Guides & Gurus

THE TRAIL

Already my gaze is upon the hill, the sunny one, at the end of the path I’ve only begun. So we are grasped, by that we could not grasp, at such great distance, so fully manifest – and it changes us, even when we do not reach it, into something that, hardly sensing it, we already are; a sign appears, echoing our own sign … But what we sense is the falling winds.

– Rainer Maria Rilke, "A Walk"

Photo: Ithuriel Ridge, Round Valley. Photo by Kathy Schwartz.

POETIC SCIENCE; SCIENTIFIC POETRY

The moral I labor toward is that a landscape as splendid as that of the Colorado Plateau can best be understood and given human significance by poets who have their feet planted in concrete – concrete data – and by scientists whose heads and hearts have not lost the capacity for wonder. Any good poet, in our age, at least, must begin with the scientific view of the world; and any scientist worth listening to must be something of a poet, must possess the ability to communicate to the rest of us his sense of love and wonder at what his work discovers.

– Edward Abbey, "Desert Skin"

Photo: Devil's Peak, Royal Gorge.

ENDURING THE NIGHT

Something more tough, reliable and stark carries the blood of life toward a farther spring – something that lies concealed in the soundless dark of burr and pod, in the seeds that hook and sting. I have learned from these that love which endures the night may smolder in outward death while the colors blaze, but trust my love – it is small, burr-coated and tight. It will stick to the bone. It will last through the autumn days.

– Loren Eiseley, “Winter Sign”

Photo: milk thistle in autumn, Black Diamond Mines.

IMAGINATION

The edges of the real landscape became one with the edges of something I had dreamed. But what I had dreamed was only a pattern, some beautiful pattern of light. The continuous work of the imagination, I thought, to bring what is actual together with what is dreamed is an expression of human evolution. The conscious desire is to achieve a state, even momentarily, that like light is unbounded, nurturing, suffused with wisdom and creation, a state in which one has absorbed that very darkness which before was the perpetual sign of defeat.

– Barry Lopez, “Arctic Dreams”

Photo: Round Valley summit.

THEN GOD ANSWERED JOB OUT OF THE WHIRLWIND

Have you ever called up the dawn, or shown the morning its place? Have you taught it to grasp the fringes of the Earth, to bring up the horizon in relief as clay under a seal until all things stand out like the folds of a cloak? Come, tell me all this, if you know.

– The Book of Job, Chapter 38

Photo: the view from Mt. Diablo's Eagle Peak, January of 2011.

THE EXTRAVAGANCE OF NATURE

Nature is, above all, profligate. Don't believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn't it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place? This deciduous business alone is a radical scheme, the brainchild of a deranged manic-depressive with limitless capital. Extravagance! Nature will try anything once.

– Annie Dillard, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”

Photo: Mt. Diablo manzanita, Eagle Peak.

THE LOSS OF NIGHT

In times past people took to their beds at nightfall, but not merely to sleep. They touched one another, told stories and, with so much night to work with, woke in the middle of it to a darkness so luxurious it teased visions from the mind and divine visitations that helped to guide their course through life. Now that deeper darkness has turned against us. The hour of the wolf we call it — that predatory insomnia that makes billions for big pharma. It was once the hour of God.

Clark Strand, “Bring on the Dark”

Illustration by Victor R. Erickson.

CONSCIOUSNESS

I am entitled say, if I like, that awareness exists in all the individual creatures on the planet – worms, sea urchins, gnats, whales, subhuman primates, superprimate humans, the lot. I can say this because we do not know what we are talking about; consciousness is so much a total mystery for our own species that we cannot begin to guess about its existence in others. … [The modern nation] is a biological problem, as much so as a coral reef or a rain forest, but such things as happen to human nations could never happen in a school of fish. … We are smarter than the fish, but their instructions come along in their eggs; ours we are obliged to figure out, and we are slow learners.

– Lewis Thomas, “Late Nights Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony”

Photo: giant green anemone, Moss Beach.

SINGLE FILE

Language … has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone.

– Paul Tillich, "The Eternal Now"
Photo: foggy morning on the Round Valley summit.