Like Chris Townsend and Forest Wisdom, I've been considering the legacy of Edward Abbey recently (Abbey died just over 20 years ago on 14th March 1989). For my money the man had all the right ideas about wilderness and the natural world and civilization. His book Desert Solitaire: A Season In The Wilderness is an unquestioned masterpiece - it's eloquent, passionate, poetic, unsentimental, witty, provocative, opinionated and belligerent. His aim is to shock us out of our habitual torpor. And he succeeds. I'd like to ponder this book in more depth when I've more time and energy than I have right now (I've been driving 1000 miles a week lately - don't know what Abbey would have made of that!) In the meantime here's a wonderful quotation from the author's introduction to the book, in which he sets out his stall:
I believe that there is a kind of poetry, even a kind of truth, in simple fact...
It will be objected that the book deals too much with the surface of things, and fails to engage and reveal the patterns of unifying relationships which form the true underlying reality of existence. Here I must confess that I know nothing whatever about true underlying reality, having never met any. There are many people who say they have, I know, but they've been luckier than I.
For my own part I am pleased enough with surfaces - in fact they alone seem to me to be of much importance. Such things for example as the grasp of a child's hand in your own, the flavor of an apple, the embrace of friend or lover, the silk of a girl's thigh, the sunlight on rock and leaves, the feel of music, the bark of a tree, the abrasion of granite and sand, the plunge of clear water into a pool, the face of the wind - what else is there? What else do we need?