Cloud-cover changes constantly here. I walked around the schoolhouse just a half an hour ago to check the dome of sky. There was a dark cap overhead with a blue rim at the horizon line, but that has all changed now. It is not just the clouds that interest me, but how the clouds reveal and conceal the intensity of blue in a sky that occupies more of my vision than the earth below. I have been looking at Thomas Moran’s paintings. Clouds are always dramatic in his paintings, but the sky never supersedes the land. He spoke of the sky as blue ether, but he didn’t really represent that. Were the sky and clouds just a way of dramatizing the scenery in his works? Was he so enamored with the novelties of land formations in the west? Or was he influenced by the nations lust for property?
Henry David Thoreau believed in the potential of the West. He declared he would walk East only by force, but West he would walk free. Blind optimism? Naiveté? Harmful ignorance? Racism? These are real questions, and yet is there some truth to his thinking?
If the heavens of America appear infinitely higher… I trust that these facts are symbolical of the height to which the philosophy and poetry, and religion of her inhabitants may one day soar…I trust that… our thoughts will be cleaner, fresher and more ethereal, as our sky – our understanding more comprehensive and broader. Thoreau – Walking
Wallace Stegner used the term “ competitive individualism” coined by Christopher Lasch, when looking at what he perceived to be a shift from the high purpose and hope of Thoreau to a culture of self-interest. I grew up on the ideals of Walden, reading the book in high-school and dreaming of a cabin in the woods. But I have become educated in the very narrow access to “freedom.” It is a rocky terrain between optimism and pessimism. The great blue sky of the west (to which I must walk east) inspires an expansiveness and openness that suggests optimism. The knowledge of what has been done to make way for me to own property in this place is disheartening and breeds pessimism. How can these things be reconciled?