Albert Bierstadt was a German-born American painter whontraveled widely in the American West in the 1860’s and 70’snand produced the most excruciatingly ethereal paintings ofnthe Rocky Mountains, in which Nature is a cathedralnflooded by exalting unearthly light on the threshold of whichnMan stands, staring in awe through an invisible portal.nToday, the Bierstadt Mentality is a staple of every Pilgrim’sngear, along with his inner-frame backpack, his Sun Shower,nand his Water Purifier kit, as he trudges away on his annualnWilderness Experience, By that word, “wilderness,” henmeans a place in which, while there may be men, there is nonsign of man, his works, or his chattels: for the true Pilgrim,nthe sight of a fire ring or a circle grazed around a pine treenby a snubbed pack horse is an attack upon the authenticity ofnhis quest. (For your Enlightened Backpacker, in fact, thenAppalachian Mountains of the 18th century, which ournforefathers regarded as a howling wilderness, would be nonwilderness at all, overrun as it was in those days by Indiansnliving in villages and equipped with the latest Formativentechnology.) Today, the socially approved way in which tonget close to nature is not to husband it, to wrestle with it asnhunters and farmers have always been required to do, andnstill must, mingling blood and sweat with snow, rain, andnmud, but rather to disengage from it in a fundamental way,nthe presumption being that man in his contact and engagementnwith nature can only defile it. Leave only footprints,ntake only pictures, as the Pilgrims from New York, Denver,n14/CHRONICLESnThe Summerhousenby Charles Edward EatonnOne has this vision of the summerhouse when the peonies bloom:nWhite, latticed at the eaves, a romance of the past.nIt conjures lovers who are looking for a mortal and immortal room.nIt takes a hint from pink, and, there beyond — flamingo lake.nThose mortal birds that look so posed and so contrivednAre wading in a world in which our lovers want a stake.nand Los Angeles like to say. But — can anyone reallynimagine a backpacker ranching?nAs late as the 1930’s, novelists, critics, and academics —nmany of them semi-urbanized, though raised in a ruralnsetting and among rural values; Richard Weaver is a goodnexample of the type — still worried in a more-than-abstractnway about the future of the family farm and the superstructurenof values and traditions erected upon an agriculturalnexistence. Today, most artists and intellectuals are thoroughgoingncosmopolites whose idea of “the country” is a roomnwith a view at Yaddo: when we hear someone refer to “thenplight of the farmer,” the speaker is much more than likelynto be a) himself a farmer or rancher; b) a New Classntechnocrat looking for a Social Problem to solve; or c) annurban journalist in search of a Pulitzer-Prize-winning subjectnof Significance. While the conversation is going on, thenNature Boys are backpacking through the Bridger-TetonnWilderness in Wyoming: yuppies in sneakers and shortnpants laying claim to territories won over a century and anhalf ago by strong men on horseback, bearing for weaponsnthe latest technology available to them, wresting a precariousnliving from what the land had to offer, and enduring thenrages and inauspices of nature throughout four seasons —nthe nearest equivalent we have, in other words, to ournmodern ranchers, never mind their bellyaching, their philosophicalnnarrowness, and all their checks and supports fromna prodigal government in Washington. <^nThey want the peony-blush, the brilliant feather, and the bluest sky —nYesterday they ate their half a loaf and threw the crust away.nAnd they have come here, in extravagance, expecting crumbs to multiply.nHow can one say to her: Not quite, not absolutely all, my dear—nTomorrow the selfsame loaf upon the selfsame table.nThe dying strains of liebestod in your lover’s ruddy ear.nOne cannot say it yet because one also wants the whole —nAn athlete of desire has flung the peony like a shot expanding:nHere the summerhouse, and there flamingos wading in the soul.nThe famished heart, the flinging — the idea of the Idea of whole bread —nThe rumps of flowers ruffle in the wind where the shot puts down:nI listen, listen to the plashing in the water, and then the silent tread.nnn