Balancing the pulls of domesticity and wilderness

How I take inspiration, and cautionary advice, from Ed Abbey’s family misadventures.

 

In a moment of contentment, Edward Abbey reads with his fourth wife, Renee Downing, at a Forest Service fire lookout on Aztec Peak, Arizona, in the Sierra Ancha Mountains in 1978.
Buddy Mays

The birth of my daughter has me thinking about Ed Abbey.

Not the Abbey of legend — Ol’ Cactus Ed, shooter of televisions, defender of wolves and wild rivers. Not the Abbey whose books first spoke to me as I raged against the confines of Los Angeles as a teenager; not the Abbey who convinced me to work seasonal jobs in state and national parks for 10 years; and not the Abbey whose exhortations to “explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers” I received as scripture from a desert prophet.

No, I’ve been thinking of a different Abbey. The melancholic, often deeply unhappy Abbey who struggled to balance the opposing pulls of domesticity and wilderness. The Abbey who fled one marriage only to immerse himself in the troubles of another, then another, then another, then another. The Abbey who drifted from one seasonal park job to the next in large part because, as his biographer Jack Loeffler remarked, “in his endless oscillation between solitude and society … he was rarely totally happy in either set of circumstances. Always longing, forever turbulent, never at peace.”

This is the Abbey who speaks to me now.

For a decade, I worked in some of the most beautiful and remote places in the world: Kachemak Bay State Park, Point Reyes National Seashore, Glacier National Park, Grand Canyon National Park. Living apart from what Abbey dubbed the “clamor and filth and confusion of the cultural apparatus,” I was responsible only for myself and what fit into my car. Each spring I’d throw myself into a new place, and spend the summer building trail. When the long days shortened to wintery nubs, I’d travel or work in some sunny elsewhere.

The nomadic life has its drawbacks: constantly applying for new jobs, making friends only to leave them, rarely earning much money or receiving benefits. It’s a life predominantly enjoyed by 18- to 25-year-olds, but it’s one that a 29-year-old Abbey entered with a wife and two children. He’d convinced himself that sustaining both a family and a seasonal, wilderness-based life was “within the realm of concrete actuality.” Three marriages later, he admitted, with characteristic candor, “My wives got sick and tired of the constant moving around and the poverty-level income.”

For a decade, my girlfriend, Kelly, and I both gloried in the independence of the seasonal life. We worked in different parks and places, apart almost as often as we were together. But eventually we accepted that our biggest regret would be to let our rambling detract from what the distance and the desert had taught us to truly value. So we married. And so I left my beloved Southwest and followed Kelly to the Pacific Northwest, where we have remained for an unprecedented four years, and where we recently welcomed our daughter.

Here, too, my life mirrors Abbey’s. When Abbey was 34 — the same age I am now — he followed his second wife and two children from Albuquerque to Hoboken, New Jersey, where he worked, miserably, in a welfare office cubicle. Like Abbey in Hoboken, I now sit inside most of the day, switching my gaze between the glow of a computer screen and the rain dripping from the eaves outside my home office. Like Abbey, I long for simple days on naked rock under desert sun. For Abbey, those simple days became, like the “black sun” in his 1971 novel of that name, “a blinding and terrible beauty which obliterated everything but the image of itself.”

Here, then, the biography of the man whom I’ve consciously or unconsciously emulated for 20 years becomes a cautionary tale. For Abbey abandoned his second wife and two children and headed off, in his words, to “exile in the desert.” Like the desert prophets before him, Abbey was willing to sacrifice — repeatedly — his children, his wife, and even what he admitted was significant happiness to his uncompromising love of place, his idea of how life should be lived. Even in this, I find something to emulate: the belief that one should not — one cannot — compromise what one holds most dear. This is exactly why, no matter how often I secretly admire or perversely envy Abbey’s life, no matter how often I scheme and dream of ways my family can live in what remains of our nation’s wild areas, I will follow Abbey no further down his particular rough and lonesome road.

Instead, at the end of a long day, Kelly brings our daughter into my office, and we three stand and look out at the rising moon. I sound a low howl, Kelly adds her coyote yips, and my daughter looks from one of us to the other, beaming bright, and I’m as happy as I ever was alone and free on a desert trail.

Nathaniel Brodie’s essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Terrain.org, The Humanist and other publications.

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • We are hiring a Wyoming Conservation Associate Full time, competitive pay and benefits. Location: Cody, WY (preferred), Jackson, WY, or Lander, WY Visit www.greateryellowstone.org/careers for...
  • The National Parks Conservation Association, the nations leading national park advocacy organization, seeks a Regional Director to lead and manage staff for the Southwest Regional...
  • This newly created position with The Nature Conservancy's Colorado River Program will play a key role in the development and implementation of strategies to achieve...
  • The Foundation NoVo Foundation acts from the original meaning of philanthropy: the love of humanity. The Foundation is dedicated to catalyzing a global social transformation...
  • A new generation of monkey wrenchers hits the Front Range?
  • The Tanner Humanities Center and the Environmental Humanities Program of the University of Utah seek an environmental writer to offer classes in Utahs Environmental Humanities...
  • The Wilderness Society works to protect Wildlands and inspire Americans to care for our public lands. We seek to hire a strategic, experienced leader who...
  • The Idaho Conservation League (ICL) seeks an individual to lead this 45-year-old organization as executive director, to carry on ICLs work as Idahos leading voice...
  • 2+ acres, 400+ feet on Snake River, 2800 sf residence, NWF-certified wildlife habitat, excellent hunting, fishing, birdwatching, stargazing, sunsets & panoramic views. In the heart...
  • Guardians is expanding and looking for a few great people to join us in protecting and restoring the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health...
  • Organic grocery/cafe at Glacier Bay needs a vibrant leader. Love good food, community, and Alaska? Join us!
  • Ouray County, Colorado, a popular tourist destination, has dramatic mountains and amazing winter ice climbing. Challenging terrain and high altitude can push visitors to their...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Associate-Tahoe Area. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Coordinator-Tahoe Area. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Manager-Tahoe Area. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Associate-Southern CA. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • Collector's Item! The story of barley, the field crop. 50 years of non-fiction research. www.barleybook.com
  • Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a growing nonprofit organization fostering community stewardship of our National Conservation Lands with a focus on Dominguez-Escalante, Gunnison Gorge and...
  • Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a growing nonprofit organization fostering community stewardship of our National Conservation Lands with a focus on Dominguez-Escalante, Gunnison Gorge and...


Этот важный веб портал со статьями про кальян на дом http://sweet-smoke.com.ua