Fire Season: Field Notes From a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors is one of my favorite books for 2011. He mixes history and his adventures in the watchtower in The Gila National Forest. Below is an excerpt from his book.Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance of spirit and humility Out walking, one notices where there is food.-Gary Snyder
On July4, I sometimes think I should feel a deep patriotic thrum, maybe go berserk with small incendiaries, start early on the lager; that’s what my neighbors will be doing back in town, and may the fates bless them in their pursuit of happiness. But I prefer to swaddle myself in solitude and watch the fireworks forty miles away in both the east and west, blooming like tiny flowers in a sped-up time-lapse film, their elegance accentuated by the distance and the silence of their parabolic choreography. If I’m honest about it, I have to admit that my most enjoyable national holidays have occurred in the company of friends and loved ones: the summer Martha and I recorded twenty minutes of ourselves on a cassette tape, oohing and aahing in the tower at the fireworks shows in Elephant Butte and Silver City, twenty straight minutes of only the two words ooh and aah, varying their length and tone to impart gradations of meaning, breaking down from time to time in wheezy belly laughter; or the year Mandijane and Sebastian showed up with wine and steaks and some kind of hybrid of bottle rocket and Roman candle that we aimed at the tower from a hundred feet away, contra Forest Service rules and regulations. Frivolity and nonsense ought to be a part of anyone’s pursuit of happiness, and they’ve certainly made for my most memorable Fourths of July. Lucky for me the holiday falls roughly midway in my annual twenty-week hiatus from rather too obsessively following the folly and farce of what passes for our politics. By a quirk of schedule the shape of fire season in the American Southwest-I feel, by the first week of July, ‘almost nothing but love for a country that would produce even one human being with the idea to preserve a forested commons from the onrush of our most destructive tools. Most of our best ideas have enlarged our definition of small-d democracy: one human, one vote; public schools for all our children (desegrated, of course); the creation of what the greatBobMarshall, founder of the Wilderness Society, called “the people’s forests.” Yes. To America, then-to our forests, our Founding Fathers, our Bettering Mothers, our magnificent flora and fauna diverse and healthy in its native element: of thee I proudly sing. Alone, this year. And thank goodness. I do not sing well. A fine reason to keep the song short.