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High Uintas Bookshelf

A High Uintas Bookshelf

In this column we’ll list 2-4 interesting articles, books or the like that have caught our attention. They aren’t necessarily recent or recently read-- sort of a random compilation. Within a year, hopefully, we’ll have an established and detailed reading list. It won’t be complete without your additions. Please send suggestions and a descriptive sentence or two.

This month's reviews are by Dick Carter.

Desert Solitaire. Ed Abbey. McGraw-Hill. 1968. Sitting on my shelf, this book, always within reach, tattered, underlined, autographed by Abbey in 1970 when he was at Utah State University (that same year or maybe the next I sat with my USU English teacher in a tiny room listening to Gary Snyder read from his just published and Pulitzer Prize winning book, Turtle Island), is a classic-- Abbey's classic and deepest work. A friend and I were recently talking about culture, what it is, why and how, and it is this discussion in Desert Solitaire, p. 247, where Abbey reached a true pinnacle. In one of 11 distinctions between culture and civilization, Abbey notes: "Civilization is a youth with a Molotov cocktail in his hand; culture is the Soviet tank or the L.A. cop that guns him down…" In today's stifled world I wonder if somebody can write such a thing without being threatened with jail, labeled as an enemy and unceremoniously dispatched to another country.

Turtle Island. Gary Snyder. New Directions Publishing. 1969. It sits next to Desert Solitaire. I owe Ms. Hess, a freshman English teacher at Utah State University about 34 short years ago, a thanks for dragging me to see Snyder and hearing one poem that has forever stuck with me, Pine Tree Tops, with the seemingly simple, but most complex ending ever, "…what do we know" (see full poem below.)

Conservation Biology. April 2003. "Conservation and the Culture War." Eric T. Freyfogle. Noting that "conservation as a cultural reform movement is in sad shape today…" Freyfogle strikes at the heart of Abbey's lament about culture by concluding, "…It is culture that is conducting the train. Bad culture is heading us south; only good culture can turn things around."

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 2003;1(3):125-129. "How Far to the Nearest Road? Kurt Ritters and James D. Wickham. Not far! In a unique and exhaustive review of the conterminous United States this study shows that about 20% of total land area is within 127 meters of a road, with only about 3% of the land being more than 5,176 meters away!

Pine Tree Tops

in the blue night
frost haze, the sky glows
with the moon
pine tree tops
bend snow-blue, fade
into sky, frost, starlight.
the creak of boots.
rabbit tracks, deer tracks,
what do we know.

    Gary Snyder, Turtle Island


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