The Orange Dragon of the Green Valley

My friend will never write this, as I’ve asked for thirty years, and he hasn’t yet.

The most Thoreau-vian man I know, he spends his time investigating edges, the edge of a field, the currents along a river’s edge, the attic of a house, the thoughts most people don’t even know they have. He is a connoisseur of the barely there, both inside himself and in the world. 

For fifty years he’s traveled the edges of his community in the Stockbridge valley. He knows its forest, rivers, streams and even the vernal ponds. He knows them the way a commodities trader knows his market. Being interested in edges, he sees the center pretty clearly. 

He hasn’t yet burned down 300 acres of town woods, as Thoreau and his friend, Edward Hoar, did (by mistake) cooking fish they’d caught in the Concord River. Once, my friend, running in winter, found a Bobcat hit by a car on the road. He marveled at the cat’s beauty, held the still warm body, turned it in his hands, fondly. Knowing the skin’s value, he carried the cat
against his chest to hide in the woods and pick up later. When he returned there was no Bobcat, only its tracks leading off. He often speculates what would have happened if the stunned cat woke up in his arms. Another seasonal income, this in early summer, has been to drive from Stockbridge to New York City, gathering roadside wildflowers, then selling them to vendors at the New York Flower Market.

Thirty years ago this fall, as a freshman, I met my friend crossing Harvard Yard in early morning. He was fly-casting; practicing long distance casts. It could only have been him. I watched, as charmed then as I continue to be by this outlander. 

He trades in secrets. He knows things. He is solitude’s companion. No local or foreign government would pay for his secrets, but if he wrote, or spoke, what he knew, he would be the Edward Snowden of the natural world, the Interface between us and the lower case world, the quiet, sipping-out-of-sight creatures and processes we pass by. Once, he retuned in the spring from a long solitary hike and pronounced he’d seen the Orange Dragon of the Green Valley.

—Robert F. Perkins