the pull of the north

SscallofthewildGarrett Keizer at VQR:

I’ve asked one or two of those questions in my time, including a secular version of the psalmist’s lament about songs in strange lands. Now and then it strikes me as one of the more dubious moves of my life that I should have left the environs of Paterson, spiritual home of Allen Ginsberg and William Carlos Williams, and set out with my new bride and my callow poetic ambitions for the boonies of Vermont. The pull I felt toward the North—was it inspiration or merely nostalgia for my childhood, a nostalgia formed (this is the joke of it) in the summertime for a place of long winters, “nine months of snow and three months of poor sledding” as a local saying has it? Although I’ve wondered on occasion if my best songs were meant to be sung in New Jersey, and about New Jersey, the truth is that North Haledon was never going to be north enough for me, never close enough to the kobolds and the Vikings. And I’m not alone in my inclinations. Rilke is supposed to have claimed that the opening lines of his Duino Elegies were dictated by the north wind. Could any other wind have served?

My friend and neighbor Howard Frank Mosher may be the most passionate lover of all things north that I’ve ever met. Four of his books have some form of the word in their titles, and in one of them, a travelogue called North Country: A Personal Journey through the Borderland, he begins by dating his attraction: “Ever since my grandparents began taking me on weekend trips to the Adirondacks when I was four years old, traveling north has exhilarated me.”

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