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Edward Abbey: on activism

One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast… a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.

From a speech to environmentalists in Missoula, Montana, and in Colorado, which was published in High Country News, (September 24, 1976), under the title “Joy, Shipmates, Joy!”, as quoted in Saving Nature’s Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity (1994) by Reed F. Noss, Allen Y. Cooperrider, and Rodger Schlickeisen. (see also similar lines quoted here.)

I am heading north to mountain bike, hike, kayak, snowshoe, and otherwise wander and enjoy in this spirit. Thanks, Ed.

Edward Abbey: on writing books

Ah yes, the head is full of books. The hard part is to force them down through the bloodstream and out through the fingers.

–From a 1976 letter to Frederick W. hills, editor in chief at McGraw-Hill, as quoted in Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast.

I can just imagine, Ed. Thanks for taking the effort.

Edward Abbey: on Ernest Hemingway


You know I couldn’t resist one favorite writing about another.

Sheepmen and many others shoot [golden eagles] on sight, on general principles. Our hero Ernest Hemingway could not resist the temptation to bag an eagle now and then, though he hated himself afterward. Not an easy job to be, or to have been, Ernest Hemingway.

–“Watching the Birds: the Windhover”, from Down the River

Aside from the obvious criticisms that could be made of Papa shooting eagles (we’ll let Abbey do that), that final sentence says a lot, doesn’t it? Not an easy job at all…

Edward Abbey: on opening a beer

The hardcases among us snap the tabs from cans of beer, kept cool like catfish in gunny sacks trailed in the river. Fssst! The others stare. Impossible to muffle that sudden release of CO2 under pressure, the conspicuous pop! Sounds like a grenade attack. Incoming! Nobody here flinches but everyone knows who is drinking the beer. And who’s been hoarding it. Would be helpful if some clever lad invented a more discreet, a more genteel mode of opening beer cans. A soft, susurrant, suspiring sort of … s i g h … might serve nicely. A sound that could pass, let us say, for the relaxed, simple, artless fart of a duchess. Ingenuous. But our technology continues to lag behind genuine human needs.

–“Running the San Juan,” from Down the River

I love this image of Abbey the hardcase, on the morning following some hard drinking, when everyone’s hungover, shocking his fellow river rafters with this beer can and picturing a more private option. And how about that artless fart of a duchess? An image if I ever read one. The sound effects and the concepts tickle me. Who wants a beer?

Edward Abbey: a recipe

Fragments of autobiography, journalistic battle debris, nightmares and daydreams, bits and butts of outdoors philosophizing, all stirred together in a blackened iron pot over a smoking fire of juniper, passionflower and thorny mesquite. Agitate. Redneck slumgullion, like any stew, makes a tasty, nutritious and coherent whole. And why not? Society too, human society, is like a stew – if you don’t keep it stirred up you get a lot of scum on top.

–Edward Abbey, from the introduction to The Journey Home

Here Abbey describes what is to come in this essay collection, but we also get a nice quick punchy taste of his voice and his perspective on humanity.

Edward Abbey on privacy

In the early 1970’s… the stone house was isolated enough that Abbey could stand outside and urinate in peace – as his friend Dick Felger once observed him doing from the roof of the house, after Abbey called out to him when he was driving by. This was Abbey’s privacy test; when outdoors urination was no longer feasible, it was time to move on. He told Sandy Newmark that “if you can’t pee in your own front yard, you live too close to the city.” –from James M. Cahalan’s Edward Abbey: A Life

I have to say I could appreciate this notion of privacy. I may have to come up with an Abbey quotations meme around here, to go along with hemingWay of the Day and two-wheeled thoughts.

two-wheeled thoughts: Edward Abbey on bicycles, or anything non-motorized

two-wheeled thoughts

A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourist can in a hundred miles.

–Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he means a woman, too. I’m just relieved to see that Abbey acknowledges us two-wheeled, human-powered vehicles as part of the solution. 🙂

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