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EARTHBOUND IN THE SPACE AGE
Nicholas Dawidoff
December 03, 1990
Peter Matthiessen explores the wild and the majestic
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December 03, 1990

Earthbound In The Space Age

Peter Matthiessen explores the wild and the majestic

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The house is a repository of curious objects. A generous windowsill in Matthiessen's office holds a white shark's tooth, a New Guinean nose ornament made of human bone; a sculptured section of an ancient gray and black Tibetan wall, part of an immense Indian ocean snail, dolls made by Hopi Indians and a stone marriage bracelet from the Ivory Coast. On the wall are several buttons that read FREE LEONARD PELTIER, as well as a homemade banner given to Matthiessen by Chavez.

The living room is the second wing of Matthiessen's private museum. An Amazon headdress made with monkey skin, human hair and macaw feathers hangs on a wall near a lizard-shaped New Guinean hunting horn. There are weapons: bows, arrows and axes. And artwork: everything from sketches of birds to Japanese paintings to Franz Kline abstractions. And photographs: an entire wall of large black-and-white shots of New Guinean tribesmen, in full-feathered splendor, charging across battlefields, plus one photo of a smiling Kurelu woman. The office and living room are good places in which to work, relax and entertain.

Last year Matthiessen went to Montana to see grizzly bears. Self-taught naturalist Doug Peacock had invited him to come see them up close, and Matthiessen was thrilled. "I've seen grizzlies in Canada," he said, "and at Yellowstone, but always under safe conditions. I've never seen them on the hoof, a few yards away. Peacock's specialty is getting close to them." Maria was not thrilled.

It did seem a bit foolhardy—particularly since Matthiessen at the time was limping badly because of a touch-football injury—but Maria did not argue. She knew that bringing the sight of the grizzly back with him to Long Island was a mission that cut much deeper than a macho explorer's test of fate. After all, 30 years ago her husband wrote, "No one who has ever seen a grizzly will dispute its title; shambling, rooting or frozen against a hillside, fur roughened by the wind, it stirs the heart. For many of us the great grizzly will always represent a wild, legendary America somewhere to the north and west which we were born too late ever to see."

Pay attention. BOOM!
Pay attention. BOOM!
Pay attention. BOOM!
Because your life is going very, very, very fast. Ka-BOOM!

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