Finisia, despite being a white settler herself, told me that whites had been genetically en- gineered by the Chinese six thousand years ago to be a slave race. The narrative holds that the white race escaped captivity and then set about wreaking violence and conquest on the rest of humanity. With slave minds, Caucasians can only see the world in terms of domination and submission. Before white people came into being, humanity had lived more or less sustainably on the planet for hundreds of thousands of years.
This particular narrative is not meaningful to, or known by, each and every Hoopster and rewil- der, but many involved in these networks do see their white racial identity as a hindrance that inhibits their openness to the non-hu- man natural world. Root Perhaps Hoopsters can help to gener- ate new narratives of whiteness, narratives that dismantle tropes of Indigenous peoples as savages, or romantic, wise, vanishing victims, and at the same time breaks apart our static perception of a hollow and colonizing white race.
Stories live beyond their telling. They are enacted, embodied, and productive of forms of sociality, being, and becoming. The wild garden and the primal, reciprocal, and harmonious human relationship to the land transcends race, racial formation, and political histories. The mythic journey of The Return, according to its own excep- tionalist logic, supersedes conversations about settler colonial po- sitionalities and appropriation. The idea of returning to nature is a widespread cultural trope that comprises a complex of problematic narratives from main- stream U.
A story about returning to a way of being that is closer to nature is, in a sense, the same problematic story-logic of pro- gressive cultural evolution and European entitlement articulated and espoused by Euro-centric social theorists from Hobbes in the 17th century, to Rousseau in the 18th, to Louis Henry Morgan in the 19th16, to contemporary writers such as Jared Diamond in the 20th. However, as Dakota historian Phillip J. Deloria observes in Playing Indian, the internal logic of such narratives only holds up as long as actual Native communities are politically and eco- nomically marginalized.
Huhndorf argues that the appropriation of as- pects of American Indian practice, philosophy, and aesthetics by Euro-Americans is as foundational to U. Playing Indian, going native, returning to nature, and rewild- ing can each be considered iterations of what Unangax scholar Eve Tuck and K. Settler society must constantly produce narratives that construe occupied land as a gift from the dispossessed. Rewild- ing has not made as much of a radical break from the mainstream as they might like to believe.
This recognition may be disconcerting to Hoopsters and non-Hoopsters alike. The prob- lematics of The Return are all of ours. The narrative logic un- derwriting this romantic fantasy is an essential component of the environing white settler nation-state whose continued existence is predicated upon dispossession, appropriation, and a naturalization of replacement. These problems were arrayed before national audience in , when a group of armed U.
The town of Burns, just a short remove from the lands through which Wildtenders move, began to experience a buildup of out-of-state militia activity in November of , and on January 2nd a protest transitioned into an armed takeover. After establishing themselves at the ref- uge, Ammon Bundy and his cohorts called for the Bureau of Land Management and National Forest Service to turn over fed- erally managed lands to states and eventually to private land- holders. They made regular statements to the media asserting the illegitimacy of the federal government, and proclaiming that county sheriffs ought to be the highest elected authority in any given territory Tirado The group promoted themselves on social media and they populated the refuge headquarters with signs declaring their political orientation.
The world was watching eastern Oregon, and I knew the Wildtenders would be watching too. I wondered if Wildtenders would view the occupiers as foe or kin. Several months later, settler colonial structural inequality was dramatized on the world stage through the momentous ef- forts of the Indigenous-led water protector camps at the Stand- ing Rock Sioux reservation.
Articles circulated comparing the Standing Rock and Malheur situations. The Malheur occupation, by contrast, failed to spark the popular uprising that it hoped for, its ideology fundamentally acquiesced to the settler liberal- ist status quo, and the protesters were armed to the teeth. These spectacular disparities made apparent to many the injustice of the colonial system. In early , during the Malheur occupation, Wildtenders followed the unfolding events and subsequent critiques via social media. Settler colonization in North America was never an operation carried out solely by the federal government, explains Dunbar-Ortiz.
This is a continuation of the Indian wars, fronted by settlers, but made possible by the continuing US system of colonialism Dunbar-Ortiz According to Dunbar-Ortiz, even as militias rhetorically posi- tion themselves against the federal government, the two work in tan- dem to maintain structural white supremacy and settler sovereignty. Unless these lands are returned to Tribes, the occupation is merely another iteration of settler colonization.
However, peculiar to Finisia Medrano and her Wildtending companions is a conception of government land management and private property ownership as merely left and right claws of the ecocidal swallowing monster that is industrial capitalism. In this view, the only ethical form of land relation is the Hoop itself: seasonal and reciprocal wild-tending.
In fact, for many Wildtenders, the concept of owning land is antithetical to proper human ontology. We encounter our humanity through re- ciprocal engagement with the non-human, Finisia and other Wild- tenders assert; private property is a demonic rather than a human ideology.
In January of , Finisia and others chose to use social media to make this differentiation clear. The change could suggest a move away from self- mythologization. Wildtenders were perhaps warming to the idea of being part of a movement rather than being the movement it- self. These ways are made illegal by violated treaties of war. The post highlights wildtending practice in order to emphasize that a primary difference between Hoopsters and the Malheur occupiers is that Hoopsters take care of the land while ranchers like the Bundys exploit and degrade it. Further, this is one of the only instances to my knowledge that the Wildtenders have publicly expressed that white privilege is central to their proj- ect.
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This self-awareness continues in the observation that non-Na- tive white folks are disproportionally spared the abuses of violent sovereign power in the U. Lastly, the statement closes with what may be a refer- ence to the Burns Paiute Tribe, an oblique statement of solidarity, or at least recognition. Several Hoopsters have expressed to me that they would prefer for Wildtending to be a collaboration between non- Native and Native peoples. For Seda, principles toward a more ethical Wildtending praxis would include friend- ship and direct engagement with Native knowledge holders, open- ness to critique, and critical self-awareness about his implication in colonization and genocide.
Both Spider and Seda attest that Wildtending may not yet be a decolonizing movement. However, following Rifkin, we may wonder if Wildtending can be seen as offering a valuable queer critique. By refusing the institution of private property and liberal modalities of kinship and nuclear domes- ticity, the network embodies important potentialities for the so- cial otherwise.
Further, with their pragmatic and adaptive com- mitment to active and sustained reciprocal ecological practice, Wildtenders offer us tools for resisting what Elizabeth A. Hoopsters insist that we rethink what is alive, what life is, and which lives matter. They are the dynamic and fraught relationship itself. Such a notion refuses stable unity as a mode of relation, rather embracing the messiness and constant conversational work of navigating settler and Indigenous positionalities in a co- lonial context, working toward decolonization.
The High Desert Wildtending Network may be able to de- velop dynamic solidarity with Indigenous-led projects of cultural revitalization, decolonization, and resurgence. Following Leanne Simpson and Gerald R. Revolutionary potential may lie in self-critical and ex- plicitly decolonial convergence. Might white settler academics? With their rhetorical shifts precipitated by the Malheur occupation, Wildtenders demonstrate an admirable ability to reassess their po- sitionality and reimagine their project. This aptitude for adaptabil- ity—which perhaps inheres in the precarious lifeway of the 21st century nomadic ecologist—may be a valuable model for working toward solidarity with the transnational Indigenous movement that in was made prominent by the water protectors at Standing Rock.
Striving inside and outside of the academy to make white settler history visible and to resist its contemporary mechanisms of environmental and human degradation is work that we have the capacity to do. In the face of deepening climate crises and recent surges of white settler supremacism, it is work that we must do. NOTES 1. Interview, August 2nd, During my time with Hoopsters we gathered blackberries, black- cap raspberries, salmonberries, thimbleberries, whortleberries, Saskatoon berries, gooseberries, and several varieties of huckle- berries, to name a few.
Hoopsters replant berries by eating them and then defecating in small holes dug in locations favorable for germination. My article offers a more in-depth comparative analysis of the Wildtending network and the broader rewilding movement. Earth First! However, I argue that many Wildtenders articulate a more nuanced approach to the temporalities and politics of the cli- mate crisis. For more dis- cussion see Seraphin Numerous examples of Indigenous-led resurgence and cultural revitalization projects can be found throughout the Columbia Pla- teau, Great Basin, and beyond.
Moreton observes that white settlers are distinguished primarily by their capacity to control land and bodies owning property. See Norgaard et al. Personal communication, July 26th, The essence of this narrative is articulated by friends of the Wild- tending network Adrain Chesser and Timothy White Eagle in the pages of The Return, their art photography book featuring large color photographs of rewilders in rural milieu. Nineteenth century unilinealism was also extant in the work of early Folklore theorists such as J. Frazier and Andrew Lang. See also classic studies exploring the ways that the anti-modernist impulse inscribes the ideology of progressive modernity: Bendix , Latour and Porter , Lears , and Dundes For examples, see Bell and Devega For example see Brown Interview, August 11th, Alexander, Michelle.
New York: New Press. Alfred, Gerald R. Don Mills, Ont. Peterborough, Ont. Allen, Paula Gunn. Boston: Beacon Press. Anderson, Kat. Berke- ley: University of California Press. Baldy, Cutcha Risling. January 12, Accessed June 9, Bendix, Regina. Madison, Wis. Brown, Kirby. November 2, Byrd, Jodi A. First Peoples Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Chesser, Adrain and Timothy White Eagle. The Return. Coulthard, Glen Sean. Minneapolis: University of Min- nesota Press. Deloria, Philip Joseph. Playing Indian. Devega, Chauncey. October 31, Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne.
January 7, Dundes, Alan. Interpreting Folklore. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Green, Rayna. March 9, High Desert Wildtending Network. House, Kelly. February 7, Huhndorf, Shari M. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Hunn, Eugene S. Ingold, Tim. Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Ar- chitecture. London; New York: Routledge. Jacob, Michelle M. First Paperback ed. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Minne- apolis: Milkweed Editions. Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Ac- tor-network-theory.
Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies. We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Lears, T. New York: Pantheon Books. Lee, Martha F. Religion and Politics. At the most it has but washed out the smaller ones, leaving the sea front surfaced with great white granite rocks that gleam like marble in the sundown to the limits of the washing tide, then shine olive green with the froth of the waves.
From the sands of White Horse Beach to those of the Spit in Plymouth harbor there is no place where that storm-tossed shallop might have made a landing with any hope of safety. To have turned toward the shore as the pilot bade them when the mast broke would have been to drown the whole company in the surf, in which case Plymouth would never have been. No one knows the name of the "lustie seaman" who then usurped the command and bade the rowers "if they were men, about with her, or else they were all cast away. It is a stern and rock-bound coast in very truth, and if it seemed as dark and forbidding on that December nightfall in as it did on one of the same date this year, I for one would not have blamed them had they sailed away, never to come back.
For a quarter of a mile off shore scattered boulders curried the surf and fluffed it into white foam. Its deafening roar was filled with menace.
Salt spray and sleet mingled cut one's face rods back from the shore, and high up the dark hill behind rose the gnarled woodland, wailing and tossing its giant branches. With the fall of night no light was visible from sea or shore. All was as primal, as chaotic, as menacing as it had been on that Friday night three centuries before when the Pilgrims' shallop beat in by the point, its tiny white sail drowned like the wing of a seagull in the dusky welter of the sea.
That night, as on the night that the Pilgrims came, the wind changed to the westward and blew the storm to sea. Yet all night from Cole's Hill I saw the dark clouds to seaward, lingering there and refusing to be driven completely away, and in the gray of dawn the morning star rose out of them, overmatching with its clear light that of the Gurnet which shone from the murk of their depths below.
The frozen ground rang beneath the heel and the cold had bitten deep. Out of the northwest a few flakes of snow came and it was long before the sun shone through the clouds and touched the top of Manomet Hill. Yet when it did it came with a burst of golden glory and filled the sky with such rosy and benign colors that one half expected to see a flight of Raphael's cherubs through it to earth.
And all the land beneath was softened with a blue haze from east to south, making of it a country of romance through which pricked towers of Aladdin palaces and in which one knew at sight that he might find all his dearest dreams coming true: Thus the Pilgrims saw it that first morning from Clark's Island and the sight must have warmed the hearts of them and dried the tears out as it dried the garments wet with salt spray and cold rain.
The wind from the west was keen for the next few days, but it blew all the forebodings out of the sky and to find the south side of a hill or even a thicket was to find perfect comfort. The sea off Manomet was no longer chaotic and menacing, but was stippled with dancing light on a soft, rich blue that was as soothing to the sense as the other had been disquieting. Along the south of White Horse Beach the lapidary surf had strewn quartz pebbles that gleamed in the clear sun like precious stones.
It took little effort of the imagination to find pocketfuls of rubies, pearls, sapphires, and amethysts among these, and had it indeed been "bright jewels of the mine" which the voyagers sought they might have been pardoned for thinking they had found them there. And all ashore under this alluring blue haze lay a country that was superlatively lovely even under frozen skies and on the shortest day of the year.
Southerly toward it the shallop sailed in , under flocks of whirling white gulls, through flocks of black and white Labrador ducks that then wintered in numbers along our shores, from Clark's Island to the mouth of Town Brook. Factories and dwellings line Town Brook, now in place of the primeval forests of pine and oak.
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Its waters leap one dam after another, but cannot escape pollution till their dark tide mingles with that of the clear sea. But for all that the contour of the chasms in the big sand hills through which it flows to the sea is changed but little. The low sun leaves it in shadow most of the day and one can fancy the Pilgrim children and perhaps their elders glancing often up its shadowy canon under black growth, a mysterious gulch down which at any time might stride the savages they so feared, or other, worse terrors of the unknown wilderness.
The little knowledge of their day was but a tiny oasis in the vast desert of unknown things, and in that country to the south and west that was so alluring under the golden glow of the sun through its soft blue haze might dwell both gorgons and chimeras dire. For though the children were not with the explorers when they landed from the shallop on Forefathers' Day, they came five days later in the Mayflower itself. There were twenty-eight of these children, varying in age from the babe in arms to well-grown, lusty youths and maidens.
Christmas was at hand, and one fancies that all knew much about it, and spoke little, perhaps not at all. So far as record goes they had broken absolutely from all that they believed the follies of the fatherland. Yet in the hearts of many, one can but think, must have remained warm memories of Yule logs, of the boar's head, piping hot and decked out with holly berries, and of the low-ceiled, oak-wainscotted dining halls of Old World houses all alight with candles and green with Christmas decorations.
It is a pity that in repudiating the folly they had to repudiate also the fun. For just ashore in this land of mystery to which they had come were opportunities for Christmas greenery and Christmas feasting which they would have done well to take. The English holly they had left behind, yet along Town Brook grew the black alder with its red berries that are so pretty a substitute for the others, a holly itself, or at least an Ilex.
All about Plymouth in the low grounds may be found these cheery, bright red berries, even over on the seaward slope of Manomet Head I found them, snuggling in hollows where tiny rivulets trickle down to the sea, though on the ridge above them the oaks were dwarfed and storm-beaten till one has difficulty in recognizing them for the variety of tree that they are. It is easy to believe that down to the very rack on which they landed crept the club-moss which the descendants of the Pilgrims so soon learned to call "evergreen. Just up those dark gullies Town Brook would have led them, as it will lead anyone today, to a country that now, as it was then, is rich in winter beauties of the woodland with which the exiles might well have decorated the cabin of the Mayflower.
And just within the woods in any direction waited for them, had they had the will and the wisdom to seek them, all kinds of Christmas cheer. Deer were there, wild turkeys in great flocks and two varieties of grouse as tame as chickens on a farm, and more delicious than any Christmas goose which might have been served them in Holland or England.
There were no savages about Plymouth at the time and they might have travelled the woods boldly, instead of taking prudent council of their fears. But they need not have gone so far as that for their Christmas feast. The sandy flats of nearby creeks were full of clams and the sea of fish. The boar's head they might not have, but there were splendid substitutes for it if they had cared to make their Christmas feast of products of the new land to which they had come. Against all this, no doubt, they sternly set their faces, and indeed, instead of feasting and good cheer on their December 25th, they set soberly to work to build their first common house, cutting greenery indeed, but not for decoration, and dining abstemiously on the stores that they had shipped months before in England.
One can but believe that had they for a few bright holidays put their fears behind them with their solemnity and celebrated their own safe landing with a few roasted turkeys, a few boiled cod and some clam soup, eaten in an evergreen-decorated cabin of their good ship, or about a barbecue fire on shore, they might have taken a step toward warding off the sickness which was even then fastening itself upon them.
But they certainly did not, and in visiting their landing-place on their landing-day and trying to see the world here as they then saw it, one must put such riotous thoughts out of mind, as he must put the great present-day town out of it. Those two things aside on any before Christmas week it is possible to see the landing-place of the Pilgrims much as they saw it, to feel the same stormy weather sweep across the same sea and to see landward the same hills clad with dark forests tossing their giant branches and seeming to hold much of mystery and dread.
To know just a little of what they saw and felt one need but to stand on the brow of Manomet Head when a December night lowers and the northeast wind is hurling the surf on the rocks out of "a very grown sea. Last night I heard the pines sing again. A winter midnight was on the woods, while a northeaster smote the coast, a dozen miles away, with the million sledges of the surf.
So mighty was the story of this smiting that for long I thought the pines sang of nothing else. In places and at times they told it with astonishing fidelity. A forty-mile gale muttered and grumbled to itself high in air above. Its voice was that of the gale anywhere when unobstructed. You may hear it at sea or ashore, a hubbub of tones indistinguishable as gust shoulders against gust and grumbles about it. In the quiet at the bottom of the wood I could hear this, too, especially at times when the wind lifted above the pine tops, leaving them in hushed expectancy of the story to come, a telling oratorical pause.
For a little the voice of the gale itself would come burbling down into the momentary stillness, then with a gasp at the awesomeness of the tale the pines would take up the story again. In it there was none of the dainty romance the boughs will weave for the listener who cares to know their language of a sunny summer afternoon, little stories of tropic seas, of nodding sails and of flying fish that spring from the foam beneath the forefoot and skim the purple waves. This song was an epic of the age-long battle between the sea and the shore, a song without words, but told so well in tone that it was easy, seeing nothing there in the black shadow of the wood, yet to see it all; the jagged horizon against the sullen sky, the streaks of mottled foam sliding landward along the weltering backs of black waves, spinning into sea drift at every wind-sheared crest, and blowing, soft as wool, in rolling masses far inland.
It was easy to see the greatest crests rear and draw back, showing the roots of the ledges among boulders brown with weed and sea wrack, then swing forward with seemingly irresistible might, to be shattered as if their crystal was that of glass and to fly skyward a hundred feet, scintillant white star drift of comminuted sea. The crash of such waves on such rocks, the hollow diapason of their like on sands, and the shrill roar of a pebbly beach torn and tossed by the waves, all sprang from nothingness into vibrant being there in the black woods as the gale shouldered by the pine tops.
There is a point where the pines group on the pond shore and look expectantly east, wistful of the sea. Here they caught the full force of the gale and sang mightily, a wild, deep-toned, marching symphony of crashing forces. Now and then a lull came, as comes in the fiercest gales, and in the vast silence which ensued I heard the pines across the pond singing antiphonally. Black as it was under the trees, there was a moon behind the night.
No suggestion of it showed through the clouds, yet from the pond surface itself came a weird twilight, filtered no doubt through a mile of flying scud a mile above, reflected from the wind-swept surface and showing these distant pines lifting heads of murk against the murky sky. But their antiphonal shout was no pine-voiced song of the sea, it was the sea itself.
Again and again I listened in successive lulls. I could not believe it the pines. I heard so surely the rush of waves, the deep boom of beating surges, all the mingled clangor of the on-shore gale, that I thought through some atmospheric trick I was listening to the thing itself; the uproar swept over the hills a dozen miles inland. Only by marching up the pond shore until the pines across were south instead of east of me did I prove to myself that it was they and not the sea in very truth that I heard.
Back again in the Stygian darkness of the grove it was easy to note how the pines protect their own. On the beach the smothering onrush of the gale beat me down, drove me before it. Yet I had but to walk inland a dozen yards to find a calm. The outermost trees shunted the gale and half the time it did not touch even the tops of those a hundred feet in. Walking out into the midnight storm, I had wondered how it fared with the small folk of the forest. So fierce was the onslaught of the wind that it seemed as if the birds might be blown from their roosts, the squirrels shaken from their nests.
Under the shelter of the trees themselves I knew they were as safe as I from any harm from the wind. There was not enough of it below the tree-tops to ruffle a feather. To lay one's ear closely and firmly against the trunk of one of these pines was to curiously get an inkling of what was going on far up among the branches. It is quite like listening at a telephone receiver, the wood like the wire bringing to the ear sound of many things going on within touch of it.
Thus placed, I was conscious that the seemingly immobile tree swayed rhythmically, just the very slightest swaying in the world, and this I seemed to hear. It was as if the slight readjustment of the woody fibre gave me a faint thrumming sound, a tiny music of motion that was a delight to the ear after the beat and bellow of the gale beyond. Twigs rapped one upon another, making little crisp sounds. Most surprising of all, however, was a tinkling tattoo of musical notes as if a dryad within were tapping out woodland melodies on a xylophone. I listened long to this.
It was not exactly a comfortable position. To hear I must press, and the tree bark was hard and the rain ran down the trunk and into my ear. Yet the music was exquisite, a little runic rhyme, repeated over and over again with quaint variations but with neither beginning nor end. It was wonderfully wild and fairylike.
Who would stop for water in his ear or a pain in the lobe of it? Midnight, the middle of the gale, the middle of the woods; perhaps here was that very opening into the realm of the unseen woodland folk that we all in our inmost hearts hope for and expect some day to find. It may have been the dryad, playing the xylophone for a dance unseen by my gross mortal eyes, but if my water-logged ear did not deceive me-and I hope it did-it was only the beat of the big drops of rain on the twigs above, clarified and made resonant by its passage through the vibrant wood to my ear.
At any rate, it was a most delightful musical entertainment of which I fancy myself the discoverer, and I hope it was the dryad. He who reads may believe as he will. Beyond the pines I found the wind in the woods. Among the bare limbs of the deciduous growth the storm wailed and clattered its way on about my head as I felt out the path with my feet for a half mile to a pine-crowned hilltop. Again I was in sanctuary. The hilltop carried us up-the pines and me-into the full sweep of the gale, yet under their spreading, beneficent arms I felt no breath of wind.
Overhead I noted its own wild voice as, very near and right with it in chorus, the pines sang, swaying in time to their music as I have seen a rapt singer do. Strangely enough, in their tones up here I could hear no cry of the sea. They sang instead the tumult of the sky, the vast loneliness of distant spaces, something of the deep-toned threnody of the ancient universe, mourning for worlds now dark.
Something of this the gale drew from the pines as it crowded by, but never once did its fiercest gusts disturb the serenity of the sanctuary beneath.
A foot or two down from their topmost boughs was shelter for the crows, snugged down on a lee limb, close to the trunk, their feathers set to shed such rain as might strike them, their long black beaks thrust beneath their wings, rocked in the cradle of the deep woods, sung to sleep by their lullaby of the primal universe. There was little need to waste sympathy on them or on any other little folk of the forest who had for their shelter the brooding arms of these beneficent trees stretched above them. Pines are the great, deep-breasted mothers of the woods, giving food and shelter from sun and storm to all who will come to them.
Prolific mothers they are, too, and if man with his axe and his fire would but spare them they would in a generation or two reclothe our Massachusetts waste lands with their kind once more. Recklessly as the generations have destroyed them, sweeping often great tracts bare of every noble trunk, leaving the slash piled high for the fire to complete the destruction of the axe, they still persist, pushing the greenwood with its fluffy plumes right to our dooryards. Let the ploughed field lie fallow for a decade and see them come, loyal little folk preparing the way for them, as the trolls of ancient tales worked for those they loved.
Into the brown furrows troop the goldenrod and asters, the wild grasses and brambles making a first shelter for the seeds of gray birch and wild cherry that magically come and plant themselves. A thousand other forms of life, beast and bird and insect, make the place their home; all preparing it for the nursing of the young pines to came.
However rough has been the work of the wood cutters, however persistent the forest fires, somewhere is a seed pine standing, ready to spear the turf a mile away with brawn javelins out of whose wounds shall spring trees, just as out of the Cadmus-sown dragon's teeth of old sprang armed men.
The tree may be a century-old gnarled trunk, too crooked and knotty to be worthy the woodman's axe, or a verdant sprout of a score of years' standing, green and lusty-the result will be the same. When the seeding year comes the brown cones will open and the winds will bear the germs of the new growth forth, spinning down the gale, whichever way they list to blow.
The tiny pines that result may live for three or four years amongst the brambles unnoticed, then suddenly they take heart and grow and we find a lusty forest coming along. At three years they will not be over ten inches high, but they will make ten inches in height the next year, and after the fifth they stride forward like lusty youths, glorifying in their increase. It is not uncommon for them to stretch up three feet a year, more than doubling their height in that sixth year in which they strike their stride.
They do not cease this upward striving as long as they live. After the age of sixty or so the pine may be said to have passed the heyday of its youth, no longer increasing so rapidly in height and girth, yet the increase goes on, if more sedately. The tree rarely reaches a height of more than feet and a diameter of more than forty inches. The largest ever measured by the Forestry Department of the United States was forty-eight inches in diameter at breast high and feet in height, containing cubic feet of wood in its mighty trunk. It will be some time before seedlings in the bramble patch here in Massachusetts reach that size, however, for this tree was years old.
It grew among trees of similar age in a pine forest in Michigan. Yet New England pines have matched it, and more. Writing in , Emerson tells of trees here feet in height and six feet in diameter. One in Lancaster, New Hampshire, measured feet. Fifty years before that trees in Blandford measured when they were felled feet in length. The upper waters of the Penobscot were long the home of mighty pine trees where it was no uncommon thing to hew masts 70 to 90 feet in length.
In one was hewed there 90 feet in length, 36 inches in diameter at the butt and 28 inches at the top. Such trees have passed, now, almost from the memory of living man. Could we have them here in our State they would be worshipped as were the druidical trees of ancient European countries and the place of their standing would be made a park that they might be visited by all, rich or poor.
It seems a pity that our ancestors could not have thought of this. It would have been so easy for them to let clumps of these wonderful old pines stand, here and there. It is so impossible for us to bring one of them back, with all our wealth and all our learning. If we may believe the geologists the pines were the original tree inhabitants of our land, massing it in their dark green from mountain top to sea shore. Suddenly no one knows whence, the oaks and other deciduous trees appeared among them and in part drove them out of the richer soils. This is the more strange as pines rarely root deeply.
The roots, even of old trees seventy to one hundred feet in height, rarely go into the earth more than two or three feet, taper rapidly and extend not usually over twenty feet on every side. In young trees twenty or twenty-five feet tall the roots do not penetrate more than fifteen or eighteen inches, yet great old trees stand alone in pasture and on hilltop, exposed to all the fury of the fiercest gales, rarely if ever blown down. The structure of yielding limbs that swing so that the gusts glance on their plumes, and the needle-like leaves that let the torrents of air slip through them, is no doubt the reason for this.
The outermost pines of the grove shoulder the gale away from the others, yet let it slip by themselves, giving it no grip whereby to tear them up. The resinous roots of the tree not only suffice to hold it upright against the storm, but they last long after the trunk has been cut away. Our forefathers in clear land used to set the uprooted stumps of the pine up in rows for fencing, unsightly barricades that would persist for a century with little sign of decay.
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On the other hand, wood from the trunk set in the ground soon decays. Of the great trees centuries old that once clothed our land from Newfoundland to the Dakotas, from northern New Brunswick to southern Pennsylvania, few if any remain. Nor shall anyone see their like here again for centuries. But the pines are coming back again to New England. We know their values now as never before and we are encouraging them to reclothe our solitudes both for their commercial and their sentimental value. This last is great and grows greater, nor need one necessarily go into the storm at midnight to appreciate it.
One may get some phases of it there, though, that are not to be found elsewhere. My way home through the storm was rough and wet, but it was not lonely. The songs of the pines went with me, especially the tinkling xylophone dance music of the dryad, deep within the ancient trunk. It is fabled that nine hundred years ago the Norsemen riding the white horses of the shoals, dismounted upon Nantucket, its original European discoverers.
But this is hardly to be believed, for they did not stay there. Conditions the world over have changed much since the day of the Vikings, but still today he who comes to Nantucket must emulate them, and ride the same white horses of the shoals, for they surround the island and prance for the modern steamer as they did for the long Norse ships with the weird figure-heads and the bulwarks of shields. Blown down from New Bedford by a rough nor'wester we plunged through the green rollers south of Hedge Fence shoals, wallowed among the white surges of Cross Rip, and found level water only between the black jetties of Nantucket harbor, where in the roar of bursting waves the white spindrift fluffed and drifted across like dry snow on a January day.
Within lies the old town, more sedately and unconsciously its very self in April than at any other time of year. The scalloping is done, prohibited by law after the first and the dredges no longer vex the sandy shallows of the land-locked harbor behind gray Coatue. The summer visitor has not yet come and the town is its very, peaceful, indeed slumbrous self. The bustle of the day comes with the arrival of the steamer at four o'clock. From then until darkness falls Main street is busy. The curfew, falling in sweet tones from the old watch tower, voiced by the silver-tongued "Lisbon bell," lulls all to sleep, and indeed long before that only an occasional footfall resounds from the flagging.
At seven the same bell rouses all to the morning's leisurely bustle, and again at twelve it rings a noon somnolence in upon Main street that is even more startling to the stranger than the evening quiet. For the full length of the noon hour one may stand at the door of the Pacific Bank and look down the broad cobble-paved, elm-shaded stretch of Main street to the door of the Pacific Club and be quite deafened by a step on the brick sidewalk and fairly shy at the shadow of a passer, so lone is the place. If it were not for the travelling salesmen, a score or so of whom come in with every boat, flood with their tiny tide the two hotels that are open and ebb again the next morning with the outgoing boat, there were even less visible life at this season.
Yet Nantucket has today a permanent population of about three thousand, which is swelled to thrice that number when the summer hegira is at its height. That means, including the island, which is at once all one town and with a few tiny off-shoot islands along its shore, all one county, the only instance in Massachusetts where county and town have the same boundaries.
Geologically Nantucket is a terminal moraine, a great hill of till which the once all-prevalent glacier scraped from the mainland and dropped where it now lifts clay cliffs and stretches sandy shoals to the warm waves of the Gulf Stream. Bostonians who know their geology should feel at home in Nantucket, for, while it is superficially allied to Cape Cod, the pebbles of the stratified gravel on the north being in a large part derived from the group of granite rocks known on the neighboring mainland, perhaps half of the mass being of that nature, the remainder is of the felsite and felsite-porphyries so common in the region about Boston.
Here and there are a few big boulders, believed by geologists to have been dropped by stranding icebergs and without doubt natives of Greenland. The island holds vegetation also imported from far distant areas and established long before man, civilized man at least, came to it. On favored uplands one finds the Scotch heather and he might think it had been brought by the loving hand of some Scotchman were it not for the fact that the earliest settlers found it here. They came, these earliest settlers, in , Thomas Macy and his wife, Edward Starbuck, James Coffin and Isaac Coleman, a boy of twelve, storm-tossed about Cape Cod and over the shoals, all the way from Salisbury.
For them the merrymen breakers on the shoals danced as they do for the incomers of today. They were not sailors, not even the master of the ship. Perhaps that is why they kept on to the end of the two hundred-mile voyage. At any rate, they did, and they found the Scotch heather here. Here, too, one finds another strange plant, plentiful over on the sandy peninsula of Coatue, the Opuntia or prickly pear, a variety of cactus common enough in Mexico and portions of our Southwest, but surprising on this island. In these two plants at least east and west stand face to face across Nantucket harbor, the cactus holding the sandspit to the north, the heather on the main island to the south.
In April the prickly pear is as ugly as sin to the eye with its lobster-claw growth, uglier still to the hand with its steel-pointed thorns, but later it will put forth wonderful yellow, wild-rose like blooms in rich profusion, making up for all its dourness. Professor Asa Gray, the distinguished botanist of a half century ago, used to say that nothing in the way of plant life could surprise him on Nantucket. Probably this juxtaposition of cactus and heather prompted the feeling. Nantucket town straggles from beach to hilltop and along shore at its own sweet will, gradually merging into wind-swept moreland on the south and east and west.
Here, again, Bostonians should be at home, for the streets grew no doubt from cow-paths winding leisurely from house to pasture, and down them at night, even now, some of them, the cows stray and nibble on the homeward way. I fancy no town so individual in its characteristics still remains in the State. The very pavements smack of it. Here is an old-time cobblestone, then long, smooth stretches of asphalt. Again, just dirt, and the three meet and mingle in stretches long and short, in whose variations one seeks in vain for a reason.
So with side-walks, brick passes to flagging, to asphalt, to dirt and back again in the distance of half a block. And even the brick changesoften and suddenly. Here it lies flat, ten feet along it is on edge, perhaps ten feet further on end. A blind man could know his exact location in any part of the town simply by the sound of his own footfall on the sidewalk surface beneath him.
So it is with the houses, and I fancy in this lies one great charm of the town to the city-bored summer visitor. No doubt every old sea dog was his own architect, and the houses show it from main truck to keelson. Yet hardly in a single instance is the result displeasing, within or without, above decks or below.
Instead, there is a fine harmony of contrasts that delights while it rests. As for location, it would seem as if each shipmaster, once he had the structure launched, brought her up at full tide and let her lie just where she stranded when the ebb began. So they rest today, jumbled together in friendly neighborliness or slipping down the tide toward the harbor on the one hand and toward the wide high seas of the downs on the other.
The town melts into the open either way and belongs to it, merging gently with no possibility of shock or rudeness. So it is with the people, the real Nantucketers. Each intensely individual they yet blend in a wholesome harmonious whole that joins the outside world with little friction. The sailor instinct is strong in them, and they bring their barks alongside the dock or the stranger with a pleasant hail and without a jar. As the silver-toned Lisbon bell of the Unitarian church tower dominates the sounds of the town so the gilt dome of this church tower dominates the town to the eye of the inbound mariner, as he swings round Brant Point.
So, too, in more than one way, since its building in , this strong tower has dominated the home life of the city. Its glassed-in crow's nest has been the city's watch tower for a century and more. And so in a measure it is today. The fire alarm system, now modern and electric, warns of fire by its means, summoning the firemen to boxes by numbers rung. Yet only a few years ago the old tower was literally a watch-tower, occupied always by one of three superannuated seamen who watched for fires, and seeing one rang the bell and shouted the location to the fire department.
One stood watch in the glassed-in octagon above. Two sat by the fire and smoked in a room in the belfry below. If the wind was in the east they put the stove pipe out of a hole in the west side of the tower. If it blew from the west the stove pipe was readily changed to a windowpane on the east side. From the crow's nest to the church roof this old tower is pencilled and carved with the names of Nantucketers, written in for the last hundred years and many an otherwise forgotten man and event is thus recorded for the use of future historians.
Yet it is safe to say that no man of all the island dwellers ever did or ever will tread the stairs or look from the octagonal windows with a more intense individuality than that of Billy Clark, Nantucket's town crier, now lamentably dead since Each afternoon he climbed to the crow's nest with horn under his arm to watch for the daily incoming steamer.
He could sight it about an hour before it would dock and as soon as he did the horn blew grandly and his voice rang out over the town in a rhyme, doubtless of his own composing. And so she would, and before she touched the dock Billy deftly caught a bundle of Boston papers and racing uptown sold them all before the passengers were off the boat, unless they moved quickly. But these were but a few of Billy's multitudinous activities. He cried auctions and sales, entertainments of all sorts and if for any reason a public affair must be suddenly postponed the quickest way to get the news about was to slip a half dollar to Billy who forthwith cried the matter with amazing celerity and vehemence from all the street corners, tooting his horn between whiles to get the attention of all.
Weekly or oftener Billy used to cry meat auctions in the lower square, which have always been a Nantucket institution; at these one bids for his first choice of cuts and having bid highest is allowed such portions and such amounts of the "critter" as he pleases. Billy Clark made much money, as money was reckoned in his day on the island but he had no faculty for keeping it or even keeping account of it. For thirty years his returns for his newspapers sold were made from time to time to the Boston office in, seemingly, such sums as struck his fancy as being appropriate.
These were more than adequate for by and by the office sent down word, "Tell Billy Clark for heaven's sake to quit sending us money: He is too far ahead of us. As might have been expected Nantucket's town crier died poor and would have been in want had not a subscription paper been started for him by the local paper. This, made up in large part by summer visitors and off-islanders, amounted to several hundred dollars, and at the end there were forty dollars left with which to buy him a tombstone.
I have not seen this tombstone. It ought to have a horn neatly graven, but I suppose it has not. The town misses him, needs him, more than one citizen says that, but so individualistic a place makes no attempt to get another.
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There is something of the Quaker idea in that, for though the island was once a great Quaker stronghold few if any of the old sect remain. But it is the Quaker idea. A new town crier will arrive when the spirit moves. Till then the horn is silent. An off-islander might suppose that the town crier was appointed in town meeting as is the fence-viewer, the sealer of weights and measures, the pound-keeper and the hog-reeve.
But that is not so. Billy Clark evolved himself, so to speak, and the town patiently waits a second coming. From the watch tower one looks down many-flued chimneys and sees a score or so of railed-in platforms on the very housetops, often surrounding the chimney.
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These are the "shipmaster's walks," often known as the "wives' walks. I fancy them too high, too breezy and too conspicuous for much walking by these. Thence one may see the island round, and get a broad view of the open downs to southward that tempt one to tramp, seeking the edge of the Gulf Stream, led by the steady roar of its breakers pulsing against the clay cliffs.
On the downs one gets a sense of the whole of the island as nowhere else. Here it is a ship at sea, unsinkable and steady, blown upon by the free winds of all the world. In the half-gale out of the west I note the smell of the shoals, a suggestion of bilge in the brine, not altogether pleasant. I fancy a heavy sea stirs the slimy depths and brings their ooze uppermost. I had noticed this from an incoming liner's deck when off the lightship before, but charged it to the ship.
Now I know it for a strange odor of the sea. It makes me half believe the humorous, oft-told tale of skipper Hackett, who knew his location by tasting the ooze on the tip of the lead. He who. In a northwest gale the Nantucketer, though far to the southeast, should be able to locate the shoals and steer home by the smell of the wind.
On less uproarious days one gets all along the downs the rich, ozonic odor of the deep sea for a fundamental delight.
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And always with it are the perfumes of the blossoming land. There is tradition of heavy oak timbers once growing on Nantucket, but only the tradition remains. Here now are low forests of stunted pitch pines, sending their rich resinous aroma on all winds. Arid in late April with these comes the spicy smell of the trailing arbutus, which hides all along the ground among poverty weed, gray cladium moss, and Indian wood grass, sometimes starring the mossy mats of mealy-plum with the pinky-white of its blooms.
The mealy-plum itself shows faint coral edging of pink young buds, and here and there a thistle plant, stemless as yet, looks like a green and bristly starfish in the grass. Isolated red cedars on this wind-swept down grow round balls of dense green foliage four or five feet in diameter, looking as if it needed but a blow of an axe at the butt to send them rolling down wind like big tumble weeds. Scrub oaks curiously take the same form, and clumps of bayberry, black huckleberries and sweet fern are often rounded off to hemispheres.
Four silver-toned strokes from the old Lisbon bell in the watch tower warn of dawn in Nantucket in late April. This bell was one of six cast in a Lisbon, Portugal, foundry, intended for a Portugal convent of much renown. In , Captain Charles Clasby of Nantucket visited this foundry, bought the bell, which had not yet been dedicated, sending it to the island in the whaleship William and Nancy, Captain Thomas Cary, and in it was hung in the tower.
Soon after the stroke of four the sparrows begin to chatter, but before long one hears through their uproar the clear whistle of meadow larks. These flit familiarly about the lower levels of the town singing from gate-post or shed-roof all day long and on the downs they vie with the song sparrows in breaking the lone silence of the place. Save for these, a crow or two and the shadow of a sailing hawk, the uplands lack bird life in April.
He who would see birds in plenty, as well as much other wild life, should go over Maddeket way and sit on the shore of Long Pond. There I found the bushy swales alive with marsh birds. Blackbirds gurgled all about. The reedy shallows held many bitterns whose sepulchral "Cahugancagunk, cahungancagunk" sounded ventriloqually from the reeds. Coot, sea duck, loons, black duck, grebes, dotted the surface of the pond and in all the sandy shallows spawning alewives splashed and played-thousands of them.
I had thought spawning a serious business with fish, not to be entered upon lightly or without due consideration. Yet these made a veritable romp of it. And in the crystal clear air overhead, swept clean of all city soot, soared a marsh hawk or two and an osprey. There was more than clarity to this atmosphere.
It had an elusive, mirage-creating quality that made the osprey look startlingly large as he soared near. It was enough to make one remember the roc that Sindbad saw and get under cover. But he took an alewive instead of me. All along the island in the steep of the sun the air had this magnifying quality. It loomed the white headstones in the cemetery on the hill back of the town till they seemed bigger than the town itself, symbolic perhaps of how large a proportion of its former glory lies here. Nantucket's one boat out at this time of year leaves at seven in the morning.
From its deck across its churning wake the most conspicuous building is the old watch tower whose gilded dome gleams friendlily. And as the beams of the morning sun strikes this, like the tower of Memnon, it gives forth music, the silver-tongued call of the old Lisbon bell. It seems the spirit of Nantucket born of its warm spring sun, its soft winds and the friendly lives of the islanders themselves, a pleading that echoes long in the memory and that few can resist.
The Pilgrims might have been envied their discovery of Cape Cod if they had come in the spring of the year. As it was, though they hailed it with joy, it being land anyway, yet they must have found it inexpressibly lonesome and spooky. To the newcomer it is apt to be a ghostly sort of place at any time of year, unless mayhap he be from some similar strand, for its rolling sand hills are swept by winds that wail, and beaten by a sea that grumbles when it does not cry aloud. At the time of year when Standish and his men patrolled its beaches, it is no wonder they saw savages behind every liliputian pitch pine and heard them shouting in the wind and sea.
So far as the records go the Icelanders came first of all and Thorfinn Karlsefne, who set sail about A. A much later explorer tells how the curious atmospheric effects made the land seem to tip up in front of him in whichever direction he walked, making level land and even downhill look like uphill, so uplifting is the Cape air.
Gosnold was perhaps the first Englishman to set foot there, doing it first in and coming again, as we all must, once we know the region. Gosnold and his men got the eerie feel of the place too when the winter approached. They colonized Cuttyhunk and did very well through the summer, digging sassafras by day and retreating to their fort on the little island in the pond on the bigger island every time the goblins chased them: But the shouting of warlocks in the autumn gales was too much for them and they reembarked for England, glad to get away from the land which was so beautiful and so strange.
A dozen years later came Captain John Smith, who feared neither man nor devil, and who saw nothing unprosaic about the place. As mariner and cartographer to him it was a cape, and nothing more. The Cape is made of the main sea on one side, and a great bay on the other in the form of a sickle. On it doth inhabit the people of Pawmet, and in the bottom of the Bay those of Chawum.
The bottom of the bay means the region of Barnstable and west, and the people of "Chawum" were the Indians of that region. The word sounds dangerous and suggests cannibals, which I do not believe the Indians were, even in those days. Perhaps it refers to their chief, who may well have been an aboriginal Dr. The word "hurts" is more difficult to dispose of but I find it was just his way-and indeed the way of the English of his time-of saying huckleberry. That delectable fruit which is so common on the Cape ought to have a name more significant of its delectability, but perhaps the original sponsors ate it before it was ripe, or too much.
Hurts is short for hurtleberry, which is another way of writing whortleberry, the correct old English form which we have since corrupted into huckleberry. That Smith should, have classed the Cape huckleberries as "such trash" is proper cause for a riot. Two and a half centuries later came Thoreau, the very prince of explorers, for he can take one over well trodden ways and through familiar fields and show him India and the Arctic regions.
Patagonia and Panama in one sweeping glance along a sand hill. Cape Cod was as full of romance of remote regions as was Concord. He, too, notes the mirage. Later, when approaching the seashore several degrees south of this, I saw before me, seemingly half a mile distant, what appeared like bold and rugged cliffs on the beach fifteen feet high and whitened by the sun and waves; but after a few steps it proved to be low heaps of rags-part of the cargo of a wrecked vessel-scarcely more than a foot in height.
Writing of the dunes, which seem always about to overwhelm Provincetown, he says, "Some say that while the Government is planting beach grass behind the town for the protection of the harbor, the inhabitants are rolling the sand into the harbor in wheel-barrows, in order to make houselots," which seems characteristic of the beach grass, the harbor and the Cape Cod spirit of making the most of real estate opportunities to this day.
Formerly the cows were permitted to go at large, and they ate many strands of the cable by which the Cape is moored, and well-nigh set it adrift, as the bull did the boat that was moored by a grass rope, but now they are not permitted to wander. All of which would seem to prove that Thoreau liked to crack a sly joke at the region he loved, as well as do the rest of us. The other day I too crossed the Cape, not exactly in Thoreau's footsteps but through the region of the "Chawums," which, I take it, are the Mashpees of later days.
The trail began at East Sandwich where the sandy road crosses the State highway and goes on up the sandhills, always with the blue of the sea teasing from behind the keen javelin of the north wind pushing me on southward. It was wonderful, that blue of the cold, wind-beaten sea. It shone through the maze of mingled twigs for miles till I finally lost it in topping the plateau, passing from loose sand to clayey bottom and fairer growth in moister and more fertile soil. One fascination of the region comes in the fact that in a few rods one leaves all trace of civilization behind, unless one may call the narrow road a trace, and traverses the Cape Cod wilderness for mile on mile, just such a wilderness as Thorfinn Karlsefne may have tramped in armor with spear and crossbow of his day, such as Myles Standish and his men shivered through or Verrazani and Captain John Smith marched over and mapped.
Pitch pines, small oaks of many varieties with an undergrowth "trash" of "hurts" and scrub oaks make up the forest which presses narrow cart paths and hangs over them. All the way up the slope the persistent chill of the north wind filled the air with the tonic tang of brine and held back the gray-green mist of leaves that strained at the buds, eager to be out. In hollows the spring had come. On ridges it delayed, finding the auguries unfavorable and waiting a new voice from file altar. But wherever the sun shone in and the wind was stayed it had loosed the butterflies that soared or flitted or flipped about in joy of long awaited warmth.
Broad wings of gold-margined, brown Vanessa antiopa soared serenely along under overarching white oaks. These were sprites of the deep forest. None were visible in the town margin, though perhaps it was the sweep of the north wind that kept them away.
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Bird regions, too, showed a definite demarcation. In the orchards and open fields of the town were the home-loving birds, bluebirds, robins, song and other sparrows, swallows, and in the marshes the red-wing blackbirds. Not one of these did I see after leaving the open spaces behind.
The avifauna of the scrub-oak underbrush and of the white oak and pitch-pine trees overhead was as distinct as that of a new continent. A flight of pine warblers was on and the oaks and pitch pines were alive with them. The juncos had gone north to nest in flocks of thousands, in a wonder of full song, all eagerly pressing on towards the hills but they left their songs behind them, as it were, to be sung by the other birds.
In the pastures and cultivated fields the chipping sparrows, newly arrived from the South, took up the trill with an accent of their own, and all the pine warblers sang it, each with an individuality that slightly but clearly marked him from his fellow. I think all birds show this slight but definite individuality in manner and voice and are probably known to their neighbors of the same clan, as we are, each by his voice.
And even so simple and definite a thing as the pine warbler's song may be varied by the individual singer from time to time.
I heard one fine bird singing in the stereotyped form. As he sang a flicker flicked in the distance. Whereupon the pine warbler sang again, the same trill but with a tittering twang about it that just jocosely imitated the flicker. I saw no other warbler or other bird near enough to be the beneficiary of this joke.
He did it just for himself, and his motions as he flew over to the next tree seemed a visible chuckle that ended in a saucy flirt of the two white tall feathers which are one distinguishing mark of the bird in flight. The wood warblers disappeared at the border line of the open fields at Wakeby and the home-loving birds appeared again in numbers, robins, bluebirds, swallows and the sparrow kind. The downy woodpeckers and flickers, to be sure, passed to and from both zones, though they, too, seemed to love the trees of the open rather than those of the deeper wood, but in the main the boundary line, as usual, was quite distinctly marked.