naturalist/essayist John Burroughs
In preparation for my residency and lecture at Mildred’s Lane late next month, I’ve been studying the upper Delaware River, reading about its history and looking at maps. I was struck by a passage by the nineteenth century American naturalist/essayist John Burroughs, describing a boyhood trip down the Delaware in his book Afoot and Afloat, originally published in 1871. He had just built his own boat for the journey:
“The boat-building warmed the blood; it made the germ take; it whetted my appetite for the voyage. There is nothing like serving an apprenticeship to fortune, like earning the right to your tools. In most enterprises the temptation is always to begin too far along; we want to start where somebody else leaves off. Go back to the stump, and see what an impetus you get. Those fishermen who wind their own flies before they go a-fishing, -how they bring in the trout; and those hunters who run their own bullets or make their own cartridges, -the game is already mortgaged to them.”
the upper Delaware River, at Narrowsburg, PA
Mildred’s Lane is a few miles to the Southwest of Narrowsburg, PA, on a stream that connects to the Delaware River. Burroughs began his journey further upstream and to the East, on the Pepacton branch of the river, now the Pepacton Reservoir. If time allowed, I would love to build a boat and recreate Burroughs’ boyhood voyage during my residency. As it is, my project will focus on the watershed ecology surrounding Mildred’s Lane, encouraging students to “Go back to the stump”.