It’s not often that anyone’s poetry strikes a chord in me. But Wildness Within Walking Distance, Robert M. Chute, Just Write Books, 2011, has done just that.
Chute echoes one of my most deeply held convictions when he says, “…unoccupied and undeveloped open land—perhaps our most under-appreciated and endangered natural treasures.”
I’ve always maintained that my woodlot, my so-called, “back 40” is closer to true wilderness than many of our state parks and other organized wilderness areas. On my woodlot, the walker need not stay on marked trails. And there are no regulations to prohibit me or anyone from picking berries or anything else growing there.
My woodlot was never developed, but on the other hand it has been cut over more times than a math student could calculate. But what grows there is what naturally occurs. In other words, commercial interests never totally stripped the place and planted, instead of the mixed hardwood/softwood that grew there of its own accord, a monoculture of balsam fir or red pine. No, my woodlot, like so many other small plots of land, has always grown whatever wants to grow there.
As a lifelong hunter, fisherman and forager, my travels quite naturally take me through reverting farmland, places where old cellar holes tell a haunting story, if only anyone cares to listen. Long-forgotten stands of daylilies and even, to my great pleasure, plots of asparagus, indicate that here, someone lived, families loved, struggled and probably died.
Bits of broken china, kicked out of the earth by burrowing woodchuck, show that the family had placed great stock in such things and treasured a few plates and perhaps some silverware as if it were the jewel from a pontentate’s diadem.
Development, the slow, but steady encroachment of houses, pavement, dogs, cats and people who know not of nor could care less about the history of the place they despoil, pour in like a great molasses flood.
And so people such as Robert M. Chute find that they need to keep the old memories alive. Read his chapter, “The Chilman Place” and you will see just what I mean.
For anyone with a heart and soul that longs for simple but essential and indescribably valuable country knowledge, I highly recommend this book.