Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.


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Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder

I'm reading Distant Neighbors, a selection of letters between Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder. I admire these men very much and share many of their instincts and opinions. Maybe it's a grumpy old man thing:

Not that those 2 are very grumpy: what comes through in their letters is powerful engagement with life and ground. Berry's working his farm in Kentucky and Snyder's at his place in the Sierra foothills. They have differing perspectives on things. Berry's operating from a Western tradition, a Christian tradition, and Snyder feels much more connected to "Eastern"(can't say Oriental, pace Edw. Said) ways of thought and seeing. What they have in common is concern for relationship to the Earth: both of them have lived lives grounded, rooted, in a particular pieces of ground. Both take more than pleasure from habits of physical work. They both write clearly and well.
As the tech/virtual world gallops onward, heedless, both seem lonely prophets.

“Today we are aware as never before of the plurality of human life-styles and possibilities, while at the same time being tied, like in an old silent movie, to a runaway locomotive rushing headlong toward a very singular catastrophe” 
― Gary SnyderEarth House Hold

This is no paradisal dream. Its hardship is its possibility. -Wendell Berry

“Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there.” 
― Gary Snyder

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.” 
― Wendell Berry
“stay together
learn the flowers
go light” 
― Gary Snyder
“Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” 
― Wendell Berry

“As a poet I hold the most archaic values on earth . . . the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth, the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe. I try to hold both history and the wilderness in mind, that my poems may approach the true measure of things and stand against the unbalance and ignorance of our times.” 
― Gary Snyder
“A corporation, essentially, is a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance.”
― Wendell Berry
Here's a video of the 2 men reading from their work and talking.
I have to say: though they are well-grounded, both Berry and Snyder spent a lot of time flying around to various conferences, talks, workshops. This makes the backwoods life much more interesting than, say, month after month, year after year in rural Kentucky. I guess they'd both agree. Grounding and committing to ground doesn't mean ignoring responsibilities, membership, engagement with the great world. But the commitment to (native or adopted) ground comes first. There's no doubt the lifeblood for both these writers flows up out of the ground they have committed themselves to farming, (maybe more hunting and gathering for Snyder, than farming) protecting, sustaining.
I'm worried about young people who can't see beyond their iPhones. I'm worried about billions of urban Chinese who are given consumerism instead of democracy. I hate what Interstates and shopping malls have done to our people and our land. We're supposed to be afraid of the country (rednecks) the sun (cancer) and the woods (lyme disease)---probably because it's difficult to shop on the beach or in the backwoods.  Tech geeks and nerdy palefaces have become cultural types/ideals, tropes urging us to live our lives inside, with plentiful gadgets for comfort. Shopping, shopping, shopping----it's supposed to be a patriotic act. It's supposed to be the most American of activities. It's hateful.
Autoliterate's response to the situation.
I will drive only old (recycled!)cars and trucks that I will take pleasure in working on myself.
I will bike as often as I drive.
I will continue to believe the Blue Hill Peninsula is the best place in the world except for your place which I hope is as well-loved.
I will not vote for Maine's Governor (soon to be ex-) Lepage.
One wants to withdraw, to ignore the mindlessness and chatter of the culture, but withdrawing means abdicating everything to the ninnies and scoundrels, doesn't it? I can't bear to listen to any of our politicians, but if thoughtful people withdraw from the process of politics that leaves even more room for the thoughtless--doesn't it?
Yikes I'm sounding pompous here.
I'm certainly going to reread Dharma Bums this week.

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