Our Ancient Man of American Nature
Many years ago, I was introduced to John Burroughs, while listening to my mother and grandfather talking about the great American naturalist. I didn't realize until some time later that Burroughs, who was well-known and regarded, lived not far from where I grew up. Burroughs lived in (or near) the town of Esopus, NY. Over the years, I read some of Burroughs' nature writings, but never got through them all. When I first started putting this blog together, I included these photos below. This was more than a year ago, and at the time I didn't realize what the connection to Walt Whitman was, but I've since learned the Burroughs wrote a work about Whitman, which is found in Burroughs' collected works. I made this discovery when visiting O.U.R. Bookstore in Saugerties, and saw the collected works on the shelf, and the volume on Whitman. A few days ago (the day after Christmas), I went for a hike near Bear Mountain, NY, and discovered that the zoo near the great Bear Mountain Inn, has a majestic statue of a "walking Whitman" in the woods of the zoo. This all made me think of the connections between Whitman and Burroughs, and about the exaltation of nature by the poets and naturalists of the day--including these men, but also JW Powell and John Muir out west. The day, more than a year ago, when I visited Burroughs' home Slabsides near Esopus, it was cold and the roads were muddy. I went to see his cabin, and walked around the woods. My mother had told me of visiting the home years before, and attending an event where Burroughs' granddaughter was present. I know that she'd written a book called "John Burroughs' Granddaughter" by Elizabeth Burroughs Kelley, but I've not yet read it. Unlike Walden, this lesser known natural hide-away has not been developed, or turned into a highly visited public retreat. But that may be welcoming to the John Burroughs' fan and seeker of a quiet respite in the woods.