Friday, October 10, 2014

Creative essay on Abbey: Revision

Meaghan Duffy
English Composition
Dr. Adam Johns

The Fiction in Non-Fiction

I awake suddenly to a series of crackles followed by a loud thump.  I wipe my tired eyes and force them open to see nothing but a dusty haze surrounding me at all angles.  I slowly roll over on my stomach to face where Abbey had been camped out for the night, slightly nervous to find out his state of being. 

It has been exactly two weeks since Abbey got the news of his relocation, and he has not yet come out of the lethargic comatose state that it had put him in.  At the beginning of fall when dusk and dawn were a little cooler than usual and the wind began to pick up speed, an orange rusted Ford pick-up truck unexpectedly approached Abbey’s trailer delivering a sealed mustard yellow envelope with a rather thick stack of papers inside.  Upon opening, Abbey learned that he was going to be relocated to Yosemite National Park, California in exactly a month from the day due to a severe, “lack of tourism,” in Arches which made his position, “unnecessary,” and a waste of, “government funds.”  Arches National Park was to be renovated, adding more accessible roads and convenient parking lots throughout, to make the area more accessible and travels easier and more convenient for families.
Abbey refused to do his duty rounds around the park for an entire week and neglected to acknowledge any visitors who requested entry into his trailer.  Out of nowhere, after not speaking to Abbey for several years since he began his quest of solitaire and personal rebirth separate from human dependence, I received a call from him asking me to join him out in the park; I reluctantly accepted. 

“Abbey,” I yelled over the noise of the bulldozers and cranes directing themselves through the seemingly empty desert. His flashlight, water bottle, harness, boots and jacket were exactly where they were left last night, but his person was missing.  He says he hates it all, all the manmade gadgets, yet he can’t live a simple life out in the desert without them; it’s unnatural and foreign to humankind and he’s no exception.[1]

“God damn it!” I flinched as I heard his deranged tone screech from practically right behind my ear.  I flung around now in a seated position to see Abbey hunched over the twisted juniper tree trunk, which I was under.  His face was pale and longer than usual; his breath sounds were loud and more frequent than normal. 

“What’s going on,” I asked confused, partially because I was still half asleep and partly because I could barely see past the thick clouds of debris filling my airways and clogging my pores.  My question was one that Abbey could rant on about for years.  He could talk about how humans ruined everything.  He could be controversial or hypocritical, narrow or broad-minded, but no matter how many words left his mouth it wouldn’t change anything because our fate was inevitable; that’s at least how I saw it. 

“The elitist corporate men are beginning the renovations!  They’re starting by butchering the junipers to create a parking lot for the spoiled tourists incase they want to park and walk for a little while instead of driving the whole way through in their gas-guzzling box cars.  They think they’re fixing all the problems and attracting tourists by adding roads, detours, parking lots and eye catching sites for the visitors to drool over, but in reality all they are doing is destroying the natural beauties of the park which were created way before man, and were meant to remain as such.  Every living and nonliving inhabitant of this desert will be gone, but I’m sure the ignorant tourists won’t know the difference…” Abbey ranted on, barely getting out a word before beginning the next.  As Abbey frantically spoke slightly raising his voice simultaneously, I could see everything he was slowly draining from his body.  He was just as the Juniper trees were, living but lifeless.[2]

I sat in silence twiddling my finger for what felt like days, I knew this was coming, but I didn’t know it was going to be this soon.  I knew I shouldn’t waste my breath on useless words that wouldn’t stop the machines from running and the men behind the machines from doing their jobs to pay the bills.  Abbey began to sob, tears rushing down his face, watering the soil just above the roots of the juniper. 

“You need to stop that,” I mumbled under my breath almost angry with how poorly Abbey dealt with his emotions.  Abbey was a dramatized persona.[3]  He wanted everyone to see him as the motivated environmentalist who fought for the rights of the land and the meaning of the natural world, but in reality Abbey was a complainer, a talker who lacked the ability and mental strength to take action. 

“We can’t change their minds Grant,” Abbey whispered, his tone of voice indicating how defeated he really was. 

“Ironical anarchy,” I dragged out every last letter hoping that it would make my words resonate within Abbey before he formulated an underdeveloped comeback in his highly entitled mind.[4]

Throughout my entire trip here, he has talked my ear off about the cowards of this world who refuse to break out of their sheltered bubbles and structured societal roles, yet the very second he has a possible chance to change the fate of the place he considers home, he collapses to a sob instead of taking action. 

“Im not…I’m…. I just want to belong in nature.  I strive to feel kindred with the trees, the snakes, the standing rocks.  I need the rest of my kind to understand me, understand the message that I am trying to send.  Humans need to leave their sheltered bubbles, crawl out of their homes and cars to explore and realize that out there is a world much more dynamic and greater than ourselves.”[5]  I was expecting Abbey to rise in rage, denying all my accusations of him being a revolutionary that doesn’t want to fight, but he didn’t.  He instead sat defeated, striving to explain to me his views and aspirations that he had ultimately deemed unachievable based on the negative stigma surrounding mankind.

“You’re angry, and you’re throwing it in too many directions to make sense!” I screamed surprising both him and myself.  Aggression wasn’t my intent, but his hypocritical attitude had plagued my being for six full days, and I needed to voice my resentment.  He had knocked mankind for so long I was beginning to question if he could even stand being around me, his first childhood friend, anymore.  

“Saving a dozen trees in a national park in Utah really means nothing in the grand scheme of things, right?  My true goal is unreachable, unachievable! It’s like trying to count all the stars in the sky while standing on the earth, impossible.  There are billions of people in this world; nothing I say will change a single thing.   You can’t just decivilize a highly civilized society, stripping it of all the things that keep it grounded and relevant and expect everything to be okay.”  He spoke on as if he ignored everything I said prior.  His eyes were glassy and dilated indicating that he was in another world. 

“Maybe you’re right,” I said, knowing that he would never belong, never understand the logic of the rest of his kind. 

Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire; a Season in the Wilderness. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968. Print.

Pozza, David. Bedrock and paradox: the literary landscape of Edward Abbey. Peter Lang Publishing. 2006.

[1] Reference to page 13 of Desert Solitaire. Abbey criticizes human dependence on technological gadgets, but he himself feels helpless without them as indicated by his fishing trip on page 153.
[2]  Page 18 of Bedrock and Paradox where the symbolism of the juniper tree is addressed.
[3] Page 17 of Bedrock and Paradox: description of Abbey and his character (directly quoted).
[4] Page 17 of Bedrock and Paradox: description of Abbey and his character (directly quoted).
[5] Reference to pages 37 and 51 of Desert Soltiaire where Abbey criticizes all humans for not leaving their comfort zones and exploring a world that is bigger and better than all of us. Reference to page 34 where Abbey shows how badly he wants to belong with nature.

1 comment:

  1. “He could be controversial or hypocritical, narrow or broad-minded, but no matter how many words left his mouth it wouldn’t change anything because our fate was inevitable; that’s at least how I saw it. “ -- As I began, I both enjoyed your work and wondered what you were up to. I like the direction, but wonder if this is just a throw-away line (about inevitability) or if it’s something you seriously want to explore. What you’re doing with the juniper trees also certainly has potential. Your citations are interesting. This reads, tentatively, like an attack upon Abbey. That’s not a problem, except that maybe it’s an underdeveloped attack: this accusation about passivity or uselessness or inevitability needs sustained attention to work well. The accusation itself is interesting but also problematic (keep in mind that he was more or less responsible for an ecoterrorist movement, not to mention the national park service implemented some of his ideas).

    Overall: I think your research was good, but perhaps the way you used it was too subtle. You pick interesting quotes and use them at interesting moments, but I think they demanded at least a little more interpretation than you gave them - you can’t just leave complex ideas hanging! Having a paragraph or so of text in each footnote would have helped tremendously. At the end of the day, I think this piece was much too short. I talked some about how page counts almost inevitably need to be longer in creative pieces than in straightforward essays, and that’s certainly the case here. You still are responsible for articulating your ideas - you’re just doing them through characters and situations. What happens here is that you develop a good scene, and your general claim about Abbey is reasonably clear, but the vital heart of the argument - why you think we should agree with your reading - hasn’t been developed.


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