If You Forget To Keep The Long Heels Down And Trailing In The
Snow You Turn Over And Become As A Man Who Fails Into Deep Water With A
Life-Belt Tied To His Ankles.
If you lose your balance, do not attempt
to recover it, but drop, half-sitting and half-kneeling, over as large
an area as possible.
When you have mastered the wolf-step, can slide one
shoe above the other deftly, that is to say, the sensation of paddling
over a ten-foot-deep drift and taking short cuts by buried fences is
worth the ankle-ache. The man from the West interpreted to me the signs
on the snow, showed how a fox (this section of the country is full of
foxes, and men shoot them because riding is impossible) leaves one kind
of spoor, walking with circumspection as becomes a thief, and a dog, who
has nothing to be ashamed of, but widens his four legs and plunges,
another; how coons go to sleep for the winter and squirrels too, and how
the deer on the Canada border trample down deep paths that are called
yards and are caught there by inquisitive men with cameras, who hold
them by their tails when the deer have blundered into deep snow, and so
photograph their frightened dignity. He told me of people also - the
manners and customs of New Englanders here, and how they blossom and
develop in the Far West on the newer railway lines, when matters come
very nearly to civil war between rival companies racing for the same
canon; how there is a country not very far away called Caledonia,
populated by the Scotch, who can give points to a New Englander in a
bargain, and how these same Scotch-Americans by birth, name their
townships still after the cities of their thrifty race. It was all as
new and delightful as the steady 'scrunch' of the snow-shoes and the
dazzling silence of the hills.
Beyond the very furthest range, where the pines turn to a faint blue
haze against the one solitary peak - a real mountain and not a
hill - showed like a gigantic thumbnail pointing heavenward.
'And that's Monadnock,' said the man from the West; 'all the hills have
Indian names. You left Wantastiquet on your right coming out of town,'
You know how it often happens that a word shuttles in and out of many
years, waking all sorts of incongruous associations. I had met Monadnock
on paper in a shameless parody of Emerson's style, before ever style or
verse had interest for me. But the word stuck because of a rhyme, in
which one was
... crowned coeval
With Monadnock's crest,
And my wings extended
Touch the East and West.
Later the same word, pursued on the same principle as that blessed one
Mesopotamia, led me to and through Emerson, up to his poem on the peak
itself - the wise old giant 'busy with his sky affairs,' who makes us
sane and sober and free from little things if we trust him.
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