I’ve been reading through Montale's Ossi di seppia, out in the sun whenever possible as must be done with Italian poetry (except Leopardi; you can read Leopardi at night). Italy of the blackshirts, D’Annunzio the going rhetorical mode: small wonder that you turn with a shudder from the works of man to a nature that suits only because it’s so provisional, so scarce:
Son vostre queste piante
scarse che si rinnovano
all’alito d’Aprile, umide e liete.
Per me che vi contemplo da quest’ombra,
alto cespo riverdica, e voi siete.
They are yours, these meager plants renewed by the breath of April, damp and glad; for me, contemplating you from this shadow, another bush turns green, and you are. The “you” is plural and not to be pinned down, but whatever forces are acting from without, the essential bit of magic is to draw the boundary of the self wide enough to bring that meager land within, and give it life.
It’s a method I can remember from long ago, one of the creeds I used to have and now worry about forgetting.
In the evening I have John McPhee, Annals of the Former World. I remember often seeing reed-and-cottonwood stretches of the Humboldt River from Interstate 80, but hadn’t grasped that the interstate takes the route it does because the river valley was the way people got across Nevada before the railroads. The path was called the emigrant trail; the pass into California is called Emigrant Gap. They were going out, not in; who knows where they’d get to. The Humboldt never reaches the sea, just flows west into ever lower desert, growing undrinkably alkaline, until it disappears into the sink that used to be Lake Lahontan.