Steinbeck First Page

The rocks played hide and seek in the sand that shifted and was sifted by the tides on  this far corner of a tired and worn out continent.  The land was broken by gully and deadfall.  The forest fell into the ocean in a tangle of tree roots and driftwood. Looming, the littoral forests – severe verticals of silvertop, untidy understorey and  mysterious casaurina did not welcome white men.  Black men, who had not been welcomed either, were finally tolerated. Rubbing together side by side for thousands of years, black man and forest, each had changed the other.  Once the forest had been unbroken in a long coastal strip from tropic to temperate, one great Gondwanaland green breathing mass.  Careful use of fire  opened up the country,  glades twinkled brighter green where ‘roos could graze and from cover be stalked and killed.  Here and there were children and dogs and small farming.  Here and there were fish traps and mountains of empty sea shells.  There was not the pressure or the leisure for war.

Suddenly there were boats with sails like the wings of great white birds.  The white men came with horses, gold pans, cattle, guns, axes and death.  For the first time for many thousand years there were strangers in the strange land. The black man died and the forests, first tree by tree and then stand by stand, began to fall

The inventor of religion and slavery and later employment – the owner of the horses, gold pans, axes, cattle, guns and death found a use for wilderness.  A use other than as feed stock for the manufacture of toilet paper.  Seeking diversion from an existence rendered pointless by a spreading and pervading illusion of choice – a man, with first a train timetable and later  motorcars and airplanes  invented tourism where the strange and the alien, the frightening and the dangerous were safer, being not so close to home.

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