Your face as you listen to the roar of the water and

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your face as you listen to the roar of the water and gaze up toward the sky through a rainbow that hovers just out of reach. Remember this too: looking out across a desert canyon in the evening air, the only sound a lone raven calling in the distance, the rock walls dropping away into a chasm so deep that its bottom all but vanishes as you squint into the amber light of the setting sun. And this: the moment beside the trail as you sit on a sandstone ledge, your boots damp with the morning dew while you take in the rich smell of the pines, and the small red fox-or maybe for you it was a raccoon or a coyote or a deer-that suddenly ambles across your path, stopping for a long moment to gaze in your direction with cautious indifference before continuing on its way. Remember the feelings of such moments, and you will know as well as I do that you were in the presence of something irreducibly nonhuman, something profoundly Other than yourself. Wilderness is made of that too. And yet: what brought each of us to the places where such memories became possible is entirely a cultural invention. Go back 250 years in American and Euro- pean history, and you do not find nearly so many people wandering around remote corners of the planet looking for what today we would call "the wilderness experi- ence." As late as the eighteenth century, the most common usage of the word "wilder- ness" in the English language referred to landscapes that generally carried adjectives far different from the ones they attract today. To be a wilderness then was to be "de- serted," "savage," "desolate," "barren"-in short, a "waste," the word's nearest syn- onym. Its connotations were anything but positive, and the emotion one was most likely to feel in its presence was "bewilderment" or terror.' Many of the word's strongest associations then were biblical, for it is used over and over again in the King James Version to refer to places on the margins of civilization where it is all too easy to lose oneself in moral confusion and despair. The wilderness was where Moses had wandered with his people for forty years, and where they had nearly abandoned their God to worship a golden idol.3 "For Pharaoh will say of the Children of Israel," we read in Exodus, "They are entangled in the land, the wilder- ness hath shut them in."4 The wilderness was where Christ had struggled with the devil and endured his temptations: "And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness for forty days tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him."5 The "delicious Para- dise" of John Milton's Eden was surrounded by "a steep wilderness, whose hairy sides /Access denied" to all who sought entry.6 When Adam and Eve were driven from that This content downloaded from 132.174.254.159 on Fri, 07 Dec 2018 02:14:07 UTC All use subject to
Wilderness 9 garden, the world they entered was a wilderness that only their labor and pain could redeem. Wilderness, in short, was a place to which one came only against one's will,

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