Now nearing his 70th birthday, Vermont poet laureate Lea (A Hundred Himalayas: Essays on Life and Literature, 2012, etc.) meditates on the role of people and place in his life and pays tribute to the many woodsmen (and women) who were his guides and mentors.
“I’ve always been intrigued by the blending of natural and human worlds—or rather by the dramatic illustration of that blending,” writes the author in this account of a number of the salty characters, many now deceased, who played a part in his life, many of whom he has described in previously published essays. Here, their stories help him chronicle his life and share his deep love for the northern New England woodlands and his passion for hunting and fishing. He describes with gusto his epic combats as a fly fisherman when he was a “hyper-hormonal young man,” and he is unapologetic about his love of hunting, which he describes as a “life-long passion.” Lea disparages what he describes as “the rants of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,” who don't understand the “sacramental” value of hunting, and he expresses great regard for the woodsmen who mentored him and accompanied him on his adventures. However, he is cleareyed in his appraisal of how much poverty and alcohol abuse were also a part of that bygone way of life. While he himself no longer traps animals, he pays tribute to the trappers who “know things about the ways of nature that our Staples-and-Domino's culture is largely unaware of.” Lea is involved in an effort to create a 1 million-acre wildlife preserve on the border between Maine and New Brunswick that will be managed according to green guidelines.
While his uncompromising views are—and are intended to be—provocative, the author’s love of nature and his tender evocation of a way of life that is dying out have appeal.