Chances are good that you, like me, are a member of different social media groups. The Fans of Emmylou Harris, the Don’tcha Wish Your Beard Was Hot Like Mine club, you know, groups like that. One of the Facebook groups I’m a part of is known as Edward Abbey Matters. If you don’t know who Edward Abbey was, a simple Google search can remedy that. But in a nutshell, Abbey was a prophetic voice in the late 60s, bringing attention to the desecration of the wild places on this planet, among other things. And as is the case with most prophets, Abbey offended almost everyone at one time or another. He was a crank in the truest sense of the word. But he was the kind of crank many loved, and still do. For at heart, Abbey was a lover.
The Edward Abbey Matters group has a few people who are always posting things, the squeaky wheels. That’s fine. But I always pay attention when an unsqueaky wheel pipes up, and one did recently. It was a father whose son had celebrated his 19th birthday. And the gift he gave his son? A copy of Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire. He sees it as a rite of passage for his son. “I read Desert Solitaire about 30 years ago and still go back and reread chapters. I am hoping Abbey's writing influences him as much as it did me.”
Regardless of where you fall on the masculinity spectrum, rites of passage are widely accepted and encouraged, these ways of helping boys cross over into the waters of manhood. There are the dark rites, getting laid for the first time, getting drunk for the first time, etc. Unfortunately these are still held in high regard by some men, but these are men who are still boys, in my unhumble opinion. But there are many men, like the father I mentioned, who are trying to be intentional about helping their sons grow up and be a help to the common good rather than a hindrance.
My son is home for the summer, taking a short break before heading back to college in a few weeks. He’s 19yrs young, and among the handful of things he’s taking back to school with him is my worn copy of Desert Solitaire. Will he read it and be influenced by it as I was? I don’t know. Will it be a rite of passage for him in how he views God’s creation and how we are entrusted with caring for it? Hard to know there too. But I’ve placed it in his hands with a little commentary as to how it inspired me, as a young boy becoming a man, to not to be afraid to get cranky about the things in this life that truly matter. Because at the heart of every good crank is a lover. And if there’s anything this world needs these days, it’s more men who are lovers.