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THE TRAIL HOME by John Daniel



by John Daniel

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-679-41209-3
Publisher: Pantheon

 Thoughtful, plain-spoken nature essays, mostly about the Pacific Northwest. Poet Daniel introduces his prose with a slew of short and amiable, although unremarkable, essays on such subjects as planting a garden, hiking the High Sierra, battling a pack rat in the house, and writing poetry about nature. In several outings, however, Daniel shows considerable originality, force, and descriptive art. In ``The Impoverishment of Sightseeing,'' he tours Yosemite in a bus with his mother, contrasting the static images passing by the window with his compelling view when climbing a rock face--the cracks and tiny nubbins in front of his face and the bright granite valley always flaring in the periphery. Moving from bus excursions to TV as a way of seeing nature, Daniel points out that ``we give up the active moments of awareness--glancing around, comparing, looking long or only briefly--to the autocratic screen.'' The reality of nature-- without images preselected and framed for visual impact--can appear lifeless and disappointing, he says, when one's consciousness has been trained by TV. ``The Long Dance of the Trees'' eloquently evokes old-growth forests, particularly in the Northwest. Thousand-year-old Douglas firs tower over smaller trees, giants in themselves--western hemlock, red cedar--the canopy diffusing a soft radiance of light down to the earlier tree generations rotting on the forest floor, covered with mosses, lichens, truffles, and mushrooms. The timber companies, having clear-cut their own lands, have every year pressed for higher cuts of these forests on public lands, until only 15% of original old-growth forest is left in Douglas fir country. To Daniel, the economic ``growth we hold practically sacred is in fact a self-centered adolescence we'd do well to put behind us.'' A voice that's fresh, self-reflective, and free of cant: a welcome debut.