An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of September 21, 2006
issued from Polly's Bend, Garrard County, in Kentucky's Bluegrass Region, USA

THE LITTLE PRINCE'S SCARF

At an earlier, quieter moment in life maybe you ran into "The Little Prince," a children's book by Antoine de Saint Exupéry. If so, you know that The Little Prince is more than a children's book. Maybe it's mostly for older people nostalgic for earlier times of simple idealism, or beliefs in simple truths, or maybe just for simple hope.

The author drew pictures of the Little Prince wearing a neck scarf that's always blowing to one side -- even when there's no wind at all. You can see this at http://www.angelfire.com/hi/littleprince/images/weeding.jpg.

I always wondered why the Little Prince's scarf was portrayed this way. During this last week at Polly's Bend I think I've begun understanding why. In fact, this whole week, it's seemed that I myself wore such a wind-hanging scarf.

For, even as my body stayed in one spot the rest of me felt on the move. With the scent of fall electrifying the air, inside me it was all migrating geese and trees ready to throw off their leaves. The air itself no longer was the languid, summery kind that all summer pooled around the mint-spring but rather now it's that itchy, kinky kind that whistles around jagged rocks, and rafters in abandoned barns. All week my scarf's loose end has flapped on a southerly breeze.

When last I visited my family in western Kentucky I saw my cousin George, who has farmed that area all his life. Like the rest of my family, he has deep roots there and -- something I admire and often have aspired to myself -- can hardly imagine any need to leave. One suspects that cousin George is delighted with his daily routines and the ordinariness of his life. He asked me where my home is now.

George isn't an Internet person but I tried to explain how people invite me places and I go there and study things and upload information onto the Internet, like being a telecommuting teacher, or a writer who gives away his words...

"You mean you're homeless!" he summed up, the exclamation point apparent.

Maybe. In fact, I've been thinking that maybe at a certain point it no longer matters whether there's a geographical entity answering to the definition of "home." Maybe as "Our use of knowledge progresses through successively higher levels of abstraction as we perfect civilization and draw nearer to the mentality of God... " (quote attributed to Leibniz by novelist Neal Stephenson) at some point the traditional concept of home becomes irrelevant. Maybe one becomes homeless during the natural course of things.

Or maybe wherever there are trees and a few birds, and there's a tent and a sleeping bag in my backpack, that's home...

Fact is, I'm unsure what to do or say or where I need to be to do my best to protect Life on Earth and human dignity for future generations. For a summer I've tried doing my thing here, but I can't see that any breakthroughs have been made. However, it's clear that winter is coming, and this old farmhouse is drafty, with no heat.

It's good how winter simplifies things.

So, right now I am all wild geese inside and my neck scarf hangs on a southerly breeze.