Determined Fig

Sometimes my husband goes a little crazy purchasing plants for our yard. He can be a bit over-zealous shopping at the nursery. When he brings plants home, he has a habit of setting them at the side of the house, between our house and the neighbor’s privacy fence. Sometimes he forgets about them. 

Several years ago, he bought a small fig tree. The tree was maybe a foot tall, and came in a plastic disposable planter. You know the kind. He set it by the fence and left it there. This fig tree was ignored. It was not watered. That is to say, we did not water it; we did nothing to care for it. It sat in its little pot and waited.

It waited until it became tired of waiting and finally took responsibility for its own well-being. The fig tree began to grow. The roots, determined and strong, broke through the plastic planter bottom and dug into the earth beneath. The fig tree branched out reaching for the sun, its leaves wide and green and healthy. It grew against the fence, such was its strength, it nearly knocked the fence over. Before that could happen, because we were not interested in building a new fence, my husband chopped down the tree, right down to the plastic pot.

Guess what: it grew back. Again, right through the pot. Not only did it grow back, but it withstood our infamous winter storm that took so many other trees and plants in our yard. Once again, our determined fig grows thick and healthy and strong. Nothing can stop this tree! It wants to live. The pot still encircles it.

Over the years I have had to restart my writing life over and over again. I have always been a writer. In my head. Due to a myriad of circumstances, I have gone through periods of not writing, but I never considered myself to be anything other than a writer. The thing is, a writer is always writing even if it’s just in our heads. It’s what we do. It’s a way of viewing the world. My writing life has been “chopped down” in so many ways. Earning a living, raising a child, caring for family—all legitimate and positive reasons for not writing. I embrace all of those things, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade my life experiences for the world. In fact, without them there would be nothing to write about.

The biggest “chop down” for any writer I think, is getting past the events in life that serve as triggers. Some stuff is really hard to write about and those are the things that most need to be written down. The hard stuff. So often, I used to get to the hard stuff and just quit. Going deep is scary. Downright frightening. But when you push through, like the fig tree, you grow. You push those roots down and reach for the sky, you write through the hard stuff and suddenly you find you have become a better person but you have also produced better writing! Those things go hand-in-hand. 

Sometimes we all have to be like that fig tree and soldier through. Life will cut you down. No one is going to water you. You’ve got to do it yourself. To grow you’ve got to do your own hard work.

Where We Stand Now

Even the most cynical of us thought it would be over by now; didn’t we? And yet, here we are.  I have to think it through: it began in earnest in March of 2020, isn’t that right? This is September 2021. Not only are we still in it, but it seems it’s really bad again.

MASKS

When the state of Texas unmasked, I continued to wear mine in public and still do. It’s annoying. A lot of things that are good for us are annoying. No big deal. It’s a big deal to be sick, to suffer, to find yourself alone in a hospital. I don’t intend for any of that to happen to me or to any of my loved ones. Death does not scare me; pain and suffering terrify me. I wear my mask.

CHANGES

The world has changed so much since the Covid outbreak. There have been big changes on a global scale and also on a personal scale. My life is completely different today than it was a year ago. Oddly, for the better. I am extremely fortunate; for many the changes have been and are catastrophic. If you were already living from one paycheck to the next (or worse), the pandemic pushed you down even farther on the socio-economic scale. I don’t think it’s supposed to work that way, but this pandemic has done many things including exposing our flaws as a society. We have a lot of work to do.

BE SAFE

At our house, we will do our best over the upcoming months. Already, we don’t leave the house much and when we do, we are as careful as we can be; we, of course, are vaccinated, we mask in public, hand sanitizer after filling the car with gas, so much handwashing. I don’t hug as much as I used to.

TRAVEL

A few weeks ago, we flew for the first time since before the lockdown. We were apprehensive about it and wouldn’t be doing it at all if it weren’t for a very important event: my daughter’s wedding, something I would not miss for the world. While traveling we distanced ourselves from others as much as we possibly could. We wore our masks. I always shower and change clothes first thing when I leave an airport. The airports were crowded. The planes were filled to capacity. The airline was not cleaning the planes between flights.

When we got there, we smiled and celebrated and danced for the happy event! It was worth it!

GOD BLESS US ALL

The wedding and the trip are over now, and we are home. We will wait and see. School has started. There doesn’t seem to be anything in place this time around to keep students and teachers safe. Last year, safety protocols were “in name only,” at least where I am, but this year it seems the powers-that-be are just pretending none of this is happening. My heart goes out to all the teachers, students and parents who will be at risk. I am grateful to no longer be a part of the fiasco that is public education right now.

I can’t believe more is not being done. What will it take? How many people will die and suffer? At what percentage of death does empathy set in for a society? For our society?

Lean on Me

These are exceptional times. There is no doubt. The political is personal. Not being able to get to a polling booth to vote is personal. Not enough beds for a hospitalized loved one is personal. Feeling unsafe in public spaces is personal. Losing a job is personal. Protecting vulnerable loved ones from a debilitating, even deadly virus is personal. Watching police officers who we depend on for our safety being attacked during an insurrection at our nation’s capital is personal. Watching climate change occur in fast forward is personal.

WHY AREN’T YOU CRYING?

 Everything on the news seems to land right on our doorsteps. In the old days, it landed in the form of a newspaper; now it arrives as actual events happening to us all. We are not talking about a faraway war or disease and starvation in an unrelatable third world country (which is awful enough). No, gone are the days of first world entitlement. The pandemic is here. Racial strife is here (always has been, but why still?). We actually had an insurrection at the U.S capital; who could’ve imagined? Climate change is happening so fast we can’t keep up. Fires, floods, drought, extreme temperatures, hurricanes, melting polar caps, animals quickly becoming extinct.  If you haven’t cried lately while watching the news, then I have to ask: What is wrong with you?

CALL ME

Today one of my dearest friends, one of my most favorite human beings on the face of the Earth (she knows who she is) called me. As soon as I heard her voice, I sensed stress. Tears. I immediately “got” it. We both acknowledge all the zillions of blessings in our lives. However, the early 21st century is hard. Yes, it is way easier for us than it is for most people on the planet. Neither of us deny that; in fact, the recognition makes it all the more difficult. When did this start? The intensity?

YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND

What’s important here is that she called me. She reached out. I was able to be there for her, but in doing so she did something for me in return. She reminded me that I am worthy, that I am someone who can be depended on. Sometimes it is just as important to know that you can be depended on as it is to know there are people you can depend on. It’s a two-way street. It feels good to be needed. She is a person who has been there for me. I love that I can finally reciprocate no matter how small.

HEY SHITHEAD!

You know a friend is family when you go for a period of time without communicating but when you do get in touch it’s as if no time passed at all. It might be months or years or weeks or days. It doesn’t matter. We are always right where we left off. We can talk about today and refer to decades ago and it all makes sense. That is love. Who else can call you a “shithead” and you know it is a compliment! That’s better than family.

TOUGH TIMES

We are living in a time where we are touched by everything. Everything is connected. The insurrection of January 6, being laid off from a job, climate change, a divorce, a friend becoming widowed, the economy, the pandemic. Every single thing hits so very close to home. It’s knocking on your own effin front door. For this reason, we especially need to be reaching out to one another more than ever. Let’s be there for each other, even if it’s just to provide a smile.

GOOD TIMES

There are all the good things too; an impromptu trip to another state to visit a small-town bookshop, a wedding, college graduations, laughter, a phone call, an early morning run, watching your dog swim in the river, a job you like, a night out with your daughter. I promise, this list is much longer than the bad stuff. That’s the thing. A conversation that starts with tears and ends with laughing so hard you snort! No matter what happens, with some people life is just so beautiful. It’s always beautiful with beautiful human beings.

Hey Shithead, you are one of the most beautiful humans on the planet, and I love you.

The Re-Invention of Self

Every day is a re-invention of the self. It is a chance to start fresh. Every day is an opportunity to evaluate your beliefs about yourself and the world. In so doing, you can set the standards for the relationships in your life.

SETTING STANDARDS

What’s important is that you get to set the standards for those relationships. When others fail to meet those standards, it is not your fault. You are only capable of controlling your own behavior, not that of others. For some reason we so frequently need reminding of that. At least I do.

Set those standards. Leave the door open. If others choose to enter, welcome them with open arms, allow them to know and accept you. If they choose not to enter, accept their choice and know that you are living your own best life. Boundaries help maintain balance.

You get to choose the folks you surround yourself with. Remember the old adage that you are a reflection of those you choose to spend time with. I hope that is true because when I look at my circle, I see some mighty fine people.

I am well aware of the mistakes I make and have made in the past. That’s the cool thing about living; you get to start fresh every time the sun comes up This reminds me of The Four Agreements, a small book I recommend no matter your religious affiliation or lack thereof. It’s good advice.

THE FOUR AGREEMENTS

The four agreements:

Be impeccable with your word.

Don’t take anything personally.

Don’t make assumptions.

Always do your best.

I often fail the four agreements; we all do, but every morning we get to wake up and try again. We get to know that every single day we do our best. The thing is what your “best” is on Tuesday may not be the same as your “best” on Wednesday. As long as you know that on any given day, you did your best, you can strive to make the next day even better. The trick is awareness. Be aware of the words you use, remember that everyone has a story, and we all have burdens to carry. Be aware, evaluate daily, accept what you are offered and breathe.

A PRAYER

Such awareness is a daily prayer of sorts, a meditation. It helps you focus, keeps you centered. Think through the events of the day and take measure of your actions. Write about the days’ events in a journal. Read a poem. Enjoy your quiet time, if only for a moment. Give yourself grace by recognizing progress and remembering that if you trip that’s okay because tomorrow you get to start fresh all over again.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

This is a mantra of mine: be kind to yourself. When you are kind to yourself, you have more confidence which in turn makes you nicer to others. When you are kind to yourself, you are also kinder to others. It relaxes you, causes you to smile more, makes you friendlier, more likeable. This is true. If you don’t believe me, try it. Stop beating yourself up about every little thing and give yourself some grace.

Re-invent yourself every day and watch how you grow and thrive. Surround yourself with people who love unconditionally. Give yourself a break and say a little prayer.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

Where Ideas come From

Ideas can come from anywhere and from many places. Rarely (at least for me) is a story idea generated from just one thought, but from an odd collection of seemingly random information or experiences.

Today I completed reading a remarkable book, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. It was the acknowledgments at the end that really struck me though. The author, Robert Dugoni, tells the story of how the idea for this novel came about. As a writer I relate to his experience about how ideas develop. In his acknowledgment, we learn about his growing up with a “special needs” sibling who was “different,” his Catholic upbringing and a news article he came across about a child with ocular albinism; all topics relevant to the novel and collected over time.

FIRST DRAFT

An especially important point that he makes, that all writers, myself included, need to remember, is that “a first draft is written for the writer and should never be shared with anyone.” That goes right along with Terry Pratchett’s quote: “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

THINKING IS WRITING

I am not sure if non-writers really understand the process; that even when we are not writing, we are writing. Recently, I was part of a conversation with fellow writers where we all agreed that thinking is writing. If you happen to share a household with a writer (God bless you), you may laugh and joke about this; you may see this as an excuse to not write. You would be wrong.

LAUNDRY IS WRITING

Stepping away from the desk to throw in a load of laundry is writing. Gardening and pulling weeds is writing. Even sitting among friends and listening to conversation can be writing. We are sneaky people, us writers! You never know when an idea is growing in our heads! But seriously, sometimes we need to get up and move around, perform a menial task to allow ideas to evolve.

WRITING IS A PROCESS

Writing is a process, something I was constantly reminding my students when I was a teacher and a librarian. You cannot skip steps! One of the most important steps, if not the most important is thinking.

IDEAS MORPH

Story ideas happen in an instant and simultaneously develop in the writers’ mind over a long period of time. Bits come to us from unexpected places sometimes, and sometimes they are right there in front of us having been with us forever. Ideas are not born whole and complete; they gestate. They begin as a seed and slowly grow until one day you have a story, whole with a beginning, middle and end. Ideas have no sense of time; they come upon us at once, in a flash and also slowly like molasses in the wintertime. This is why writers carry little notebooks. This is why we often appear distracted.

AN EXAMPLE

Currently, I am working on a short story whose ideas derived from many sources. I had an idea for the story based on a news article that ignited my imagination. Thinking about it brought up memories of events that actually happened to me. I took those events and molded them to fit the story, gave them meaning. I created a character who embodies what I believe to be some basic truths about humanity.

That story is not yet ready to be “born,” but it’s getting there. I have messes to clean up, the timeline is jumbled, and kinks to straighten. I have not completed the process. Non-writers have commented to me that writing must be fun for me. It can be. Most of the time it’s more like someone is ripping your fingernails off. Slowly. Still, it’s worth it.

Planning

Damn, am I ever behind. If you are a creative of any kind, then you will understand what I am talking about. You will especially get it if you are like me and struggle to settle on any one task.

Several months ago, I prioritized my writing projects. That helped me focus. Perhaps it’s already time for another evaluation.

Currently, I am working on three short stories, two of which are meant to be in an anthology. The anthology work is more than just a commitment to my own writing. I have a responsibility to the other members. I have fallen behind reading their work and that’s not fair. I am also working on a novel outline and a character arc for it. I write book reviews too which I have currently cut back to once a month.

Then there are my weekly blog posts which I skipped last week for the first time. I failed to post it that is; I’ve actually been writing several essays that will eventually make it to my blog. One is on a particularly sensitive and fragile topic and requires much thought and time.  

For the remainder of the summer, I have decided to focus on the anthology stories and calendar my novel work for the fall. I need to stop flitting back and forth between projects. I have got to focus. It’s going to feel so good to accomplish something! As I see it, that gives me six weeks to complete final drafts for two short stories. I am not including the week of my daughter’s wedding because I am at least that realistic!

Come September, I can return to the novel. Maybe I will even participate in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) during November. I did that several years ago during the July event and accomplished a great deal (on another unfinished novel!).

I’ve got so many story and novel ideas in my head and so many incomplete on paper. I know that I am not alone; this is the life of a writer. The good news for me is that I have reached a place in my life where I can devote good chunks of time to completing some projects. One foot in front of the other.

Regina’s River Rules

The Guadalupe River is a destination for many. For us, it is home. We are privileged. We have the luxury to enjoy the benefits of river life as we please. We take out our kayaks, paddleboards or tubes at our leisure. No need to squeeze in all the fun in just one weekend or day. We try not to take it for granted; we spend a great deal of time on the water, especially during Texas’ long summers. In fact, several years ago, we boasted the fact that we had floated the river at least one day a month for the entire year including the day after Christmas!

NO ONE CAN KNOW A RIVER

However, we do not really know the river, not even our little part of it. I say this because no one can ever really know a river. Rivers are ever-changing and wild. Rivers, like all of nature, demand respect. Water level changes, rocks and other underwater debris migrate. Despite ordinances against glass containers, people bring them, drop them, break them. Even water chemistry changes so that one day a person can easily skip across the rocks from the bank to the island and the very next day a slippery film develops so that crossing becomes precarious.

NATURE’S BEAUTY

I can go on endlessly about the river’s beauty and often do. The turtles and ducks and herons and hawks. The fish, the hummingbirds and dragonflies. The sound of water flowing over rocks, frogs croaking and the cicadas playing their symphony. Majestic trees that shade deep pools. Early morning mist hanging low across the water. Yes, it’s gorgeous.

DANGER

But it can also be dangerous. Apparently, people forget this little fact all too easily. Over the years I have witnessed countless foolish behaviors and they never cease to make me cringe. The thing is, I am there to relax, to enjoy the company I am with and forget about the larger world for a time. I do not want to feel responsible for others (especially strangers). I am not a lifeguard. At the same time, I am certainly not going to sit idly by and watch a disaster happen right in front of me without trying to prevent it.

REGINA’S RIVER RULES

That said, here are Regina’s River Rules:

  • Proper shoes. I don’t care that you went barefoot throughout your carefree childhood (I did too). Rocks can be slippery. Stupid people leave behind broken glass. Find yourself a good, sturdy pair of river shoes.
  • Watch your kids! This one bears repeating.
  • WATCH YOUR KIDS. If you don’t feel like you can have a good time AND keep an eye on your children, then don’t bring them along! You are not familiar with the water flow and other river conditions. You don’t know the other people on the river and neither does your kid. There really are strangers about, especially on a holiday weekend. I should not have to watch your young child slip through flowing water, lifejacketless and unsupervised while your back is turned. That’s your job.
  • Don’t bring your kids unless they are strong swimmers or have lifejackets or both.
  • Show respect. Respect those around you, respect the locals (we live here) and most especially, respect the river. Don’t throw your trash in the river. If you accidentally drop your beer can, swim after it. When you leave, you should be taking all your trash with you.
  • Bring plenty of water to drink. Sure, enjoy your alcoholic beverages, but keep yourself hydrated.
  • Be friendly. Smile and wave as you pass. We will wave back!

If you visit many of the tube rental websites, you will find the following warning:

IMPORTANT… Guadalupe River tubing, swimming and river activities have both inherent and unknown risks and dangers. These include but are not limited to injury or loss of life. (https://www.riversportstubes.com/guadaluperivertubingchecklist.htm)

Take heed. Don’t be stupid. I beg of you, should you visit our river, give her the respect she deserves. Be safe. Have fun. Let us locals enjoy ourselves too.

Perfect Days

Today is one of those perfect days. Lately, I am experiencing more and more of them. This is how they look: Up early, coffee with my husband, we chat about everything and nothing. We tease and laugh. Then it’s outdoors before the heat sets in. We garden and weed, make our little world a prettier place and grow some vegetables. Today I even rode the riding mower. Before the sun climbs too high, I retreat indoors, quick shower, early lunch and then I sit down to write. As I write with the dogs at my feet, I watch the hummingbirds on the flowers outside my window. After hours of writing and some light housework, together we will spend the late afternoon sitting in the cold river water and reading or chatting with friends.

TEXAS TEACHERS FOR A SAFE REOPENING

I am part of a Facebook group called “Texas Teachers for a Safe Reopening.” This group was formed in the middle of COVID lockdown when many of us were concerned that Texas was in too much of a hurry to open back up safely. Turns out, we were right. Not only was it too soon, but in many districts, safety was in name only. Rules were made but not followed, nor were there repercussions for not following them. Granted, this was a matter of degrees depending on the district, but this Facebook group was proof that the problems were not isolated.

STAY OR GO

Many group members posted about leaving the profession, retiring earlier than planned or changing professions. Please understand, we are professional educators. We are dedicated and we love our students and teaching and learning. Also, understand that COVID was not the first or only problem we encountered over the years in public education.

Furthermore, let me make it clear that I do not speak for all teachers or even for this group. These are my thoughts alone based on over twenty years of experience including COVID lockdown and after.

BROKEN SYSTEM

While many states as of this date are still debating the opening of schools, Texas reopened a year ago. In the beginning, I saw the lockdown as an opportunity. It was a chance for all of us to slow down and finally get it right. That did not happen; instead what happened during COVID exposed the public education system for what it is and for what it is not. The very institution that is meant to support educators to do their best job of teaching and is meant to support students as they learn, has become the biggest obstacle of all, promoting only mediocrity and supporting the lowest common denominators.  The “system” blocks teachers at every turn from performing at their professional best.

In spite of all of that, I know many, many teachers who do a phenomenal job. Not an easy task and it requires tremendous energy and a strong backbone. It requires so much perseverance. It shouldn’t have to be this way, but after a while even the strongest begin to wear down and just get tired. Understand, not tired from teaching. Tired from fighting the very system that is meant to support us.

NO REGRETS

That said, a week or so ago a member of this Facebook group, “Texas Teachers for a Safe Reopening” posed the following question to the group:

If you retired earlier than you originally intended or left teaching for a job outside of public schools, do you regret your decision?

As of today, there are 78 responses including my own. The vast majority have no regrets. My own response was short and to the point as a Facebook response should be, but I feel like the question warrants a more in-depth response.

Someone in the group responded that if you left the profession, you would certainly say “no regrets” not because that is true but because you are rationalizing your decision. I can only speak for myself, but no. I have no regrets and I am not trying to make myself feel better.

I retired in December, after the first semester. I did not feel safe. Nor did I feel respected by administration, by some teachers, by some parents or by some students. My well-being and the well-being of others were of very little importance to too many people. I could not do my job at the level of expectation that I set for myself.

TWO THINGS CAN BE TRUE

Two things can be true at the same time. It is true that I loved my job. I was a school librarian and I got to do many amazing things such as talk books with students, teach a love for reading and research, purchase books and maintain them, assist teachers with curriculum and lessons. My job was great.

It is also true that I am over the moon with the life I have found after leaving public education. I work part-time at a job where I am appreciated, and I am writing every day. I no longer experience the anxiety or depression that was bringing me down before. I have the energy and mental space to write. I am a better writer, a better person and I have had the luxury to slow down and appreciate the world around me and the people I love. I also appreciate the fact that I am extremely fortunate and not everyone has the opportunity to live this way. I am grateful every single day.

So, no, I do not regret my decision. It was the absolute best choice I could make for myself and for my family. I will add that it was not an easy decision, and it was pretty scary. But was it worth it? Yes. Without a doubt.

I hope to have many days like today.

Summertime

Summer is my favorite time of year. When I was a child, it was the freedom of course. School was out and I spent most of most summers at my grandparents’ house on the bayou. Summer is nostalgic. Dinner was served at lunch time, we ran wild and barefoot through the woods, built forts, picked blackberries, went sailing in the bay whenever we pleased, ate watermelon on the back porch. Fond memories.

SUMMERTIME GIRL

More than that, or because of that, I am a summertime girl. Sunshine and water, beaches and rivers, close friends, good company and time for reflection; summer is all of that and more.

Today, I spent the early morning working in the yard and weeding, careful not to disturb the earthworms or skinks too much. Lovely start to a lovely day.

I write this sitting on my porch, listening to the birds and watching hummingbirds as they flit among the red jasmine. I sip sweet tea with my dog is at my feet. The farmer has mowed his field so the hay lays drying in the sun. All is calm. I love this life. How could anyone not?

The place where I live is meant for summer. As my husband sometimes says, “we live in a destination.” No need to travel; we are already here. We are so fortunate.

TIME AND PACE

As a teacher and a school librarian I always enjoyed my time off during the summer, but it’s different now as a semi-retired person. I don’t feel the urgency to hurry up and take advantage of each summer day before the new school year begins. I am living at a different pace.

Don’t get me wrong, every single day feels so packed. I am always busy, and time passes quicker than ever. My time is filled with activities I love and care about; writing, reading, sitting at the river, my dogs, gardening. And the best things of all: more time with my husband, daily phone calls with my daughter and my mom, time with loved ones.

No matter the time of year, I have found balance.  And balance feels so good. Still, summer is the best!

“How near to good is what is WILD!”

After a night of thunder and lightning and heavy rain, I sit on my porch taking in the wildlife that closes in around me. I watch a red-bellied woodpecker couple, a doe with her fawn stroll through the high grass, soon to be cut and dried as hay. Water drips like a metronome from the roof. I watch. And I read Thoreau.

NOT BORING

I remember reading Henry David Thoreau in school and falling into a state of near comatose boredom. As I read him now, I have a completely different experience. Recently I came across an essay he published in 1862 after presenting it as a speech several times. I’m not going to lie; it’s long, he rambles, he covers a multitude of topics. Oh but it’s chock full of treasures! He covers everything from conservation to politics, to literature and sense of place.

TO HAVE BEEN THERE

I wonder what it must have been to be a member of the audience of that speech back in the nineteenth century. Where they bored and restless as they sat in hard chairs in their stiff attire? Did they fight a yawn? Force open their eyes? Or did they hang on his every word, mesmerized by his poetic descriptions and advanced vocabulary? Were they in awe at his predictions of future America? They should have been; he was spot on.

This essay, which I never before heard of, fell into my hands as I was doing a little research for a character in a short story I am currently writing. Indeed, it helps me to get to know the character better, but it’s providing me with so much more food for thought. It’s called Walking. Look it up if you are so inclined but be patient and allow it time.

CHARMED, I’M SURE

Like I said, he rambles. Also, he lived a charmed life, clearly. Anyone whose daily stroll lasts four hours pretty much has it made in my book. We can assume that most of the remainder of the day was spent writing and reading. So, yeah, charmed. Not everyone has such luxury. I am glad he had it though because he had some important things to say.

CONSERVATION

His discussion of conservation was far ahead of his time. He saw in the future, an America depleted of its forests and wild space. He saw, even then, how we as humans were destroying our very home. He stressed the importance of educating our youth about nature and conservation; about the need for individuals to spend time in nature (both to appreciate so we will care for it, but also for how it benefits the soul), and the dire need for public lands. “Wildness is the preservation of the world,” he says.

AMERICA

On the subject of America as a nation, as a culture, as a people, he sees us as being shaped by the nature around us, by the wildness and unique flora and fauna. He brings up the idea of an “American mythology” which is fascinating. With prescience he states, “Perchance, when in the course of ages, American liberty has become a fiction of the past—as it is to some extent a fiction of the present—the poets of the world will be inspired by American mythology.”

I love his take on American literature and its place in the world. Our American experience lends a special quality, unique and rich. It’s good to own that. His nineteenth century mind is hopeful for a prolific and rich literary collection inspired by the American experience. Indeed, I think we’ve got that!

NOT PERFECT JUST LIKE AMERICA HERSELF

There are some things he’s gotten wrong, or rather failed to consider. Most notably, the contributions and inclusion of Native Americans. Imagine if Natives could have influenced conservation efforts back then! When commenting on our proclivity to go west toward the new as opposed to traveling east, he tells of his witnessing “the Indians moving west across the stream (the Mississippi River),” as if they traveled willingly. But that’s a discussion for another day.

ONE LAST THOUGHT

As I said, he rambles and now I am too. It’s raining again here, and the world is green and lush. I will leave you with one last quotation from Walking just to prove how varied his subject matter is and because I just love books: “A truly good book is something as natural, and as unexpectedly and unaccountably fair and perfect, as a wildflower discovered in the prairies of the West or in the jungles of the East.”

Thoreau, Henry David. Walking. 1862. Republished by National Geographic. https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2011/11/17/walking-by-henry-david-thoreau/