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Engaging the academic debate around the social construction of the “Received Wilderness Idea”, the author examines the masculine framing of contemporary wilderness advocacy and recreation settings, and the ways in which such framing creates rhetorical blind spots for the wilderness movement that result in friction in the individual lived experiences of wilderness professionals, recreationists and volunteer advocates. In this paper, I attend principally to questions regarding the ways masculinity and hypermasculinity occur in wilderness discourse so that definitions of wilderness and wilderness subjects emerge which deter or discourage certain communities from participating. …

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This is Part One! Here is Part Two, ‘Boys’ Clubs and Beta Sprayers’

Wilderness: the temple of ancient, wrathful gods; the crucible of rugged American character; a morally freighted benchmark for all that is truly natural and balanced. In the United States, cultural mythology firmly plants its roots in stories of American genesis on the shores of a dark, ferocious, fertile continent. Echoes of these same stories resonate in the musings of Henry David Thoreau and John Muir; the paintings of Thomas Cole; the photography of Ansel Adams. The values represented by wilderness are enshrined in the National Park System…

“When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and the seeds of hope.” — Wangari Maathai

Five white pines grew alongside my home when I was young. Taller than the house, they were gray giants with their backs to our second-floor windows and their faces full in the afternoon sun. For a while, their low branches formed a kind of tunnel between the front and backyards. Long days my brother and I sat and played in dull blue light with bare feet buried in a soft, sour carpet of needles.

We hid treasure at the top of the…

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American masculinity is taught with escape narratives: Thoreau, Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford. The woods, the deserts the high plains are the last bastion of manhood, simplicity, truth, self discovery.

The warning label on that particular bottle of snake oil ought to read, Warning: May enflame aggrieved male entitlement.

But Peter felt raw and low, and the palliatives of puberty are first to soothe the manic mind.

“I’ll go with you,” said Ellie, closing the book in her lap. The thick Missouri summer sat like a weight on the chests and laps. …

Mom and I have a relationship rooted in shared experience. When in high school, my Dad, the firefighter, was losing control of his drinking — which arguably had been out of control for some time — and… everything got out of hand for a while and I feel for her.

That’s why I have a hard time holding her accountable, which is a problem sometimes. Like in her political life. …

“Oh, look at you!

“All upright and smiling — and at this hour! Under this pink light.

“Did you believe him when he said it would be an early night?

“Have you ever been able to wipe your mouth after the first round or two and ask for the check? Not with him. Not here. Look, you’re leaning now, against a wall you’ve leaned on a hundred times since August, pleading into this scratched mirror.

“Better get back out there, the room’s not quite fully tilted yet, and I’m sure he’s got another ski of shots for the three of…

Sheryl was drunk, even though her sister had asked her not to drink while she was gone. On top of that she’d let Hilda’s house plants die. The cat had escaped, and though Rosa had helped find him, Sheryl felt like a narrow miss was still a loss.

“I wonder how Baltimore went,” said Rosa, breaking away from the game.

Sheryl puffed up her cheeks and let out a low sigh. “Something weird about a begging money from randos all the way in Baltimore, huh?”

Rosa blew on her watery coffee. “That’s how grants work, Sheryl.”

Rosa had never lived…

Why shouldn’t they help themselves, after the day they’d had?

Summer beat on the roof, on the stucco walls, and the monkeys ran the zoo. Rather, the parishioners had control of the parsonage. More to the point, summer interns found the keys to boss’ liquor store.

Red, damp, sore, Nehemiah gripped the cork between thumb and forefinger, wrestled it from the bottle with a pop. Glasses were picked hesitantly, smartly from the cabinet — tumblers, all of them except Derek who extracted the pint glass.

“Back pay.”

“Service, not work, Nehemiah,” says Stanley.

“I’m doing it to feed myself. …

The reflection in Gail’s bifocals, lack of chin, perfect teeth, flicking tongue made her appear an eyeless snake.

“I don’t usually get the chance to sit down and talk to someone like you.”

What did she mean, “someone like me?”

A youngish person?

A gay man?

A software manager?

A dog lover?

A Libertarian?

An Aquarius?

“Our criminal justice system is just so… opaque.”

Oh. His essential fact: Older women in particular saw him as a criminal. Someone formerly incarcerated. Everyone treated that fact differently.

“I’m just… I want to know your story.”

Troy would recall stones clicking together in the waves when thinking of this day. He was also very aware of his clothes: khaki shorts, a baby blue button down, no shoes. Soon, if he didn’t move, Anna and Emmy would make him one more ghost among many from the day Toby floated by on his side. People their age did that sort of thing. This year they started piano lessons, walking between the lake and the house by themselves, and collecting ghosts.

Katie gathered up the girls, and asked Troy to dig a grave. She wanted it to be quick…

Ben Carpenter

A New Yorker in Kansas City. Social scientist, fiction writer, a planter of very fine trees. Follow me on Twitter: @Foster8243 and Instagram: FosterCarpenter346

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