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Backpacker Magazine – Winter, 1975

MORE THAN A DAY'S WALK: A story in 20 stanzas

A classic BACKPACKER story from the winter 1975 issue of BACKPACKER

by: Colin Fletcher


Should trees have standing? I see a stone's inscription. I read the inscription yesterday, warm in my tent while rain fell on the soft moss and new snow fell on the mountain's rock. The words of the inscription stood clear.

And now it is afternoon again, and late, and still I stride across the tundra. Ahead, sunlight slants; but here the wind slides cold off the mountains. It is no longer summer now, as it was when I came to this place such a little time ago. Perhaps it is later than we think.

I walk on. The cold, clear air quickens my lungs. Perhaps the knowing is the difference: I think, therefore I have a brain. And the stone's inscription ended: "Perhaps we are the living brain of this planet."

This cold, clear air cannot think--this envelope that is our planet's lung. Not, at least, the way I do, you do. No more than my lungs think the way my brain does, yours does. Yet if the lungs falter, our brains die.

I stride on, climbing now. Over my shoulder, back in the foothills, a rifle thumps; and now another. And beyond the rifles, inside the closing "Arco" Circle, they are slashing an artery across the tundra--are slashing more than one artery. Yes, perhaps it is later than we think.

But many have read the stone's inscription, and few have spoken. The old man leaned closer and whispered: "A tree. A rock. A cloud.... The weather was like this...," he said, "at the time my science was begun."

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