Kerri Stebbins's Reviews > Down the River

Down the River by Edward Abbey
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's review
Feb 05, 2016

it was amazing
bookshelves: clever-collections, favorites, running-with-the-wolves, visual-learner, true-stories
Read from January 30 to February 04, 2016

This is my first-ever Abbey. Even I find that hard to believe, save for knowing myself well enough to know I typically steer clear of any author (or book/series) that's too overly hyped, and so I was hesitant to dive into Abbey, wondering where he'd fit on my beloved outdoor lit spectrum of Annie (Dillard) to Wendell (Berry). This is one of those books I wish I would have found so many years ago, but the timing, as it seems to be with me and books as of late, is stunningly perfect. First published the year I was born (1982), I can picture my dad reading this book, and my grandfather before him, the two of them pouring over passages and discussing the more controversial pieces, themes, and ideas with mugs of coffee in their hands and plates of homemade huckleberry pie beside them. There might even be a raised voice or two, for Abbey doesn't tend pull any punches, and while I understand I'm on the side of the river that would tend to agree with him, that wanted to underline myriad passages (and did, via photos snapped with my phone, and lines etched into nearby journals and into my head), I can see how many would refuse to ride his (admittedly sometimes meandering) rivers of thought to their (logical to him, and to me) conclusions.

Regardless of how you feel about Abbey the human and/or Abbey the writer, this is one of those books that makes you think. That makes you feel all your feelings about how much is too much - growth, population, culture, cityscapes, wilderness, commercialization of wild spaces - and what we ought to start planning to do about it if and when we reach critical mass.

Spoiler alert: We're already there. There are already too many of us on this planet (and we continue to have children without thinking about the implications; we continue to add to the pre-existing, burgeoning population as if it's an inherent right), and while I will forever hope individual reverence and wide-spread conservation efforts can change and maybe even someday undo the damage we've already done (and continue to do) to our beloved (and over-loved, in so many instances) wild spaces, I'm weary to trust us as a collective population. Our track record with being good stewards of what we've been given (or what we've seen fit to take from someone else) isn't reassuring as much as it is terrifying.

You should read this book, is my overall point. And I would love to hear what you think about it, and the tenets Abbey proclaims, the pots he stirs, the memories he evokes - for you.

For me, Abbey makes me want to get up and cheer, to rise up and fight the dams, and the destruction of our natural world. Abbey also makes me miss my dad. And my grandfather. And my aunt Anne. All of whom loved wild spaces more than civilized ones. All of whom sought to be at peace with the natural world, and cherished it the way a muskrat cherishes a river, the way an eagle cherishes fish: As life-sustaining. As game-changing.

Abbey's stories about running rivers (and so much more) makes me miss them, surely, tangibly, while simultaneously making me feel so damn grateful for them, and everything they taught and continue to teach me, from so many miles and rivers and lifetimes away. Because of them I have wild rivers running in my blood, alpine lake-water in my eyes, north Idaho fir trees in my bones. And going to the river - swimming these lakes, running those trails, getting lost in those woods - always feels like coming home.

[Five hundred stars for teaching me so many things about so many rivers I haven't yet seen, and for helping me remember my own rivers. For helping me remember where I came from, and why being a Northwest native, born and raised, is one of the best of all gifts.]
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02/03 marked as: to-read
02/03 marked as: currently-reading
02/05 marked as: read

Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-1 of 1) </span> <span class="smallText">(1 new)</span>

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Matt Alright, alright, for you I'll give it another go. But I do remember really not liking this the first time I read it. We'll see. (Also, I love you.)

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