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Dispatch From the Edge

A Wilderness Alphabet

By Peter Anderson


Let their names remind us of our shared inheritance

100 million acres, roadless and wild.

From Absaroka to Apache Creek … From Ansel Adams to Allegheny,

hallow Black Bear and Great Bear,

be a witness for Bald Knob and Big Gum Swamp,

in Copper Salmon, swim like one,

in Chuckwalla, find a crack in the rock and hide there,

learn your limits in Delirium, Desolation, and the Devil’s Backbone,

dream of flying in Eagle Cap, Eagles Nest, and Eagletail,

honor the Dead on Fossil Ridge and Funeral Mountain,

draw a map of Gospel Hump, Grassy Knob, and Goat Rocks,

awe yourself in Hellgate, Holy Cross, and Haleakala, “House of the Sun,”

remember the last living member of the Yani Yana Tribe in Ishi,

pray for those who make their living in the muskeg marshlands of Inoku,

if you find Kulu, Kalmiopsis, or Kootzoowoo, let me know where they are,

while you’re at it go find Lone Peak, Lostwood, and Lost Creek,

let Mt. Massive remind us that gravity rules,

learn to love discomfort in Needle’s Eye and Never Summer,

say Okeefenokee, just the for the hell of it,

praise the people whose tongues gave us Pemigewasset, Pahrump, and Pajarito,

in Quetico, paddle toward the northern lights,

in Rattlesnake, bless the alienated and despised,

contemplate goodness in Sangre de Cristo and San Juan and shout out

the names of our wilderness saints – Roosevelt, Muir, Marshall, and Leopold,

in Trilobite, consider the meaning of time as the rocks know it,

let Uncompahgre remain uncompromised,

descend into the hidden V-shaped valleys of Ventana,

straddle America’s rocky spine in Washakie and Weminuche,

put an X on the map for a new wilderness we have yet to name,

and pledge your allegiance to Yosemite and Zion and all they stand for.


Peter Anderson lives in Crestone, Colorado, and teaches writing at Adams State University.