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Point of View: On With OFF!

Wed, 11/20/2019 - 12:06

I would love to think I’m a lover of the natural world, but it’s hard to be a naturalist when twice in recent months tick larvae have rendered me so infernally itchy, and for so long, that I’ve thought more than once of paving everything over — our lawn, our garden, our bosky woods.

I’ll not tell you to what depths I’ve been plumbed other than to say you don’t want to go there. What happened to my Eden? To my host of golden daffodils? I want to revel in our calming estuarine surroundings, I do, but at what cost?

Perhaps I should just stay inside — it’s getting to be about that time of year anyway — and simply read what the Romantic poets, Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Wendell Berry, Robinson Jeffers, Rachel Carson, and Annie Dillard have had to say about the subject.  

Jeffers, Carson, and Dillard all came from Pittsburgh, by the way, as did numerous N.F.L. quarterbacks. I’m not sure what to make of that other than to say that Pittsburgh has forged some diverse and interesting people, and that, in passing, they’ve been well received — though there were deniers in Carson’s case, as there are today concerning climate change, even in the teeth of the evidence. My mother used to say the ever-changing weather there nurtured inspiration. That, I suppose, and the city’s diversity. Margaret Mead, I’m told, once said its population was the most ethnically diverse she’d ever encountered.

Jeffers, who was born in Old Allegheny, now Pittsburgh’s North Side, decamped for Big Sur and Carmel, an area where nature is so elemental, craggy, and vast that I told Mary, who once worked for a weekly newspaper in Pacific Grove and had taken me there up along the coast from Santa Cruz by way of the Hearst castle, that I was homesick for our more comforting, recumbent landscape, for its creeks, its broad beaches and dunes, and Main Street’s arching trees.

This environment — both natural and human — is as heavenly as it gets for me. I can’t retreat, I can’t be cowed by ticks.

Yes, I am old, I am old, but you better bet the next time I rake the leaves I’ll spray on OFF! and wear my trousers rolled.

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