And so the coming end of another summer. Now begins the days of nesting, of growing on the inside, a sort of incubation in reverse, stockpiling candles and kerosene: writing sad poetry, drinking red wine and counting canned goods, staring at shadows when the power goes out.
In these months ahead, as we go back up into the woods and close the door to our caves, be careful. Don’t let your heart grow old and gray. Spend a whole day naked. Eat something that would kill you if you made it a habit. Spend an evening with someone who doesn’t speak English. Scream at a politician. Seduce yourself. Let the world seduce you. Be glad that you don’t know everything. Ask young people questions. Go somewhere quiet and shut the hell up.
I wish I had the courage to do all that. I wish I could spend the night in the Oysterville graveyard. I wish I could invite our neighborhood bear over for a pot roast. I wish I could find a girlfriend for the frog who lives across the street.
Now I suppose the Peninsula looks much the same as when Lewis and Clark were here, and probably the same as it did a hundred years before that. I can watch the same horizon the ancient Indian chiefs once did. I can sit against a tree where once upon a time, a young Indian man whispered love to an Indian princess. I can see the moon and I say to myself (I don’t want to be known as the town kook), wow, look at that, that’s the same moon Shakespeare saw. I tell you, this is the kind of stuff that makes me feel small.
If great boulders of stone have broken into rocks, and rocks have been crushed into sand, then what’s to come of us? What’s to be our real crusade?
The coming end of summer makes me think about things like that, because I realize that every arrogant spring bud will be crumpled into organic excrement, that every bouncy bear cub is one season closer to becoming a killer, that long haired girls with sand between their toes are one day closer to becoming housewives.
Survival of the fittest is not as necessary as it used to be — civilized man has moved on to something else. We haven’t invented anything new, we’ve discovered something old: our job, our responsibilities, the pounding heart of why we behave in the first place, is because we remember this: the duty of the strong is to protect the weak… And that’s it. We don’t rob from grandma, we don’t beat up babies, we don’t pollute the river just because it’s clean (and we don’t charge locals to visit their own parks)!
Maybe I’m afraid of different things than other people. The beginning of life, scary as hell, the end of life, not at all. And the middle from beginning to end, we’re all middle aged, from the day we’re born.
The quiet time of every morning is a Sunday, that is what nature tells us. The still air, the way the branches and the leaves stay in place are a caution to each of us to take things at their pace, and not ours, to lay down our labors when the earth wants to be gentle. And the heavy time is the night of Saturday, when we are excused from the burdens of careful living.
Strong men can age, the weak become mighty, the good man has many a place to practice his virtue… The best thing we can ever do is be a good neighbor: to each other and to the whole wide world.