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In 1934, an industrialist and obsessive book collector named A. Edward Newton wrote an article for The Atlantic recounting a trip he had recently taken to see the ancient redwoods of Northern California. He had traveled by night train to the timber town of Scotia, then by motor car up into the quiet, fog-draped forest. When he finally arrived, Newton did what most writers do when faced with some of the tallest trees on Earth: He experienced a wave of awe, his brain short-circuited, and then he resorted to cliché. In the article, he likens the massive trees to “stone columns in a cathedral.” Then he quotes a line of verse from William Cullen Bryant (who was cribbing, in turn, from Pliny the Elder): “The groves were God’s first temples.” Very large and very old trees tend to have this effect on us—they deepen our souls but impoverish our wits. We can’t quite make sense of them.

It’s not difficult to create a tiny tree: you just need to restrict the roots and prune the branches. This has been known since at least the Tang dynasty in China, circa 700 a.d. One method was to plant a seedling in a dried orange peel and trim any roots that poked through. With a smaller root base, the tree cannot find the necessary nutrients to shoot upward, and thus remains small. In certain environments, like rocky cliffsides, this can occur naturally. The artistry, then, lies in shaping the tree.For most bonsai practitioners, “styling” a tree is a question of which branches to cut off and how to bend those which remain, using metal wire, so that the plant’s over-all form elicits a feeling of something ancient and wild. The usual aim is not to imitate the profile of big trees—which are considered too messy to be beautiful—but to intensely evoke them. In culinary terms, bonsai is bouillon.

In the deep sea, it is always night and it is always snowing. A shower of so-called marine snow — made up of pale flecks of dead flesh, plants, sand, soot, dust and excreta — sifts down from the world above. When it strikes the seafloor, or when it is disturbed, it will sometimes light up, a phenomenon known, wonderfully, as “snow shine.” Vampire squids, umbrella-shaped beings with skin the color of persimmons, float around collecting this luminous substance into tiny snowballs, which they calmly eat. They are not alone in this habit. Most deep-sea creatures eat snow, or they eat the snow eaters.

Walking, seen in this light, feels at once freeing and communal, two qualities that have been in short supply of late. Fitzgerald’s newsletter — his whole way of being in the world, in fact — is an ode to life at foot speed.

Among Appalachian Trail “thru-hikers” — that special class of backpackers dedicated (or obsessed) enough to walk the trail’s full 2,200 miles — the question of whether to carry a tent is hotly debated. Thru-hikers tend to fall into one of two factions. Some (albeit a minority) insist a tent is unnecessary because the trail is punctuated with wooden shelters, or lean-tos, every 10 miles or so. As a rule, these hikers tend to travel light, cook simply or not at all, and sleep in the lean-tos or other shelters on the trail. But other hikers pride themselves on being self-sufficient: They prefer to camp in a tent far from other people; they carry detailed maps; they would never hitchhike into town just to grab a milkshake. We do not have a precise word for these two personality types. Not yet.

The experience of driving a car has been the mythopoeic heart of America for half a century. How will its absence be felt?

Two years ago, Dr. Sandra Lee, a dermatologist in Southern California, opened an Instagram account. She viewed it as an experiment; the surface of the internet was riddled with unseen pockets of desire, weird subterranean pressures, and she was inclined to prod it, gingerly, until she found out how deep they ran....

When I was eighteen, I bought a copy of Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods,” which remains, if my conversations with strangers are any indication, the only book anyone has ever read about the Appalachian Trail. It was summer. My friend Andy and I had driven across the country and ended up in the town of Sheridan, Wyoming, where we stayed for a week with a genial middle-aged couple, family friends of my friend. Scanning my hosts’ bookshelves, as I have a tendency to do, I was quietly horrified to discover that they were exclusively stocked with works of pop evangelicalism (Rick Warren and the like). It was a literary desert: xeric, Mosaic. Bryson’s book was the only one I’d brought, so, while Andy rode dirt bikes with a guy named Dusty, I lay on a fold-out couch in the basement, consuming it in controlled bursts, as if bolting food rations.

Every great writer, it seems, has a formative horror. For some it is a war, an illness, an abuse, an abandonment, a death. For [Robert] Coover it was an explosion. The scrabbling for meaning that followed the disaster — the rumors, the prayer vigils, the journalists picking over the wreckage — gave him a riddle he has spent his career unraveling: How are myths made, and how can they be unmade?

As someone who has hitchhiked more than a thousand miles, spanning dozens of rides, over the past six years—a lonely anachronism out on there on the roads—one of the first things I noticed when rereading On The Road recently is Sal Paradise’s utter lack of awareness about his appearance, his posture, or his stench.

As a result, Kerouac fails to capture the core irony of hitchhiking, which is that it privileges exactly the people one would not suspect to be hitchhiking: those who dress well, those who bathe, those with expensive-looking luggage. There’s a reason hobos—and their crusty, cynophile offspring, found panhandling and nodding off on St. Mark’s Place or Haight Street or Camden Road—traditionally ride the rails. Hitching is at its heart an exercise in superficiality, and necessarily so: there’s literally no time for depth; to the people blurring by on the highway, the hitchhiker is flattened into a Polaroid.

For the last few years I’ve been seeing woodsmen on my city’s streets. They wear long beards and long hair, or long beards and no hair. They favor beat-up leather boots and wool beanies and jobs involving wood. At Best Made Co., a downtown boutique, they purchase hand-painted axes and canvas portage packs. At French atelier APC, they try on pieces by Carhartt, a manufacturer of blue-collar outdoor wear, that have been recut for slimmer legs and thicker wallets. Until recently, they were able to hone their bow-hunting skills in the basement archery range of clothier/barbershop Freeman’s Sporting Club.These urban dwellers seem to be getting ready for a long camping trip that never takes place; their flannel grows tatty and their boots scuffed, but they are never stained with real dirt.

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