I had a good novel (which later became the site for these notes) with me on my latest selling trip but my eyes were drawn to the window and the woods beyond, the quickly disappearing, wanting to see that black bear, that wandering wolf, one more eagle, that now almost leaf-hidden rookery, before they're gone, before I'm gone. Riding, projecting myself out into those woods, my comfort. When my almost 19-year-old cat died in 2003, I visited a friend in the UP and wanted to be as far and as deep and as dark into the balsam-spruce forest as I could get. The thought of losing these comforts is difficult, to go and to leave them behind, to trade the daily wild for familiar well-trodden trails, the tamed Walden, and an occasional pilgrimage to the ocean and the whales.
I came here for the waters in 2001, the spring waterfalls of rocky creeks and the white pathways of winter creeks, the storm-tossed Lake, the arctic ice-covered Lake, the sunrise Lake, the hail of a few days ago, the snow, the fog (and the foghorn killed during my time). I came here for the nearby wolves, the wolves coming nearer, coming into town (perhaps that really was a wolf track across the alley a couple months ago since they've now been sighted 20 blocks away) as I leave, the wolves soon to be shot. It's a good time to leave, perhaps.
It's probably impossible to have a category to oneself in a country with over 306 million people but I don't think I have much company in the non-driving wilderness-loving population. I'm using the word wilderness casually; I actually don't think modern humans belong in the wilderness. But I'm a Thoreauvian; it's the borders and intersections of the wild and society which interest me, and for my own limited category, there's been no better place to explore them. This urban wilderness, this home to bear and eagle and falcon and fisher and beaver, along with the somewhat more typical urban residents such as coyote and fox, and now the returning wolf and cougar. That's why I came here. Can there ever be a good time to leave?
I didn't like the people much, but that's generally true wherever I am. In Duluth, everyone I deliberately saw and almost everyone I was glad to run into occasionally was originally from somewhere else. Fellow immigrants, we weren't here by accident of birth but because we'd chosen to live here, drawn by the same strengths. For my taste, too many of the locals are haters and destroyers, revving their engines and shooting their guns, quoting their bibles and cursing the outside world. Angry old men and women offended that their good old days are gone, young and violent meth heads with no future. People with no appreciation of what a rarity they have here. Inbreeding, addiction, narrow-mindedness and bigotry--an ugly town in a stunning location. I made a deliberate choice to not read the comments on the article about the wolf in town, not that I believe the best and brightest post there anyway.
After my window gazing and with wild thoughts in mind, I looked through the field guides on top of one of my bags and decided I wasn't ready to sell them just yet. They may be all I have left. It wasn't until I returned home that I realized I accidentally sold one anyway--now I'll have to decide if I want to rebuy it next week.
I walked around what the city folk call a lake, and just after I'd passed, witnessed an impressive goose flight just above the ground and over the water. A snoozing mallard woke and looked around in surprise, then headed after his departed mate in a rapid waddle. Red-winged and other blackbirds entertained.
Returning with the bright orange sun sinking on the left, and the near full moon looking down from the right, shaved just a hair too closely on his right cheek, I wanted to be out there among those trees. I wanted to suck every passing wetland into me, to make it a permanent part of me. Knowing myself as a sad product of the 20th century, lingering on in this 21st, completely unqualified to live as a wild human, did nothing to relieve the aching yearning to be far away from electricity, to be alert in the moonlight, to be alive, to be part of a whole. There I was, stuck in the middle with me.
Greentangle will end when I leave Duluth, almost exactly two years after it began. Like Henry, I have other lives to live, and a greentangle-related blog title reserved if the next one should turn out to be interesting. I'll pass that on when the final post comes along.
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