She has the good sense to return to Sears whenever the woods grow quiet, and the little shoemaker never disappoints. Among other things, he was an ardent conservationist and wildlife protector long before it was remotely fashionable. His writings helped inspire those who preserved the Adirondacks and made the region the fine state park it is today. The great conservationist Bob Marshall (Smithsonian, August 1994) grew up reading Sears and trekking Adirondack trails. Sears expressed the argument for preserving wild places in a pointed, angry language that is considered impolite in today's environmental dialogue. The enemy, he wrote, was "the petty, narrow greed that converts into saw-logs and mill-dams the best gifts of wood and water, forest and stream, mountains and crystal springs in deep wooded valleys."
He also wrote with the eloquence of a poet-naturalist-witness, for instance, Sears' encounter with a loon: "[The bird] settled within ten rods of the canoe, raised himself on hind legs (they are very hind, and he has no others), turned his white, clean breast to me and gave me his best weird, strange song. Clearer than a clarion, sweeter than a flute, loud enough to be heard for miles. Never, as my soul lives, will I draw a bead on a loon. He is the very spirit of the wildwoods. Fisherman he may be. He catches his daily food after his nature. . . . Don't, please don't, emulate Adirondack Murray [a local hunter] and waste two dozen cartridges in the attempt to demolish a loon."
Sears died seven years after the great adventure described in this book, at 68. Death, to him, was "the dark carry," life, a hoax; and he wanted these lines on his stone: "Life is the dullest of jokes / He's a fool who supposes it serious. / Death puts a nub to the hoax / And the rest is immensely mysterious."
Donald Dale Jackson writes from his home in rural Connecticut.