And the parallel holds between the two Grand Canyons: for, since that
first view, I shall always think of the great broad valley lying
between the Berkshire ramparts and the Catskill cliff as the Grand
Canyon of the East. It fits the East so exactly. Instead of the
Colorado gulf of splintered slopes, the abyss of painted splendors,
you have a serene picture complete in three lines, subdued in tones
of green and blue. The Colorado canon exalts with its divine
rhapsody; the Hudson Valley breathes celestial repose. Out West is
violence of desire; here there is quiet of attainment.
As we stood gazing over the river of civilization with its valley
green with farms and touched here and there with spires, I seemed to
feel the presence of the unseen city at the end of the river, as well
as companionship for the farmer in the field beneath. At my back rose
the impressive forest. There were majestic distances, but the
momentous quality of the scene was the quiet and settled beauty of
the level land between the two wide walls. How striking when compared
to that Western seven-hued fantasy of isolation fresh from the hand
of God. Those of us who have been bred to this may visit that
gorgeous and incredible wild, may sigh a while for the reckless
freedom of those Western spaces. But we will return to the mellowed
richhess of our East, the savor of which can be gotten nowhere better
than from that Catskill cliff.
Sooner or later young blood gets to the stoneshying period of
view-taking. There is no prospect under heaven so grand and so
dignified that youth will not come to throwing rocks into it. Youth
gives sentiment its due, but nothing to sentimentality; and so, at
about the time that old ladies would have begun to repeat how much
they were being moved by the panorama, from our parapet Brute set to
work trying to hit some of those farms below us with red shale. He
had finished with creation couchant on a field of green, and thought
it was time for a little something rampant. I could not have stood a
companion puling and mouthing at every turn of the landscape, so
gladly I set out with him along the ledge that leads south from the hotel.
This ledge brought us to a projection from which one's eye shot
across the country a hundred miles at a wink. The day was too clear
for the best eff ects. They say that the area of impression one gets
from that ledge is all of ten thousand square miles when there is no
haze, and if so we bad the benefit of every square inch of it. The
day was what the farmers call a weather-breeder, but it must have
been breeding somewhere else. There wasn't any weather visible, -- no
clouds, no hazes. The hills were stripped of atmosphere almost to
nakedness. If other people have seen Mt. Washington from that
promontory, so did we, though I should hate to take an examination on
its shape. An artist would have daubed his canvas with yellows and
purples, I suppose; but for our duller eyes there seemed but endless
white, variable green, and an infinite supply of blue. So still, so
clear the air that the steam from a train ten miles away on the other
side of the Hudson not only displayed to us its lights and shadow,
but we could see the reflection of its whiteness in the river. That
is a statement of fact and not mere traveler's license.
Through stunted spruces and small hemlocks we came to a path that
took us up to the Kaaterskill
House, a mammoth hotel set near the summit of this mountain. It
was hawsered to the rocks as was the Overlook, and presented a broad
invitation to the heavy gusts that have hurled themselves as yet in
vain upon its white bulk. There were ladders to the roof, and we
climbed. Though we had come but five minutes I walk from the edge of
the precipice, the quality of the view had been completely changed.
No longer did one got the unique sensation of looking down from the
battlement of some stupendous castle. One saw only the slope of
evergreen leading to the unseen brink, and then far off a blue gulf.
It was very fine still, but the difference was the same as that
between talent and genius. The suddenness was lost, and with it went
But from this roof I had another and almost equally memorable
sensation. It was on another morning, when the west wind was flowing
strongly from a deep sky filled with great galleonclouds that sailed
in white fleets with hulls of distant gray. The sky was all in
motion. The wind, though strong, was steady; and, looking down upon
the green-crested ranges rolling out of the west, I had the distinct
feeling that each ridge of mountain was a hurrying comber, curled,
and about to break. Even the nearest shapes helped with the illusion.
High Peak and Round Top, viewed from that hotel, seemed like sublime
breakers just ready to topple over in a universal thunder of white
foam. The distant Overlook looked as I have often seen breakers look
from the seaward, hastening toward the plunge. I could feel the rush,
feel the exhilaration. And, to complete the illusion of this
tremendous ocean, the white plain stretched below like the wide surf
of the spent wave, flinging itself upon the Berkshire beach. But the
green waves never fell; the great combers, advancing as if from some
vast inland Pacific, got no nearer. The clouds sailed and the wind
blew fresh on my cheek, but the tumult was petrified in its gigantic
play. And there you may see it at any time that the sky is blue and
the small spiral-fibered cedars bend to the east.
For Brute and me the calm of our noon sun was utterly satisfactory.
Lunch-time struck beneath the belt, and down we sat on the porch of
this winter skeleton of summer fatness. How unreal the hotel seemed!
Ten months of lonely cold and two of vivacious summer might breed
some introspection in a house, as well as its own desert does in the
Sphinx. But I was glad there were no people humming about.
"Anyplace," I wrote later in my note-book, "is as good
as new if you only are there out of season." A few days after I
wrote: "People don't mind sharing an orchestral concert with the
audience. Why should they prefer not to have a crowd with them before
some impressive panorama?" There 's a note-book for you!
The great advantage of visiting inspiring scenery or talking with
strong men is not what you get out of them, but what they draw out of
you -- the same thing, of course, but put in a more comforting light.
If you are keenly alive all men will interest and no scene will bore.
There is no commonplace of scenery. The dreariest desert flows with
color, and the drought-driest pasture, silken with spider-webs at
certain lights or musical with small life, can be a wonderland of
delight. But it does pay to hunt up the great. For, when the marvel
is at last come upon, when you at last are struck to the very core of
your being by the Bridal Veil Falls, by the Rapids of Niagara, or
even by the October glories on this Wall of Manitou, your spirit
overflows with an intenser life. You swim, for a moment at least, in
the greatness about you, just as one who had talked with Lincoln
would have to be more generous or more kind. The nobler the sight the
nobler you are, for the time being. And this is the supreme worth of travel.
The effects of such a valuable shock wear off. I have found people
altogether despicable in an environment that should have produced
saints. But, even if a man can't be known by the country that he
keeps as well as by the company, he will know himself better if he
submits himself to the play of Mother Nature upon his personality. On
the curvature of our green globe there is a spot for everyone more
satisfying than any other, and if you will show me the spot I can to
some degree tell you the man. Some tend to upland pastures, some to
the deep woods, some take a suburban grassplot, and some a room in
the city. The only being I can't conceive of is he who wants to perch
on the side of the Grand Canyon all his days. Even Dante was not big
enough for that. All should travel some, if only as far as a man can
walk in fifteen hours of a Sunday. Nothing will help to revise one's
table of contents like a day a-foot. As we sat there in the flood of
sunshine, devouring the lunch of the excellent Mrs. France (may she
get a white stroke for every one she puts up) and indulging in
intermittent discourse, some things that Brute said made me quite
sure that the above is true.
If you could have seen that boy sprawling over three or four porch
steps, half blinking in the light like a contented woodchuck, looking
lazily out over the valley and letting his old black pipe draw his
thoughts from him, you 'd never guess that they were thoughts.
Neither would Brute have claimed that reputation for them. He did not
crave that position. But those steady dark eyes of his had been set
broad to see things true. Just because his good nature belied his
ability to criticize, one got the impression that he was n It as much
interested in things as was the case. But I found that he had the
habit of clinging to a string of ideas until he reached the ends.
Then he tied a knot. He was evidently reaching for one of the ends
when he said abruptly:
"It Is funny how they lie."
"Oh! all the people who preach at you and teachers and
copy-books. I was thinkin' of the copy-books and the way they made me
write out 'Business before pleasure' fifty times at a throw. When I
'd get to the pleasure end of it there wasn't't any. I can't see as
there's much business connected with this goose-chase of ours, and
yet I can't somehow feel as if I was losin' out."
He smiled comfortably and then continued: "I've got a stack of
ideas, more'n I could use in a year at the garage. When I get home
I'll show 'em a surprise. But I 'm going to find that copybook writer first."
"He wasn't so far wrong," I remarked. Brute transferred his
gaze from the valley to me.
"Then what in the devil are we doing sitting around in these
mountains? We've been putting pleasure so far ahead of business that
it isn't in the same day. We keep it up and keep it up; and yet I
can't see as your conscience is giving you much anguish."
A laugh escaped me at his picture.
"You've mixed the meanings. The old-fashioned way was to hate
your job, but let it take it out of you for ten or twelve hours a day
and then heat up the scraps and call them pleasure. Nowadays the law
cuts it down to eight hours of drudgery and sixteen of something
else. But there are a lot of people like you and me who must have our
pleasure first and all the time. And we get paid for it, too."
" How do you suggest cashing in to-day's fun?" he asked
with a little laugh.
"You just suggested it yourself." I had to laugh, too, at
his look of mystification.
"Then I must be getting to be a mighty loose talker. "
"Ideas, man. You never get any ideas when you're not enjoying
yourself-at least any valuable ideas. It wasn't all work that made
Jack a dull boy-it was all drudgery did it. And I refuse to put
drudgery before pleasure, and just now so did you. You said you were
going to wake up your garage with your ideas. Just like Ford, maybe.
You can't tell me that he stopped having pleasure when the whistle
blew; now did he?"
"Not punctual," Brute admitted.
"He put pleasure first. Pleasure paid him. Pleasure always pays,
if it is real."
"What's to tell," asked the boy, "whether you're
experiencin' a real pleasure or just being a slant-domed fan of gaiety?"
That was a hard drive at my theory. We were both silent for a moment
in the cascade of white light that poured upon the brooding forest. A
short way off, some pines stood shining like candelabra. There seemed
no reason why the path of the future should not be plain, so abundant
was the joy of living. Brute answered his own question:
"I think I get you; it's this way. In your way of living there
won't need to be anybody to do the chores, for there won't be any
chores to do. There 'll be enough people to have everybody doing what
he likes and yet get everything done."
"And better done than now, " I added; "for it will be
done from the heart. That's the only real fun-doing something from
the heart. Call it business, if you like to fool the world. Or call
it just plain pleasure, if you 're bold. You like your grease and
monkey-wrenches, and I like something else; but both of them would be
abominable trades for a third man. And if coming out here in the
wilds didn't do another thing for us but make us certain, it would be
time well spent. But you found your ideas in addition."
"And the money-end 'll come? Do you believe that this
pleasure-business will bring in the money as sure as that old system
"Ford made his millions out of being happy. If he'd stuck to
business he'd 've still been working for a living."
"But Ford's Ford."
"Well, you're you, with just the same truths holding water as
they did for Ford and all the rest of us in this good old United
States that God and Thomas Jefferson planned out so well. Did they
make you learn the Declaration of Independence in your school?"
"That dope about life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness?" Brute lit his pipe again. "It never impressed
us kids much."
"That very dope is the whole thing. That's the American
contribution to this universe. Our American notion of pleasure is to
follow out our bent, and our notion of happiness is having the
liberty to follow out our pleasure."
"Well, there ain't so much happiness lying around, according to
that," said Brute.
"That's true. Because there are mighty few who've read their
Declaration of Independence right. There are a million clerks keeping
ledgers who secretly want to keep cows, a million milliners dreaming
how happy they are going to be when they've chewed off the last
thread, five million unhappy school-teachers who don't know what that
first sentence of the Declaration means."
"Healthy life, intelligent liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness-meaning happiness in your pursuit."
I knew that Brute's first puff was the end of the conversation, but
his thoughts were burrowing deep still, and in that vast silence any
talk seemed but trivial embroidery to the largeness of the day. The
mountain seemed brooding over the plain, and the plain led one's
fancy to the sea. But now their impersonal hugeness seemed less
interesting far than the glimpse I had had into the boy's heart
beside me. And, as if in answer to my mood, he stretched and said:
"Seein' big must make you think big. I wonder what we'd have
talked at if we'd been sittin' on the Rockies."