What Alexis de Tocqueville did in observing the American wilderness to the west in the 1830s, Henry David Thoreau did for the American wilderness to the east in the 1850s. East as in Down East: Maine.
The Maine Woods: A Photographic Journey is an exploration of a country that would soon be coming to terms with issues of industrialization and preservation, and the reckoning of different cultures colliding. (We seem to be grappling with these same issues today. Such is the timelessness of these Maine Woods.)
In this Levenger Press collector’s edition, award-winning nature photographer and videographer Scot Miller retraces Thoreau’s steps through 88 photographs that, as Jeff Cramer of the Thoreau Institute says in the book’s foreword, demonstrate “the difference between a pedestrian photographic likeness of a place and a soaring artistic representation.” Here are a few of those photographs to savor, along with some of Thoreau’s words:
“The deeper you penetrate into the woods, the more intelligent, and, in one sense, less countrified do you find the inhabitants; for always the pioneer has been a traveler, and, to some extent, a man of the world; and, as the distances with which he is familiar are greater, so is his information more general and far reaching than the villagers.”
“Occasionally, when the windy columns broke in to me, I caught sight of a dark, damp crag to the right or left; the mist driving ceaselessly between it and me. It reminded me of the creations of the old epic and dramatic poets, of Atlas, Vulcan, the Cyclops, and Prometheus. Such was Caucasus and the rock where Prometheus was bound. Aeschylus had no doubt visited such scenery as this. It was vast, Titanic, and such as man never inhabits.”
“I was interested to see how a pioneer lived on this side of the country. His life is in some respects more adventurous than that of his brother in the West; for he contends with winter as well as the wilderness, and there is a greater interval of time at least between him and the army which is to follow. Here immigration is a tide which may ebb when it has swept away the pines; there it is not a tide, but an inundation, and roads and other improvements come steadily rushing after.”
“There are not only stately pines, but fragile flowers, like the orchises, commonly described as too delicate for cultivation, which derive their nutriment from the crudest mass of peat. These remind us, that, not only for strength, but for beauty, the poet must, from time to time, travel the logger’s path and the Indian’s trail, to drink at some new and more bracing fountain of the Muses, far in the recesses of the wilderness.”