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II SCENES OF WONDER ENCOUNTERS WITH THE PRESENT Beehive Geyser by Thomas Moran, from Scribner’s Monathly, June, 1871 FOR MANY people, I suspect, the past and the future cease to be (for some few, indeterminate moments at least) upon their first view of the Grand Canyon. The Canyon- with a capital C–is, and therefore is the capital-P Present. Nothing else exists, standing on the rim for the first time. Much of the world's best literature is predicated upon such all- encompassing encounters, but instead of a natural wonder, the meeting is with some part of humanity-a character, a city, an event. There is no doubt that, "like walking for the first time into Notre Dame or the Sainte Chapelle of Paris, there is a sensory shock in seeing the redwoods, the Grand Tetons, or Mount Rainier that dazzles all but the deadest souls." And yet, as the contemporary writer Joseph L. Sax goes on to say, "the initial experience is not long sustained when it is nothing more than amazement at a stupendous visual prospect." How does one get from the sheen of amazement to the soul of wonder? It is not easy. One must have something that all good writers have: the desire to question one's self. In each of the selections in this part of the book, awe is the catalyst for introspection, and the scenes of wonder are not ends unto themselves. Mary Roberts Rinehart RIDE THE ROCKIES AND SAVE YOUR SOUL The term "writing with a purpose" could not be more aptly applied than to the beginning of Mary Roberts Rinehart's career as an author. Trained as a nurse, she took up writing in 1903 to redeem her family's finances from heavy stock market losses. Her mystery stories were an immediate and phenomenal success. Rinehart is generally credited with originating the humorous mystery novel, sometimes called the “had–I–but– known" school of writing. The continuing popularity of mysteries based on humor and
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ingenuity shows that Rinehart's formula is a lasting one. Rinehart loved new places and new people; her experiences as a correspondent in Europe are reflected in some of her several travel books. With her independent cast of mind and love of the outdoors, she was inevitably drawn to the physical challenges of the great wilderness parks of the West. Besides, she was ashamed to be forever meeting Europeans who knew more of the United States than she did. “I had never been west of the Mississippi,” she later told her readers in The Ladies' Home Journal , “never slept on the ground, knew rain only as something to keep off or out of, and water mostly as something that came out of a faucet”; now, “I take a course of national park each year as some people take a course of baths or medicine.” Not the least important thing Rinehart offered in her parks articles, aside from characteristic humor, was encouragement to women readers to follow her lead. Perhaps the main message of the following selection, taken from a long Collier' s article from 1916, is that national parks are diverse enough to be places of self-discovery for
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