This Is the American Earth
by Nancy Newhall
To the primal wonders no road can ever lead;
they are not so won.
To know them you shall leave road and roof behind;
you shall go light and spare.
You shall win them yourself, in sweat, sun, laughter,
in dust and rain, with only a few companions.
You shall know the night — its space, its light, its music.
You shall see earth sink in darkness and the universe appear.
No roof shall shut you from the presence of the moon.
You shall see mountains rise in the transparent shadow before dawn.
You shall see — and feel! — first light, and hear a ripple in the stillness.
You shall enter the living shelter of the forest.
You shall walk where only the wind has walked before.
You shall know immensity,
and see continuing the primeval forces of the world.
You shall know not one small segment but the whole of life,
strange, miraculous, living, dying, changing.
You shall face immortal challenges; you shall dare, delighting,
to pit your skill, courage, and wisdom against colossal facts.
You shall live lifted up in light; you shall move among the clouds.
You shall see storms arise, and, drenched and deafened, shall exult in them.
You shall top a rise and behold creation.
And you shall need the tongues of angels to tell what you have seen.
*Text excerpted from This Is the American Earth by Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall, © 1960 The Sierra Club.
Photo illustration by PiedType
Reprinted from Pied Type, Aug. 3, 2009