I don’t write these stories for my good looks; if you met me in person you’d know why. I expect you to read them. You don’t want to tick off a Sicilian from the Bronx with an attitude. I like to think that my stories contain a subliminal message. The devil is in the details.
A story is created and within its confines lays the hook. A writer is often a prince enjoying his incognito wherever he goes. Last week I wrote about a crazy idea I had: taking inner city kids backpacking. Remember! I had studied the works of the New England writers: Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman and learned that a sojourn in the woods brings the ingredients of a fully composing life.
I believe Thoreau is right, “In wilderness is the Preservation of the world.” I needed a methodology. I wanted more out of backpacking than eating M&M’s and throwing knives into trees. I read the accounts of adventurers, those who had led euphoric lives. There was a commonality, a mosaic of divergence woven together with curiosity as sinew. There was always a quest, both internal and external. There were questions that needed an answer: Who am I? What am I made of? What is my purpose? There was always something to prove: Am I tough enough? The pursuit of adventure became its own reward.
In 1860 Sir Richard Burton, famed British explorer, departed for Africa to discover the fabled source of the Nile. As a child I was fascinated by Burton; I read his biography, “The Collector of Worlds.” Edward the VII, the eldest son of Queen Victoria was once asked, “If you can be anything, what would you be?” Edward immediately responded, “I would be Richard Burton.” Sir Richard spoke to our very core, our endless quest for adventure with all its requisite danger and wildness.
This is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of humanity. Hannibal crossed the Alps. Marco Polo left for China. Magellan sailed west. Huck Finn headed down the Mississippi. Amundsen raced for the South Pole while Perry went north. Amelia Earhart soared across the Atlantic. Lewis and Clark traveled up the Missouri to find the passage to India. They didn’t find it but they discovered the west. Even the gods are spectators to the deeds of adventurers.
Adventure is the search for the divine…the elusive…the unknown. In our search, things of divine nature are revealed to us, which may or may not lead us to our ultimate goal. The journey gives us the adventure and all adventures begin with running away from home.
As a teacher, my objectives are few. I hope to leave my students with a “sense of place,” and bring everyone back intact. The landscape is filled with mythologies and mysteries that tell of our genetic link to hunters, voyagers, and explorers. To have a sense of place is to know a place, to sojourn in it, to sail up and down, to paddle a canoe, to meander in the mountains, and valleys. To do this well requires time and intimacy with a place. Land is more than geography, geology, and biology. It’s history. What’s happened here throughout the ages? Answer that question and you begin to discover. I recall one of man’s oldest adventures. “Sing in me Muse and through me; tell the story of that man skilled in all ways of contending, the wanderer, harried for years on end, after he plundered the stronghold on the proud heights of Troy”. (“The Odyssey”, Homer)