No Roads Lead to the Northern Sea

inability hides behind spite

Our richest men made their fortunes in lumber and the railroad, taking the forest giants and stripping and planing them and sending them south along the coast, to the soft and indolent vintners, or east to the wild prairies, where the plainsmen hold council with spirits. We, being of hardier stock, and coarser, laugh at their delicacies and their decadence, and bow our heads on the roads, avert our eyes from the coiling fiddle-shapes of ferns — cautious, yes. The boom has wrought havoc with our shadows; our own success has brought us blinking and suspicious into the sunlight; our foresight replants, but our carefully erratic trees are short and slight and unnatural looking.

But far from the towns, and past the hopeful saplings, where the old trees still stand, and where the grey and immemorial moss hangs over the road (and there is not a one of us who does not carry some in his pocket, for luck), where the road turns backward along itself, where smooth asphalt becomes rutted gravel, or sucking mud, you may see the ocean, and stretch your eyes westward, and stretch your eyes northward, over the edge of the world, to the vastness beyond…