The image of a fierce Mongol horseman riding the harsh plains of his native land with an enormous eagle perched on one arm, the two of them searching for prey that includes fox, hare and even wolf is one that has haunted writer Steve Bodio for decades.
It is of all the Celtic kingdoms the greenest and most beautiful. Palms, wisteria, and camellias grow in Cornish gardens. Bluebells and small wild orchids bloom beside the coastal path, that winds along meadow edges above the cliffs and surf.
“But with neoliberal governments, an unjust distribution of wealth is becoming the norm. Even in wealthy countries, working people are earning lower salaries, fewer benefits and have less free time. Simply put, the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer; I wonder if the rest of the world isn’t coming around to Mexico City.”
All of this pales in comparison to the obscene madness that has now become the fate of Base Camp at Mount Everest. The 8,000-meter peaks of the Himalayas have become the unfortunate repositories for what is repugnant about human nature with very little innate goodness surviving. Dying climbers pushed aside, ignored and denied medical help while their equipment is stolen, greedy guides unethical to the point of criminal, drugs, alcoholism, prostitution – hell this could just as well be inner city New York or Saigon as 20,000 feet above sea level in what used to be one of the most remote landscapes on earth. Everest has become the poster child for this debauchery.
“Tufts and Tenen saw themselves as guardians of the cave. They were extremely concerned that their discovery could be looted and destroyed, as had happened to other caves in southern Arizona. They were determined to preserve its pristine quality. They became obsessed with secrecy, and hired a lawyer to write out a legally binding secrecy document that they insisted that anyone whom they had any reason to tell about the cave must sign. Tenen even made his future wife sign a secrecy document on their second date!”
Filettino was not always a happy place, in history or in fiction. In the time of the Caesars the people here were Aequi, an Italic tribe of rough herders whom the Romans subdued with difficulty. For many centuries, probably millennia, the Aequi practiced transhumance, leading their herds over the Serra in late autumn to spend the winter in pastures in the Liri valley far below, and returning to the uplands for summer.
Let us be clear on one thing: physically fit people tend to get more out of this place. One can sit and admire the mountains from a bench on Elk Avenue, or from a car out on the summer roads, but to me there is nothing better in life than walking an hour or two up to Scarp Ridge or the long green alp atop Mount Axtell, to sit and see high peaks all around.
The next time you go to Rome, take a half-day to go to Pomezia, just south of the Alban hills, a few miles inland from the sea. The town is unlovely but the new Pomezia museum contains some of the most beautiful terracotta statues of women that I know, dating from several centuries before Christ. It also contains exhibits that trace the story of Aeneas in Italy back to at least the eighth century B.C. You may well leave Pomezia convinced that someone, whose name may have been Aeneas, landed on the nearby coast a millennium or so before Christ–and married the daughter of the king of the local Latins–and had a descendant named Romulus. Not just Virgil but Dionysius gives a detailed account of all this.
I knew what was coming but it was always a thrill. Suddenly to our left the world opened out and there was the grandest of piazzas, Piazza Navona. The name Navona and the piazza’s long oval form go back to its origin as the Circus Agonale. This was a stadium, inaugurated by the Emperor Domitian in 86 A.D., that was designed to host a Roman alternative to the Olympic games (and to the gladiators in the Colosseum, that had been built by Domitian’s father and brother, Vespasian and Titus). I never liked Domitian. He was big on public works but a terrible administrator. He may or may not have killed a lot of Christians but he was certainly a murderer of many opponents–until they murdered him in the year 96.
In early June, the best time in Rome is dawn. A little after first light the song of a neighbor blackbird wakes me in our little fifth-floor flat on the Via Urbana. I dream for a few minutes but again the blackbird wakes me and I get up. I walk to the window. High above the rooftops the swallows are already darting, soaring, plunging, on their morning quest for insects. A plump big seagull flies over, one of the many that have invaded Rome skies in recent years. I manage to shave and dress without waking my wife, and I walk down the stairs and out into our street.
This is not Labrador. We are fifty miles northeast of Rome and a mile above sea level, climbing Monte Cava in the Central Apennines, on one of our Sunday jaunts with the Club Alpino Italiano, Sezione Roma. Just ahead of me is my wife, Mary Jane, and beyond her I can see Antonello the orthodontist, and beyond him Alessandro, a banker on weekdays but today our Leader.
I’m not sure what category A Grand Tour of Asia by Hania Tallmadge and Beverley Jackson should be put in. It’s certainly not a novel or narrative non-fiction or even a coffee table book (unless a downsized model). Other than the fact that it has a hardcover and pages inside, I’m not all that sure this one is really a book.
Who are the Stans? What are the Stans? Where are the Stans and what in the hell are they up to?
This is a beautiful book. The author is a professor of English at Middlebury College whose writing has centered on our natural environment.