Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Outlaws




















Does private life exist anymore? In 1960, E.M. Forster thought private life was finished, at least in England. Without wild nature, he believed, there can be no secret life. England's "greenwood" is gone:

There is no forest or fell to escape to today, no cave in which to curl up, no deserted valley for those who wish neither to reform nor corrupt society but to be left alone. People do still escape, one can see them any night at it in the films. But they are gangsters not outlaws, they can dodge civilization because they are part of it. ("Terminal Note" to Maurice, Forster's novel about men loving men.)

This gentle-sounding notion of "wild"--"forest or fell," "cave" with "curl"--reminds me of Duke Senior's appreciation of the Forest of Arden in As You Like It:


I also like to take "wildness" with goodness and shelter--not sermons, though--and walk in woods as close to my town as Concord Center is to Walden. Forster does not write solely about solitary life. His frame of reference is plural: "those who wish," and "outlaws," not outlaw. I believe he was also thinking of shelter with comrades. "Homosexual acts" were a crime in England until the 1960s.

Some people I know, J., for instance, go into the deep wild woods alone and read books like Alone: The Man Who Braved the Vast Pacific--and Won. When I go for my solitary walks, I sometimes "double off" (Thoreau's language) and enter a story I tell myself, a way of changing one to two--no, not quite. Instead, let's say: oneness deepened as well as lessened. "Tell" maybe too strong. It's a place between telling and reverie.

There's no one way to be. But I wish wild kids had not set fire to this tree no matter how interesting the burn pattern.






































Secret places, caves, burrows, deserted valleys, forests, Ardens, Edens, brains--please, don't tell.

12 comments:

  1. a lovely post, Mim, woven with thoughtful considerations of both wilderness & literature. i am tending toward wilder & wilder, these days;
    you can still get lost in Maine!

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  2. It's in the UK where I've learned to love the outdoors. Funny that, since I used to spend many wekeends at my relatives' houses in the country when I was little. But Forster got it right. GB does have a special magic in its woods.

    Many thanks for such a special post.

    Greetings from London.

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  3. It might be lightening damage- not unusual up at Menotomy Rocks.

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  4. A beautiful post, Mim. A line that really stands out (for me) is this one - - - 'oneness deepened as well as lessened.' Thank you.
    Love, Claire x

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  5. I mourn the secret glens and glades of my childhood, gone now to split-level homes and tidy paved driveways. My favorite secret place took a bit of crawling on my belly to reach, and in June there were tiger lilies there, ablaze with an orange I liked to believe were seen only by my eyes....

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  6. These could be images from here on the Ashdown Forest. You can get lost here, easily - almost everyone I know in these parts has a story about the time they were lost in the forest. Solitude is also the thing, isn't it? To properly go into the wild.

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  7. Could have been lightening, Mimi k, but some time before I saw a pile of charred wood under the tree. Must investigate.

    Claire: My favorite part too: "oneness deepened as well as lessened." A pleasure to type those words again. We're both writing about paradox.

    Ashdown Forest--when will you go there again, Signs?

    T. Clear--I'm with you about orange!

    Cuban and Susan--thank you.

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  8. PS: Today I went back to the burned tree and found evidence: scattered charred wood from the fire that had burned against the tree. These branches did not drop from above.

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  9. Many thanks for your recent comment on my post about art critics, Mim. And funny that you mentioned Moby Dick as a few weeks ago there was a superb essay on it in The Guardian's Saturday Review. :-)

    Greetings from London.

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  10. Well, Mim, I am always here - more or less - because I live on the edge of it.

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  12. I'm a runner, and I frequently make up stories as I run, especially if I'm out on trails. Sometimes I will listen to tribal music, and that just adds to my imaginings. :-)
    I found you by hitting the 'next blog' button on my blog. Some days, I just like to see where it will take me.

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