Reworking Sam's and my book a penultimate time, I'm thinking of epigraphs for the six sections. Here are some first thoughts, all from authors we have read and talked about together:
"Old men with dirt under their fingernails may be of some help. Old dogs who've paid their dues and been 'around the block,' who can look at their grandchildren and see a little ahead. I remember a senior anthropologist in Boston whose house was a couple of blocks from a five-alarm fire that broke out, interrupting his work. When he heard the sirens and bells he stepped outside, looked at the smoke and the ladders going up, wet a finger and lifted it, and then went back inside to rap on the keys of his typewriter again. He had been around the world and assessed a lot of fires, bar fights, auto crashes, divorce wrangles, tribal cultures, guerrilla wars, and had that dash of Churchillian dignity a wicked old, randy old sea dog has."
Edward Hoagland, Sex and the River Styx
"I wanted to know shadbush from elderberry, dogwood from chokecherry, bluebirds from indigo buntings, yellowthroats from yellow warblers, the French horn from an English horn. . . . It's not expensive to pay attention to the phases of the moon, to transplant lemon lilies and watch a garter snake birthing forty babies and a catbird grabbing some, or listen to the itchy-britches of the Canada geese as autumn waxes. We will be motes in the ocean again soon, leached out of the soil of some graveyard, and everlastingly rocking.
"That is my sense of an afterlife and my comfort. The hurly-burly of streambed turmoil will be our last rush-hour traffic—thocketing through boulders, past perch pools and drift logs. Enough, we will say, reaching tidewater. We saw enough."
Edward Hoagland, Sex and the River Styx
"Yet some of us have the nerve, the insolence, the brass, the gall to whine about the limitations of our earthbound fate and yearn for some more perfect world beyond the sky. We are none of us good enough for the world we have and yet we dream of Heaven."
Edward Abbey, Appalachian Wilderness
"This book proceeds, much the way I do, in a disorderly, relentless fashion. It is fat with contradictions but sounds one steady note: the land. . . . Here the land always makes promises of aching beauty and the people always fail the land."
Charles Bowden, Blue Desert
"Giving some new source of water to a city in the American West, for example, is akin to sending a case of whisky to an alcoholic. It does not solve a problem—it simply puts it off for a spell."
Charles Bowden, Killing the Hidden Waters
"A reader may ask: What is the writer's relationship with the place and the people he writes about?"
John Berger, Pig Earth
"When time is pulse, as music makes it, eternity is in the gaps between."
John Berger, To the Wedding
"He called and called. Standing in that inexplicable darkness. Where there was no sound anywhere save only the wind. After a while he sat in the road. He took off his hat and placed it on the tarmac before him and he bowed his head and held his face in his hand and wept. He sat there for a long time and after a while the east did gray and after a while the right and godmade sun did rise, once again, for all and without distinction.
Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
"A time will come of course when walking, even walking in the heartland, will no longer be possible, or no longer effective. But then the story will be here and reenact the walking.
Peter Handke, Repetition
"He went back the way he had come, again taking his time, seeing everything now from its opposite side. It was as though he made the place dimensional and substantial by his walking both ways over it, granting it the same interest in going as he had in coming. To his mind it was old beyond knowing and yet new, timeless and yet momentary, so that watching it as once more it opened before him, old as he was, he was renewed."
Wendell Berry, “At Home”