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A Walk in the Woods, Away from the Screens

The screen culture: I want to smash the screens into a thousand pieces.  I want to take the computers, all of them, handheld, laptopped, deskbound, and break them into their component parts with a sledgehammer and a shotgun.  I am tired, so exceedingly tired, of the fact that all journalism now happens on the machine screens – I can’t help but engage with the screens, it’s my employment.  But I hate it.

Ditto online pornography.  I would like a good hardcopy fuck magazine to carry with me beyond the waves of five-bar signals into the deep woods for my girlfriend and I to read together in peace.

Peace: that’s what the informational flow of the machines will not allow.  There needs to be a constant deluging brain-destroying caterwaul of irrelevancies.  It is a nightmare of too-much.

I’ve been trying to set up a website, in preparation for a book I wrote that will be out soon.  I can’t make the machine work.  I shout and curse.   I’d rather chop wood.  I’d rather eat the sauteed anus of a used-car salesman.   Anything but having to deal with the inscrutable God of tech.  Anything but having to sit in front of a computer with the light that washes the human face with a sickly look – the humans (me) prostrate before their lit icons.

Outside the storm blows, thank god, and the lights flicker.  A message from the great heaven of mother earth, saying: Get out, walk the land, be in the wind and the fiery snow.  Listen to the petals of the frozen water that fall on the land with a whisper and that etch upon every living thing their chaotic order.  Seek here your dramas, your loves, your truths.  Catch snow petals on your tongue like Charlie Brown.

In the wind that blows through the hemlocks over the rising snowdrifts is the message and the meaning of all our fundamental relations.  The wind rages through the needles of the old stately pines, last of their kind in the Catskill Mountains.  It is the ooom and aahh of a great prayer, that all will be well in the long term.

It is the sound of life struggling and thriving: the deer that will not survive this storm, the bobcats and coyotes that will have a fine dinner.  It is the sound of the breadth of morphological time, which over the long haul is geological, and thus it keeps me in my place as the small thing that I am (stupid puny website and book, mere words, words).

The snowflakes are so cold they burn the face, and in the deep forest where yesterday the dee-dee-dee of the black-capped chickadee sounded, now there is not a hint of the birds.   Alive, and in love, I walk, a man alone in the woods.  A sick man walking in the woods feels better.  My doctor, consulting the screen from which he’s learned wisdom, says I need treatment.  I say the doctors are mad.

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Christopher Ketcham is the author of the forthcoming “This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism and Corruption are Ruining the American West,” out in July 2019 from Viking-Penguin.  He can be reached at cketcham99@mindspring.com.

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