity, vanity, nothing but vanity: the itch for naming things is almost as bad as the itch for possessing things.  Let them and leave them alone- they’ll survive for a few more thousand years, more or less, without any glorification from us.”


“October.  Rabbitbrush in full bloom.  The tumbleweeds on the move (that longing to be elsewhere, elsewhere), thousands of them rolling across the plains before the wind.  Something like a yellow rash has broken out upon the mountainsides- the aspen forests in their autumn splendor.”


“Desert Solitaire”- Edward Abbey



“Meanwhile, here at home in the land of endless plenty. . .”


“Economics, no matter how econometric it pretends to be, resembles meteorology more than mathematics.  A cloudy science of swirling vapour, signifying nothing.”


“Where life is there is death, reasons the vulture, and where there’s death there’s hope.  When life is cheap death is rich.”


“Once the tent is up the rain stops, as usual, and we sleep in the open under a clouded but unleaking sky.  We wake at dawn to discover the desert hills shrouded in rolling clouds of vapour, seeming remote and mystical as the Mountains of the Moon.  A rare and lovely sight and we are sorry to leave.  We console ourselves, as we always do, with the thought that we’ll be back, someday soon.”


“He who sticks his neck out may get his head chopped off.  Quite so.  Nevertheless it remains the writer’s moral duty to stick out his neck. . .  Speak out: or take up a different trade.  Somebody has to do it.  That somebody is the writer.  If the independent author will not speak out the truth, who will?  What will?  Do we get the truth from politicians? From the bureaucrats of big government?  Or local government? . . .  Well, as to that, we get some but not enough: most scientists are specialized technicians, each wedged into his niche of study, few of them capable of looking at life as a whole.  Most scientists in the East as in the West sold their souls to industry, commerce, government, war, long ago.”


“Truth, truth, what is truth?  The word drops easily from the mouth but what does it mean?  I venture to assert that truth for one thing is the enemy of Power, as Power is the enemy of truth.”


“Call it one writer’s credo: Ignore the literary critics.  Ignore the commercial hustlers.  Disregard those best selling paperbacks with embossed covers in the supermarkets and the supermarket bookstores.  Waste no time applying for gifts and grants when we want money from the rich we’ll take by force.  A literary career should be not a career but a passion.  A life.  Fueled in equal parts by anger and love.  How feel one without the  other?  Each implies the other.  A writer without passion is like a body without a soul.  Or what would be even more grotesque, a soul without a body.”


“In other words, for most people the wilderness does not become attractive until it is relatively safe.”


“But if it’s a woman, a little flag goes up, automatically, somewhere in the nervous system and we humans have extremely nervous systems. . .”


“. . . any rigid pattern imposed by feminist doctrine can only lead to intrafamily conflict to be settled in the modern American way, that is, by divorce.”


“Women and men share not only their beds, their food, their homes, their lives, but also a common fate.  The continuity is all.”


“Nature is the symbol of the spirit.”


“Our faith comes in moments; our vice is habitual.”


“We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles.  Meantime within each man is the soul of the whole, the wise silence, the universal beauty. . . the eternal ONE.”


“One Life at a Time, Please”- Edward Abbey




“Redneck slumgullion, like any stew, makes a tasty, nutritious and coherent whole.  And why not?  Society too, human society, is like a stew- if you don’t keep it stirred up you get a lot of scum on top.  Coherent or not, these chunks of words share one common theme: the need to make sense of private experience by exploring the connections and contradictions among wildness and wilderness, community and anarchy; between civilization and human freedom.  Eat hearty, mates.”


“The dreary wind that blows all spring, the psychedelic Joshua trees waving their arms at you on moonlight nights.”


“Why the desert when you can be strolling along the golden beaches of California?  Camping by a stream of pure Rocky Mountain spring water in colorful Colorado?  Loafing through a laurel slick in the misty hills of North Carolina?  Or getting your head mashed in the greasy alley behind the Elysium Bar and Grill in Hoboken, New Jersey?  Why the desert, given a world of such splendor and variety?”


“There seemed no choice.  After, all, I reasoned, we had already disregarded a park ranger’s instructions and a clear warning sign.  Our path was littered not only with bolts, nuts, cotter pins, and shreds of rubber but with broken law as well.  Furthermore, I had to see what lay beyond the next ridge.”


“I was naturally eager to see a GRIZ in the wild, something I had never done, but not while climbing up a mountain with a pack on my back, tired, sweaty, and bedeviled by bugs.  Such an encounter, in such condition, could only mean a good-natured surrender on my part; I wasn’t about to climb a tree.”


“The Great Revolution was a failure, they say.  All revolutions have been failures, they say.  To which I reply:  All the more reason to have another one.  Knocking off “work” at five o’clock (the transition from work to nonwork being here discernible by a subtle reshaping in the colors of the rock on Rainbow Peak), . . .”


“This is a remote place indeed, far from the center of the world, far away from all that’s going on.  Or is it?  Who says so?  Wherever two human beings are alive, together and happy, there is the center of the world.  You out there, brother, sister, you too live in the center of the world, no matter where or what you think you are.”


“A six-legged spider (war veteran) on the outside of the windowpane chewing on a mosquito.”


‘The Pulaski is a fire-fighting tool, a combination ax and pickax.  I keep one handy too, right under the bed where I can reach it easy.  I’d keep it under the pillow if my old lady would let me.”


“No doubt about it, the presence of bear, especially grizzly bear, adds a spicy titillation to a stroll in the woods.  My bear-loving friend Peacock goes so far as to define wilderness as a place and only a place where one enjoys the opportunity being attacked by a dangerous wild animal.  Any place that lacks GRIZ, or lions or tigers, or a rhino or two, is not, in his opinion, worthy of serious consideration.  A wild place without dangers is an absurdity, although I realize that danger creates administrative problems for park and forest managers.  But we must not allow our national parks and national forests to be degraded to the status of mere public playgrounds.  Open to all, yes of course.  But- enter at your own risk.


The days sail by with alarming speed; why this headlong descent into oblivion?  What’s the rush?   Sinking comfortably into the sloth and decay of my middle middle age, I am brought up short nevertheless, now and then, by the alarming realization that all men, so far, have proven mortal.  Me too?  Each day seems more beautiful than the last.  Every moment becomes precious.  Thus are we driven to the solitary pleasures of philosophy, the furtive consolations of thought.”


“Men have died and worms have eaten them [mushrooms], but not for love.”


“Bears are omnivorous, have no pride at all, will eat anything, even authors.”


“All through the summer bumper-to-bumper auto traffic crawls up and down the Going-to-the-Sun Highway.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we’ve got to close the parks to private cars if we want to keep them as parks.  The parks are for people, not for machines.  Let the machines find their own parks.  Most of America has been surrendered to them already, anyway.  New Jersey, for example.  Southern California.”


“The bite of the centipede is slightly poisonous, but then so is that of most humans.”


“Superstition Mountain stands gaunt and grim above the desert floor, resembling a titanic altar, ancient, corroded, rotten with the blood of gods.  Or like the crumbling ruin of a castle, a fortress left over from some prehuman age of giants.  No, this is rhetoric.  The mountain looks like what it is: the eroded remains of a volcanic pile, limestone sediments, igneous intrusions.  Which is mystery enough.  The truth always more difficult to imagine than fantasy.”

The suburbs of Phoenix have crept to the foot of the mountain.  Around the base floats a haze of smoke and dust.  Rich in lung fungus.”


“Whenever possible I avoid the practice myself.  If God had meant for us to walk, he would have kept us down on all fours with well-padded paws.  He would have constructed our planet on the model of the simple cube, so that the notion of circularity and consequently the wheel might never have arisen.  He surely would not have made mountains.”


“From Daylight Pass at 4,317 feet we descend through Boundary Canyon and Hell’s Gate into the inferno at sea level and below.  Below, below. . . beneath a sea, not of brine, but of heat, of shimmering simmering waves of light and a wind as hot and fierce as a dragon’s breath.”


“A bitter war indeed: The creosote bush secretes a poison in it s roots that kills any other plant, even its own offspring, attempting to secure a place too near; in this way the individual preserves a perimeter of open space and a monopoly of local moisture sufficient for survival.”


“Fool’s gold- pyrite- glittering in the black sand, micaceous shale glinting under the back light, veins of pegmatite zigzagging and intersecting like an undeciphered script across the face of a cliff: the writing on the wall: “God was Here.”


“A lean and hungry mountain lion was observed several times that year during the Christmas season investigating the garbage cans in the campgrounds.  An old lion, no doubt- aging, possibly ill, probably retired.  In short, a tourist.  But a lion even so.”


“My terminology is far from exact; certainly not scientific.  Words like “soul” and “spirit” make vague substitutes for a hard effort toward understanding.  But I can offer no better.  The land here is like a great book or a great symphony; it invites approaches toward comprehension on many levels, from all directions.

The geologic approach is certainly primary and fundamental, underlying the attitude and outlook that best support all others, including the insight  of poetry and wisdom of religion.  Just as the earth itself forms the indispensable ground for the only kind of life we know, providing the sole sustenance of our mind and bodies, so does empirical truth constitute the foundation of higher truths.  (If there is such as thing as higher truth.)  It seems to me that Keats was wrong when he asked, rhetorically, “Do not all charms fly . . .  at the mere touch of cold philosophy?”  The word “philosophy” standing, in his day, for what we know call “physical science.”  But Keats was wrong, I say, because there is more charm in one “mere” fact, confirmed by test and observation, linked to other facts through coherent theory onto a rational system, than in a whole brainful of fancy and fantasy.  I see more poetry in a chunk of quartzite than in a make-believe wood nymph, more beauty in the revelations of a verifiable intellectual construction than in whole misty empires of obsolete mythology.

The moral I labor toward is that a landscape as splendid as that of the Colorado Plateau can best be understood and given human significance by poets who have their feet planted in concrete- concrete data- and by scientists whose heads and hearts have not lost the capacity of wonder.  Any good poet, in our age at least, must begin with the scientific view of the world; and any scientist worth listening to must be something of a poet, must possess the ability to communicate to the rest of us his sense of love and wonder at what his work discovers.”


“For more and more of those who now live here, however, the great plateau and its canyon wilderness is a treasure best enjoyed through the body and spirit, in situ as the archeologists say, not through commercial plunder.  It is a regional, national and international treasure too valuable to be sacrificed for temporary gain, too rare to be withheld from our children.  For us the wilderness and human emptiness of this land is not a source of fear but the greatest of its attractions.  We would guard and defend and save it as a place for all who wish to rediscover the nearly lost pleasures of adventure, adventure not only in the physical sense, but also mental, spiritual, moral, aesthetic and intellectual adventure.  A place for the free.”


“I make this effort to incorporate Hoboken into New York City (where it belongs) rather than allowing to remain in New Jersey (for which is too sweet, pure, romantic)  because it is from the Hoboken point of view, the Hoboken mystique, the Hoboken metaphysic, that I must describe what I remember and what I know of New York.  Meaning Manhattan.  Of the rest I know nothing.  The other four boroughs are as remote to my imagination as the Malebolges of the Eight Circle of Hell.  Perhaps only Dante could tell us the truth about them.  Perhaps only Dante- and Dostoevski- could tell us the truth about New York.”


“The fly ash everywhere, falling softly and perpetually from the pregnant sky.  We watched the seasons come and go in a small rectangle of walled-in space we called a yard: in spring and summer the black grass; in fall and winter the black snow.  Overhead and in our hearts a black sun.”


That was the view from the water, the fantasy of the river crossing.  Close to, the scene came into a different focus; we found ourselves back in the profane world of people with problems, embittered cab drivers, Sam Schwartz and his roasted chestnuts, the quiet tragedy of human relationships.  No amount of weed or booze or sex or heavy art could permanently alter any of that.”


“I believe the city [New York] is doomed.  The air is poisonous, not so much with filth and disease as with something deadlier- human hatred.  Yes, there’s hatred in Arizona, too, but here it is easily dissipated into the nothingness of space: Walk one-half mile away from the town, away from the road, and you find yourself absolutely alone, under the sun, under the moon, under the stars, within the sweet aching loneliness of the desert.”


“The Journey Home”- Edward Abbey


“The easiest thing in the world to be is what you are, what you feel.  The hardest thing to be is what other people want you to be, but that is the scene that we are living in.”


“‘The Buddhist taught me a fantastic thing.  They believe in the here and now.  They say that the only reality is what is here, what is happening between you and me right now.  If you live for tomorrow, which is only a dream, then all you are going to have is an unrealistic dream.  And the past is no longer real.  It has value because it made you what you are now, but that is all the value it has.  So don’t live in the past.  Live now.”


“French: Of all the forms of sexual perverseness, the most obscene is chastity.”


“Is all the best now in the past?”


“Love= Evil.  Four-letter words: love, hate, evil, life, fear, fire, Gawd.  Gawd only knows, nothing in my life has created as much misery as love- or my sorry attempts at love. . . (Love first begins as a prickling sensation in the hair of the balls.)”


“One must at times have the courage to be cruel.”


“Terrible but true: we live in a world where courage is the most necessary of virtues- for without courage, all other virtues are useless.”


“Judy: I’ve become a convert to Judyism.”


“Yes, I dislike Communists as much as everyone else.  I mean, I dislike them as much as I dislike everyone else.”


“The American obsession with sex is based on frustration; insufficient sex.”


“You cannot see wilderness from a road.  What you see is from a road is something different- a scene, a panorama, a picture; but you don’t feel anything.”


“Still looks good- not pretty, but beautiful.”


“And with its people- but then, city and people, how to tell the one from the other?  The wave from the water?”


“If only she understood that there is nothing deader than a dead romance.”


“Or simply disappear.  Disappear, even from myself.”


“I loved him (his father) then, between the bouts and hatred, and I love him now, though he is not- anymore than I- entirely a lovable man.”


“Men love ideas more than their lives.  A man holds to his ideas regardless of their truth or falsity- perhaps all the more strongly the weaker they are.”


“Female rumps: I know why I like them, but I don’t know why I like them so much.  (The ass-man cometh).”


“Ah, it’s a poor barbarous Christian superstition as says a man can love only one woman.  Or only one woman at a time.  Why, I say (and I know), a man can love two three four or more women all at once.  Love is indivisible.  Not a quantity but a quality.  I am full of love (for beautiful things), and the more I love, the more I am capable of loving. (And the more I, the more I.)  This was written most soberly, comrades.  Then why in Christ’s name not more than one woman?”


“What now is the aim of my life?”

“Keep my body alive, even if the soul is dead.”


“Sweet Ingrid is chopping out my heart for supper.”


“I do not fear death.  I fear loneliness.  And torture.  Prison.  And power.”


“Drinking too much again: insulting cell tissues, all them brain cells rotting away. . . ”


“We’ve got no life, only lifestyles.”


“I’ll live to piss on your grave!”


“‘Seen my latest masterpiece?”

“I haven’t seen your first one yet.”‘


“One hundred years from now we’ll all be dead. Good.”


“The wind has stopped for a moment.  Quietude surrounds me.”


“But one does not really do much thinking alone.  Not much.  Most thought, I suspect, is generated in the company of others- by problems, conflict, disorder.”


“Yes, Playboy and Penthouse are sexist magazines.  They exploit men.”


“The function of football, soccer, basketball and other passion sports in modern industrial society is the transference of boredom, frustration, anger and rage in socially acceptable forms of combat.”


“The eternal is now. The present moment, fully lived, is the eternal; the only eternity we can know.  The purpose of art is to fix those moments for all eternity.  Or as long as eternity endures.  Eternity is but a moment.”


“Death: I fear dying, pain, suffering, but I do not fear death. The earth has fed me for half a century; I owe the earth a meal- that is, my body.”


“I could retire right now, if I wanted to, and like Proust live on my memories for the rest of my life.  If I live that long.  Die now and avoid the rush.”


“‘Stop loving me.”


“‘Henry Miller is dead.  Wherever there is joy, wherever there is laughter, wherever there is love, he will find a home.”


“It is not death or dying that is tragic, but rather to have existed without fully participating in life- that is the deepest personal tragedy.”


“Most people should not be allowed to have children.  Look around you.  Look at them.”


“Suzie is not happy at Verde Valley School.  Homesick, lonely.  I should never have sent her to the detention camp for unwanted teen-agers of wealthy families.  How could I have been so dumb as not to realize what a prep school is.  A lesson for me.  The rich, really, are not good people.  They are selfish, spoiled, greedy, cliquish, clannish, mean-spirited.  That’s why they are rich.  That’s how they came to be rich.”


“Is it true the word “paradise” is derived from an old Persian word meaning “wilderness”?  The Garden of Eden= pre-agricultural life.”


“Money means power, not merely wealth.  Money gives us power over others- to command their labors, their minds, even their souls.  Even their behavior, conduct, attitudes.  No wonder money possesses such glitter attraction for those who crave power.  If all people were self-reliant- a nation of artisans, craftsmen, hunters, trappers, farmers, ranchers- the rich would have no means to dominate us.  Their wealth would be useless.”


“That which we are, we are, and if we now are less than we once were, still even so we are what few men ever dreamed or hoped to be.”


“Walkin around with my prick hangin’ out, givin baby some air. . . honey bee hangin’ around; better put my cock in.  Damn thing interferes with my walking anyway, knockin’ agin’ my knees.”


“This road winds on thru the landscape of some medieval fairy tale.”


“Walking: the only mode of travel not done in a sitting position.”


“I am accused of being a hater.  What those two-bit book reviewers cannot see is that every hate implies a corresponding love.  I.e., I hate asphalt because I love grass.  I hate the militarism because I love liberty and dignity.  I hate the ever expanding industrial megamachine because I love agrarianism, wilderness and wildlife, human form, etc.  Etc!”


“A constant ringing in my ears.  Fungus under my toenails.  An ache in my belly.  I must see an ear doctor, a toe doctor, a belly doctor.  And a witch doctor for me disabled soul.”


“‘But at my back I seem to [sic] hear  Time’s winged chariot hovering [sic] near.”


“‘Life is a bitch.  And then you die?  No: Life is a joyous adventure.  And then you die.”


“Cowboys, yahoos and rednecks: the bigger the belt buckle, the smaller the cock, say the girls.”


“I love you I love you- “right up to the sky!”‘


“What a place to bring a girl- a girl with the face of an angel, the morals of a slut.”


“There must be a Gawd; the world could not have gotten so fucked-up by chance alone.”


“The best of companions is a good mind and soul.  I do not lack for stimulating society, even in solitude.”


“Watched the lunch-time “fashion show” at Gus and Andy’s with friend.  Sort of embarrassing, all of that bare ass passing by my beef stroganoff.”


“Charles Ives (composer) to copyist: “Do not correct my wrong notes.  The wrong notes are right.”


Ives to critic: “Don’t worry too much about the wrong notes.  You’ll miss the music.”


“‘But its better to write the truth for a small audience than tell lies for a big one.”


“THIS IS WHAT YOU SHALL DO:  Love the earth and sun and the animals.  Stand up for the stupid and crazy.  Take off your hat to no man.”


“Everything in the universe converges upon me.  I radiate light upon everything in the universe.  I am an egocentric predicament (and love it!)  I find arrows shooting, rockets streaming spaceward, most fascinating- no doubt because I am a sex maniac.”


“. . . I am ready to love my fellow-man- a few of them, I mean.  Why must my love be restricted to women? I have enough love in me, not only for two women at once, but also for others, other women and men.  By love, in this context, I mean simply a powerful and intimate friendship, a joining of minds and spirits in affection and comradeship.”


“Yet there’s so much more; obviously, there’s more, though every good-looking girl instantly appeals to my reproductive instinct, I do not go thru the emotional traumas of romantic love with every good-looking girl I see.”


“Simply because the envelope contains a letter, and that letter displays the actual handwriting of the girl I love, her physical imprint upon paper, and that letter contains a message from her mind, from her emotions, and because I know that her mind is in her head, and her emotions there too, and because I instantly associate her head with her body and her body with the small aperture that is the whole point and purpose of all of my sweating scrambling yearnings, all of my dreams, bold gestures, fantastic rhetoric, need for service and loyalty and a display of each myself, of all my big plans, sunny honeymoons, music, bawlings, songs, shivers and shakes?”


“Who is right?  The critic or the author?”


“If things were truly good and worthwhile would not my confidence be sure and untroubled, my creative drive strong and unflagging and steady, my will to work irresistible?  I ask myself, and worry and wonder, not sure, not knowing.”


“‘That’s why it is so irritates me that we, the majority of the human race, should waste so much time with mere housekeeping, which is, after all, what economic misery finally comes down to- a problem of inefficient housekeeping.”


“Though they look faintly restless around the ears.”


“I’ve found a use for my necktie: I can dust my typewriter with it.  Even when I’m wearing it.”


“‘. . .and writes his own songs because he doesn’t like the ones he hears on the radio. . . ”


“‘Emotion quite overwhelmed the intellect; for an hour the heart ruled the soul.”


“The result of this bestial lust is an indiscriminate and promiscuous splaying of all of my energies- wanting all, I accomplish nothing; desiring everything, I satisfy nothing and am satisfied by nothing.”


“You taste as sweet, I say, as you look.”


“‘After all, I’ll die anyway, probably, no need for impatience.  The final gift of life never fails us.”


“Yet the longing for comradeship of a real live heart-and-brain-shared love comes the old feeling of restriction, constriction, a dragging weight.”


“. . . as though each eye observed life in its own perspective.”


“. . .floated away like a faded dream.”


“Science has made the world a sweeter cleaner fresher place in which to live.  I mean physics, not chemistry, and the world, not the Earth.”


“But when the imagination can break through the wall of its own desires and fears, and embrace the naked beauty of the real world, then we have discovered Paradise.  Natural happiness.”


“There is more tragedy in the kiss of young lovers than in all the murders of all the royal clowns who ever lived.”


“I am so sick and tired of the “preparatory” life; that is, enduring present tedium or misery for the sake of something hoped to be better in the future, on which the eye of the mind and the inner eye of the heart are constantly fixed.  I want to learn to live in the present, in the living present.”


“After all, I remind myself, the life of adventure is the only life that makes sense.”


“Make it dramatic.  Make it mellow-dramatic.”


“My life took on new purpose; deliberately, almost cold-bloodedly, I devoted myself to her seduction.”


“Writing a novel is like the seduction of a woman: It begins with strategy, with a campaign, but soon- if the affair is genuine- all plans are lost in the rush of passion.”


“A man must be true to the best that is in him, and he must know what he is doing.  In that way and in that way only can he act honestly, joyously and in liberty.”


“Man turned inward, in love with himself, indifferent to the world around him, becomes pompous, grotesque, ugly; the same thing is true of art.  The more it strives toward purity, the nearer it comes to failure and disaster.  Art is not only a part of life; it is about life.” “I’ve got to live long, because I have so much to do, and I am lazy and sentimental.”


“Can feelings be exchanged, shared, truly joined?  I doubt it.  They can be communicated by an infinite variety of signs and symbols- words, tones, tunes, color, form, bodily movement, facial twitches, manipulations of lip and eyelid, touch, dead objects variously arranged, cries and outcries- but there can be no genuine communion of feeling.  How can there be?  What’s the line, the link, the conduit of emotion between persons?  I have yet to hear it.  That’s why two people are two people and not one person.”


“The Seven Joys of Poverty: (1) discomfort, (2) irritation, (3) hunger, (4) crime, (5) prison, (6) flight, (7) death.  Not to avoid Death, but to put it in his proper place: at the end, not the beginning, of my life.”


“Roggoway [a college friend]: When the party gets dull, R. gets up, unbuttons his fly and lays his penis on the table.  “Mine,” he says, “all mine.”


“‘But what is an honest soul to do?  I don’t know.  I can say this:  Be loyal to what you love, be true to the earth, fight your friends with passion and laughter.”


“‘What is the artist?  He is the miracle worker: makes the blind to see, the insentient to feel, the dead to live.”


“I like to go swimming

With bare-naked wimmin

And dive between their legs.



“‘Thot you said it wouldn’t rain,” the tourist says to me.  “Did I say that?” I answer.  “Yes, you did,” the tourist says.  “Well doggone,” I say-“that just goes to show, you can’t trust the weather around here.”


“‘Tourist says “Does it ever rain out here?” and I say, “I don’t know, I’ve only been here for twenty-eight years.”  They go for that one, too.”


“‘That’s a lousy road you got in here,” and I say, “If I had it my way, there wouldn’t be any road atall in here,” and they laugh and laugh.  “You have a TV here?” another tourist ask, and I say, “If I had a TV set here, I’d shoot it like I would a mad dog,” and they laugh again. “Well,” says a third, ” what do you for entertainment?” and I say, “I talk with the tourists,” and they laugh and laugh and laugh.


“Don’t you ever get lonesome out here?” says another tourist, and I say, “I like my own company, I get along with myself pretty good.”  And another tourist says, “You got an awful job,” and I say, “I’d a lot rather doing this than what you’re doing.”


“‘On the Negro question: I don’t like ’em.  Don’t like Negroes.  As far I can see, they’re just as stupid & depraved as the whites.”


“Every man has two vocations: his own and philosophy.”


“The rule of LAW means the rule of Lawyers.  That’s all.”


“‘To kill love is to kill life.”


“‘William Morris on politics: “No man is wise enough to be another man’s master.”‘


“Hit a mogul at thirty-five mph.  A moving mogul.  Skis went two ways, I went four.”


“This is the worst line of thought possible: There is nothing more futile, more stupid and painful, than melancholy brooding over what might have been.”


“Americans: the only people in the world who pursue happiness.”


“Goddamn nurses don’t do nothing around here, avoiding patients like they were diseased.”


“‘Am I dead or alive?”

“Too much alive,” he says.”


“What a lucky man I am to have such a woman imagine that she loves me.”


“Two introverts cannot share anything; two monologues cannot make a dialogue.”


“I want to become a man.  I want to be a human being.  I want to be.  I want to learn to love again.  Somewhere between here and childhood I’ve lost the faculty of free spontaneous passionate love for the world around me.  I want to be able to give.  I want to give of myself.  But if I am nothing?  Then I must become. Something.”


“Confessions of a Barbarian”

(-selections from the journals

of EDWARD ABBEY, 1951-1989)




“Are the human needs the only needs worthy of respect?”


“Humility is a virtue, said Schoplenhauer, only to those who have no other.”


“Not a wholesome way to live.  The Hopi Indians have a word for it: koyaanisqatsi, meaning “life out of balance” or “weird craziness, man,” and the word applies exactly to places like Tucson, Arizona.”


“If “progress” means change for the better- and I’ll support that- then Growth as we have come to know it means change for the worse.  Let me try out another new-fangled maxim here: Growth is the enemy of progress.  Look around you and see what Growth has done to our city. “A city not growing is dying,” says Diane Feinstein, mayor of San Francisco.  Really?  You sure?  Why not consider the possibility that a city, like a man or woman or tree or any healthy living thing, should grow until it reaches maturity- and then stop?  Who wants to live forever under the stress, strain, and awkwardness of adolescence?  Life begins at maturity.  A human who never stopped growing would be a freak, a mutant, a monster, a side show geek eating live chickens for supper and toppling dead of diabetes and kidney failure into an early grave.  We passed the optimum point of urban growth and population increase many decades ago.  Now we live in the age of accelerating growth and diminishing returns.  Think of it this way, Mayor Feinstein:  When a city finally stops growing its citizens can finally begin to live.  In peace. Security.  With a modicum of domestic tranquillity.”


“Everything that happens is a joy to her- or a momentary tragedy.  Watching a happy child at play- and for a happy child life is nothing but play- the observer could easily persuade himself that life is nothing but a prolonged bumpy decline from the high point of birth.  We start at the top and work our way downhill, making a hard complicated job of it, until we reach the bottom of existence in the arms of mortuary science.  A sick sad defeatist thought that I entertain only in my weakest moments.  Only a fool envies the joy of a child; a grown-up man or woman shares in that joy.”


“I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk.”

Robinson Jeffers


“Without a bit of trash here and there would Nature even look natural anymore?  One American philosopher- I think it was Mencken- defined the out-of-doors as a good place to throw beer cans on a Sunday afternoon.”


“Remember: Growth is the enemy of progress.”


“‘Have a nice day,” he says, waving good-bye.  Don’t tell me what kind of day to have, I’m thinking.  I’ll have whatever kind of day that I want.”


“The sky is clear, clusters of stars like blazing chandeliers hanging overhead. . .  “The hero of my tale,” Tolstoy writes, “is truth.”  How true.”


“As always on a river trip, enhanced by hunger, everything tastes good.”


“‘Such suchness,” as my Zen friend would say.”


“One Life at a Time, Please”-Edward Abbey




“I feel lower than whale shit.”


“‘Andy, I need a recipe.  An anecdote for pain.”

“Try agony.”‘


“She could cure my blues anytime.  She’d pull off my shirt and jam my head in her kitchen sink, shampoo the scruff from my scalp and soul.”


“‘Life is hard.  Compared to what?  Anxiety got you down?  Try fear.”


“‘Silence always sounds good.”


“Transistor static.  I detest that noise.  Music is natural, static is cultural.”


“Impotence breeds fury.”


“We will now have a brief intromission.”


Piano- “Eighty-eight keys that open the door to a nicer world than this.”


“In my heart I weep for her.”


“I tell him that intelligence is valuable only when combined with a generous heart and a kindly nature.”


Life: “”I’m not doing anything with it.  Do I have to do something with it?  I just live it.  It lives me.”‘


“‘If they don’t like the way I drive they can get off the sidewalks.’”


“She barely glances at me from time to time, never smiles, opening her lips to accept a bit of teriyaki chicken from a fortunate fork.”


“Dilemma. Trilemma. Polylemma.”


“Time for an eight course meal: cheese, crackers, six pack of beer.”


“Your father has been dying for five and half years.  He’s always dying, he’ll never be dead.”


“. . . the toothbrush (for my tooth)””Beauty, he thought, is only skin deep.  Ugliness goes all the way through.”


“Look- two arms, two legs.  I’m only half a spider.”


“He was right.  Only his means were wrong.  Always were wrong. But if the end don’t justify the means, what can?”


“‘Girls, are like buses; miss one, another will come along in five minutes.”  And then he despised himself for entertaining so cheap and vulgar a thought.  “Not another like her, you fool.”


“‘And Henry should know, he’d fallen in love thirty-five times in the last twenty-five years.  Ever since he came to understand the limits of masturbation.”


“Desire- the word itself, in its very sound, with its dying fall of suspiration, resembled the enchanted misery of his fever.  A fever in the blood, fever in the mind, fever of soul.”


“He hugged his solitude to his heart, regretting (much later) not one hour of the pain and loneliness or the long days dreamed away in a stupor of meditation.”


“A poor speller but a man of heart.”


“. . .  the customary carpet of crumbled tin, broken glass, rotten plastic. . . ”


“The color black is not a color at all but the absence of color, the withdrawal of every color, the extinction of light, the perfection of blackness.”


“I brush the cobwebs from my eyes.”


“Dumbly, humbly. . . ”


“Sky leaking rain.”


“As you travel on through life, brother

Whatever be your goal;

Keep your eye upon the doughnut,

And not on the hole.”


“But half the time he lived by himself in the luxury of his aloneness, in the rich tragic romance of solitude.”


?”The Fool’s Progress”- Edward Abbey



“Like the crimp between my shoulders, this fifty-pound pack is a pain in the neck.”


“The sweat drips down my ears and neck.  I remove the headband bandana without stopping and exchange it for the dry one in my hip pocket.  Why does my head sweat so much, even on a relatively cool day like this?  Perhaps because thinking, even the idlest kind of reminiscence, is hard for my damaged brain.  (Damaged by life.) “The brain secretes thought,” said a Frenchman- la Mettrie? – “as the liver secretes bile.”  A nice thought.  As a computer generates heat.  The brain perhaps is nothing but a giant sweat gland.”


“The carrot is a good substantial tuber.  Endorsed not only by Samuel Beckett but also by Bugs Bunny.”


“I shuffle barefoot over the stones, pee on a clump of cryptogams- strange wedlock of lichen and algae- and watched their furry leaves exfoliate and turn temporary green, tricked by my golden steam into their preprogrammed response to rain.  A crude joke, but it won’t hurt them; in this heavily alkaline soil a gentle shower of uric acid might even strike them as curiously refreshing.”


“No sound of military jets this morning.  Well, it’s Sunday.  The boys are in church, no doubt, praying for peace while hoping for war.  Hoping for combat, action, promotions, medals- who can blame them.  Must be frustrating as hell preparing for work that fails to come.”


“I cannot decide.  I’ll decide later as usual, at the last possible moment, on impulse.  The fool’s method, which has always worked for me before.”


“Beyond the hill is the auburn-colored desolation of the desert: stony hills, lean peaks, narrow bands of olive-drab shrubbery winding along the waterless drainages and in the distance, on all horizons, from fifty to sixty miles away, the farther ranges in blue, magenta and purple mountains, where nothing human lives or ever did.  I find this a cheery, even exhilarating prospect.  The world of nature is faithful and never disappoints.”


“One mile further and I come to a second grave beside the road, nameless like the other marked only with a dull blue-black stones of the badlands.  I do not pause this time.  The more often you stop the more difficult it is to continue.  Stop too long and they cover you with rocks.”




“Finite but boundless.”


“Fork in hand, she straddled his thighs and kissed him.  They touched again in crystal: her wineglass of rose against his tumbler full of ice and gin.”


“TV, like a child, should be see not heard.”


“Cynicism is a cheap emotion, a craven substitute for thought and action.  Cynicism corrodes will, dulls the conscience, blunts your sense of right and wrong.”


“You look at him, God if I had a face like that I’d believe in life after death too.  I’d prefer it.”


“Kid’s so uptight his asshole squeaks when he walks.”


“‘It’s going to rain again; better put the top up.”

“It’s automatic.  Don’t work.”


“What do you do when it rains?”

“Drive fast.”

“When it rains hard?”

“Drive faster.”‘


“A woman’s only a woman.  A good cigar is a smoke.”


“Listen, my love, my only one, there’s covergirls, there’s startlets, there’s sexpots, and sexbombs and sleek bland blond bimbos everywhere, but not too many real women.  Me, I’ll take a real woman anytime.”


“. . . room temperature IQ of around 78.”


“. . . men like to fight but only when they think they’re gonna win. Men are great fighters, but lousy losers.”


?”Hayduke Lives”-Edward Abbey



Suppose some poor pair of bighorn sheep were copulating, about to come, when the helmeted android in his flying machine broke through the barrier of sound?  Might have sterilized the poor brutes forever, or worse, caused them to conceive some mutant monster of a sheep, an animal with horns of aluminum, hoofs of Bakelite, a Dacron Fiberfill coat of fleece.  I’m serious.  If the life of natural things, millions of years old, does not seem sacred to us, then what can be sacred?  Human vanity alone?  Contempt for life.  The domination of nature leads to the domination of human nature.”


“My sense of outrage- volatile as gasoline- evaporates as quickly as it came.”


“. . . spread my poncho and pad and sleeping bag on the ground, dry-brush my teeth, crawl in the sack and fall like a stone into the sea of sleep.  The last thing I remember is a splendid meteor, gold fading into violet as it floats across the sky.”


“We passed through something like a portal, a gateway in the rock, entering a hidden basin of sand, rice grass, juniper and tumbleweed enclosed within a giant howl of almost totally nude, monolithic sandstone hundreds of feet high.  A weird place, silent as the moon.”


“I’m looking for a way to creep off unnoticed when my escape is interdicted by the approach of two of my twenty or so fellow passengers.  Some fellows.  One is a brown exotic wench in a tiger-skin bikini; she has the eyes and hair Salome.  The other is a tall slim trim sloop of a girl with flaxen hair and perfect sateen thighs emerging from the skimpiest pair of Levi cutoff I have ever seen.  One of the two is Renée- my wife.  But which?”


“I took my girl friend for a ride down these riffles, whacking the waves with a Park service motorboat.  How many propellers did I mangle that summer?  Pivoting off rocks and driving blindly into unobserved gravel bars?  Three or four. (Too much beer, too little bikini.)


“The river carries us swiftly into the Granite Gorge.  Like a tunnel of love, there are no shores or beaches in here.”


“Twenty seconds and it’s over.  Twenty seconds of total truth, and then we’re cruising through the tail of the rapid, busy with the bailers, joining the procession of dories before us.  Nothing to it.  Running the rapids is like sex: half the fun lies in the anticipation.  Two-thirds of the thrill comes with the approach.  The remainder is only ecstasy- or darkness.”


“And a few tough Texans, a few even tougher beef cattle.  (Chop with cleavers, marinate in rotgut whisky and rat piss, chew with steel dentures- that’s the local recipe for Son of a Bitch Stew.)”


“The wind continues to blow, unceasing, relenting.  When I asked a local woman about the wind she said that it always blows in West Texas, always- from January to December.  Must be hard to get used to, I suggested.  We never get used to it, she said; we just put up with it.”


“It is the kind of place where you can do absolutely nothing for days on end and only wish you could do even less.”


“Which is more likely? asked Mark Twain (I paraphrase): that the unicorn exists or that men tell lies?”


“They [a herd of caribou] stop, turn, go the other way, finely attuned to one anther’s movement, ideas and opinions as a school of minnows.  (Like literary critics.)”


“Myself, I gave up fishing decades ago.  Not so much on moral grounds- although I can see the point of animal liberationists where they argue that there is something unjust in fishing or hunting primarily for sport– but on account of sloth.  I lack the diligence and industry to stand in one place for hours, casting and recasting, reeling in and reeling out, endeavouring to outwit a simple creature with a one-digit I.Q. and one-twentieth my body weight.  In the time one man can spend trying to catch one fish I can have ascended a small mountain, explored five miles of river valley, or probed to its secret heart a winding desert canyon.”


“I too do my part: I sit on my ammo can and activate my word processor.  It’s a good one.  User friendly, cheap, silent, no vibrations or radiation, no moving parts, no maintenance, no power source needed, easily replaceable, fully portable- it consists of a notebook and a ball-point pen from “Desert Trees, 9559 N. Camino del Plata, Tucson, Ariz.”  The necessary software must be supplied by the operator, but as friendly critics have pointed out, an author’s head is full of that.”


“Put it this way: one spoonful of Tom Robbin’s prose is enough to sicken the mind for hours.  To read a Tom Robbins book from end to end is like chugalugging a quart of Aunt Jemima’s pancake syrup.”


“Alaska is not, as the state license plate asserts, “the Last Frontier.”  Alaska is the final bite on the American plate, where there is never quite enough to go around.  “We’re here for the megabucks,” said a construction worker in the Bunkhouse at Kaktovik, “and nothing else.”‘


“Four weeks of observations, I explain, is better than a lifetime of daydreaming.”


“Yes he would.  Fly in, set down, bag the biggest bull, the finest ram, hack off the head, leave the meat to waste in situ, fly out, go home, mount head on rumpus-room wall.  Is there anything lower, I ask myself, than a trophy hunter?  Think hard.  Put your mind to it.  But all I can think of is squid shit.”


“Beyond the Wall”- Edward Abbey


“Devoted though we

must be to the

conservation cause, I

do not believe that

any of us should give

it all of time or

effort. . .Let

us save at least half of

our lives for the

enjoyment of this

wonderful world

which still exists.

Leave your dens,

abandon your cars,

and walk out into the

deserts, the forests,

the seashores.  Those

treasures still belong

to all of us.  Enjoy

them to the full,

stretch your legs,

enliven your hearts-

and we will outlive

the greedy swine who

want to destroy it all

in the name of what

they call “Growth”.

Edward Abbey

High Country News

December 31, 1976