Sunday, October 9, 2011


Of late, my reading has fallen by the wayside, not sure why but probably age, but I have determined to rectify this omission, giving up certain duties elsewhere, LS is also starting a new blog on conservation as well, which should be interesting when it is finished.......
Recently I read an article on a blog Musings from the Bike Shed about the new phase of  'wild or wilderness' writers, and it sent me back to my books and reading Amazon reviews about these writers.  Well this is not a critique of those books, but a general reshuffling in my mind of what is good and what I find bad.
Firstly I have always enjoyed the early 20th century writers, Susan Hartley, Edward Thomas, Massingham and Richard Jefferies come to mind and their approach to country writing, the thought of wildness had not crept into their imaginings although Jefferies novel "After London or Wild England" touches upon the word.  The English countryside was as perfectly utilised in their time as it is today, the wild places that modern day writers allude to are the bleak mountain ranges of Scotland or maybe Wales, land that is unfarmable (if such a word exists), so we have moors such as Exmoor, Dartmoor  or the Yorkshire moors, tourist havens for the walker or seeker of history or plants.  Nothing is wild, none of these places has ever escaped the tramp of feet in this small island.  And what of the mass of little islands that cling to our coasts, Scotland with its Shetland and Orkney, tiny islands like the one I came across the other day with its dozen feral cattle left behind by the last inhabitants of the island, or even St.Kilda, again an island emptied of its people, small stone houses set in line on one small street now falling into decay after the evacuation of its tiny population.
But I'm starting to move away from the subject of books, which are part of the background of my reading .  So first of all Gary Snyder, an American writer, who loved his countryside and evolved a philosophy that embraces such a wide canvas of nature writing, that the damage we do as humans is sometimes missed in his writng.  At the bottom by the way I shall print his Smokey the Bear Sutra, which always make me laugh, but in his introduction to the sutra ( A Place in Space) to the concept of a bear god he says this,,"The twisting strata of the great mountains and the pulsating of great volcanoes are my love burning deep in the earth. My obstinate compassion is schist and basalt and granite, to be mountains, to bring down the rain" part of the sutra and somehow very different to the concept that people like Robert Macfarlane brings to the subject, sometimes I think of certain  people as the Munro gatherers, see nature as  in need of taming, Macfarlane does'nt do this fully but its the male streak of 'macho' man sleeping out in the cold on the highest mountain, proving his toughness that sometime underpin some modern writing.

 I'm not sure that Snyder's reference to Fudo Myoo as a bear god in Japan is a true one, but he says that the statues are found by waterfalls and deep in the wildest mountains of Japan.  Fudo has surpassing power, the power to quell all lesser violence. Snyder of course spent time in Japan in the 60s as a monk as did LS, so my late introduction to all things Japanese is kindled in this household.  Not altogether happily as demons and all kind of terrible depictions can be found in the scrolls and Japanese artwork around.!

This sutra brings to mind what I have been looking at today the protest in Wall Street, the turmoil that the rich and greedy have bought down on our world, wonder where it will all end?


A handsome smokey-colored brown bear standing on his hind legs, showing that he is aroused and watchful.
Bearing in his right paw the Shovel that digs to the truth beneath appearances; cuts the roots of useless attachments, and flings damp sand on the fires of greed and war;

His left paw in the mudra of Comradely Display--indicating that all creatures have the full right to live to their limits and that of deer, rabbits, chipmunks, snakes, dandelions, and lizards all grow in the realm of the Dharma;

Wearing the blue work overalls symbolic of slaves and laborers, the countless men oppressed by a civilization that claims to save but often destroys;

Wearing the broad-brimmed hat of the west, symbolic of the forces that guard the wilderness, which is the Natural State of the Dharma and the true path of man on Earth:

all true paths lead through mountains--

With a halo of smoke and flame behind, the forest fires of the kali-yuga, fires caused by the stupidity of those who think things can be gained and lost whereas in truth all is contained vast and free in the Blue Sky and Green Earth of One Mind;
Round-bellied to show his kind nature and that the great earth has food enough for everyone who loves her and trusts her;

Trampling underfoot wasteful freeways and needless suburbs, smashing the worms of capitalism and totalitarianism;

Indicating the task: his followers, becoming free of cars, houses, canned foods, universities, and shoes, master the Three Mysteries of their own Body, Speech, and Mind; and fearlessly chop down the rotten trees and prune out the sick limbs of this country America and then burn the leftover trash.

Wrathful but calm. Austere but Comic. Smokey the Bear will Illuminate those who would help him; but for those who would hinder or slander him...

Thus his great Mantra:
Namah samanta vajranam chanda maharoshana Sphataya hum traka ham mam


And he will protect those who love the woods and rivers, Gods and animals, hobos and madmen, prisoners and sick people, musicians, playful women, and hopeful children:

And if anyone is threatened by advertising, air pollution, television, or the police, they should chant SMOKEY THE BEAR'S WAR SPELL:


And SMOKEY THE BEAR will surely appear to put the enemy out with his vajra-shovel.
Now those who recite this Sutra and then try to put it in practice will accumulate merit as countless as the sands of Arizona and Nevada.

Will help save the planet Earth from total oil slick.
Will enter the age of harmony of man and nature.
Will win the tender love and caresses of men, women, and beasts.
Will always have ripened blackberries to eat and a sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at.

...thus we have heard...
(may be reproduced free forever)

 To be continued; These thoughts on books will probably  meander on indefinitely ;)

After London, Wild England



  1. I used to think that my beloved Dartmoor was still a wilderness, but even in the midst of the peat hags, a crisp packet would be found . . .

    True wilderness is rarer by the minute, but perhaps sometimes it is right under our noses and we just don't notice. Little corners of "wild" which are walked past and not noted, where nature is free to replenish itself. I would like to hope so.

    A thought-provoking post - and I am still trying to get my head around the poem . . . being a bear of little brain!

  2. Enjoyed that - and thanks for the link and reading the bike shed.

    You are correct, I think, that a lot of writers want to 'tame' the wilderness or position the landscape as a playground. Try Jim Perrin as best living nature writer on Wales - he has new book out next year that will, I predict, be a stunner.

  3. Enjoyed that post Thelma. Richard Jefferies is a fairly new discovery for me. But I now have a couple of his books and have really enjoyed what I have read so far. He writes in such a modern fashion, still seems fresh after over a century. Earlier this year I came across Barbellion, Journal of a Disappointed Man. That was an excellent piece of early twentieth century nature writing. Although it gets a bit bleak in places!

  4. Thanks to everyone for reading stuff. Yesterday some books arrived, 2 by Alan Garner (yes I like children's story as well) and for more sombre reading Bill McGibben 'Eaarth'. I notice no Macfarlane in my books so I might get his latest, which is about mindscapes?? can't remember. I know Mabey has written a personal account in 'Nature Cure'. Also will put that Jim Perrin on my wish list ;)for when I come back....


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