The Absence of Man

“The greatest joy in nature is the absence of man.”

-William Bliss Carman-

Every time I hike along the shoulder of a mountain or even just walk in a local forest preserve outside Chicago, I recover a part of myself.  I gain a fragment of my self that I had lost to civilization.  In the world made by men and crafted by committees, I feel alone and small.  Yet when I spend time with the earth, I experience alone and small as solitude and humility.  I can reckon with the rejuvenating violence of a storm or the rhythmic extremes of the seasons more easily than I can negotiate with the outburst of a jackhammer or the tantrums of rush hour.

Out in the desert, I throw on a camelback when there isn’t enough of water, or punch on a poncho when there’s too much.  Yet for all my trying and obsessing, I still don’t know what to do when there’s too much liquidity in the market, or not enough of it in my mouth when I’m trying to speak in a meeting.  In the world, I’m too tempted to sell myself out to the highest bidder, whether that be the boss, a beautiful woman, or the comfort of my couch.  But the unmitigated earth won’t bid for me.  The wilderness allows me to take the price off my forehead by celebrating myself with me.

It reminds me that though world most often forgets I’m even here, it doesn’t have the miles to measure what I really am.

© 2021 by Michael C. Just

Mike’s novel, The Dirt: The Journey of a Mystic Cowboy, is available in softcover or eBook formats through Amazon.

You can purchase the book through this website. Or go straight to amazon at

Mike’s other titles, including The Crippy, The Mind Altar, and Canyon Calls, are available through Amazon at

Two of his short stories have recently been published online. The Obligate Carnivore has been published by the Scarlet Leaf Review @ Category: MICHAEL JUST – SCARLET LEAF REVIEW

I See You, Too has been published by the 96th of October @ I See You, Too – 96th of October