With all the warm weather we’ve been getting in these parts, my mind has naturally been wandering towards the great possibilities of a road trip through some of the greatest lands our country has to offer, the American Southwest. So with all natural inclinations, I recently got my hands on the freshest audio version of Edward Abbey’s most successful work to date, Desert Solitaire.
Published originally in 1968, Desert Solitaire centered around Abbey’s time as a park ranger at Arches National Monument and brings out some of the most romantic depictions I’ve ever heard of Moab, Utah. If you’re looking for an environmental classic, I wouldn’t recommend anything else. 5PM traffic isn’t so bad when you have Abbey’s Country coming through your stereo speakers.
For most of us, the closest we’ve gotten to the flight deck of a space shuttle was the cardboard box left over from the new refrigerator our parents got as kids. With a few strokes of permanent marker, a couple buttons were drawn, a few monitors were created, and we were well on our way into the unknown. At 9:58am EDT on May 11th of 2012, the space shuttle Endeavour was powered down for the last time in history, but not before photographer Ben Cooper captured these last images of the cockpit. Imaginations across the world, you’re welcome.
With so much of the hustle that’s in the image that New York City portrays, it’s hard to imagine how it could be anything but a concrete jungle of high-rises and steel towers. Recently, I’ve developed an unhealthy fascination with major cities and just what kind of places they used to be and were built upon. Searches for significant city fires, old swamplands and underground living brought me to The Welikia Poject. I’m somewhat late on this, but if you’re a resident city slacker, it’s pretty amazing.
With a large interest in how the landscape of New York City transformed over time, Eric Sanderson thought up the idea in 1999 while pouring over historical maps of the city. Thinking about how a red maple swamp sitting right atop 7th Avenue and engulfing what is now Times Square, isn’t a regular tourist attraction but if you’re like me and consider the history behind people, places, and things then this is right up your alley. Take a gander at the website if you do so please: The Welikia Project
“For almost a decade he has led a project at WCS to envision as precisely as possible what the island of Manhattan might have looked like before the city took root. The Mannahatta Project, as it’s called (after the Lenape people’s name for “island of many hills”), is an effort to turn back the clock to the afternoon of September 12, 1609, just before Henry Hudson and his crew sailed into New York Harbor and spotted the island. If people today could picture what a natural wonder Hudson had looked upon, Sanderson figured, maybe they’d fight harder to preserve other wild places. “I wanted people to fall in love with New York’s original landscape,” he said. “I wanted to show how great nature can be when it’s working, with all its parts, in a place that people normally don’t think of as having any nature at all.”
With my eyes half open, the dark room broke stance with just a single beam of sunlight coming through the windows. With the sun peeking out for just a little bit of the mundane madness that encompassed a good half of the beginning of March, I jumped out of bed and completed my morning rituals. I hadn’t seen a blue sky in so long, that it took very little time for me to get going. Grabbing my camera and covering up as much as I could, I made the half a mile walk down to the park just behind my apartment. 45 degree weather was nothing to boast about, but when the days have been about as bright as a kid left back in kindergarten, you most definitely take advantage of the ones covered in blue skies.
Moving to a new place was always an experience, and though I didn’t do so much in the past, I made certain to explore this town as much as possible. 18 miles north of New York City, Montclair is somewhat of a small city within itself. Parks cover a good amount of the town, while aged colonial houses sit quietly on residential streets.
“Beautiful day isn’t it?” asked an elderly woman as she passed me by on the trail. “Sure is!”, I replied back, almost automatically, lost in my own thought. Winding paths led to open fields, and I was just imagining the incredible potential these wide spaces and massive trees held for the summer. The kid within me was going crazy.
With fingers numb after about an hour and a half of exploration, I made the slow walk back to what I now called home. The quiet streets took me back and made me realize where I was in the moment. It’s a crazy idea to think about where we come from and where we end up, and how that can shape us as people. I’ve made this move between New Jersey and New York twice now, and I’m sure as hell excited about where I’ll be next. Don’t know where I’m goin’, but at least I know where I’ve been.