Kevin Farkas sent this personal essay after completing the first podcast for RCH. I hope you enjoy the “small world” serendipity of connections over time and space.
Although we sometimes forget, Rachel Carson reminds us of the beautiful, mysterious, web of interconnectedness in our lives. During the production of this podcast, I unexpectedly—and pleasantly—came full circle with memories of a long forgotten personal experience I had many years ago.
In this episode, the late folk singer and environmentalist Walking Jim Stoltz makes a cameo appearance. His “Song for Rachel” mentioned here appears on the album, Songs for the Earth: A Tribute to Rachel Carson, with Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Josh White Jr, and other noted icons of contemporary Americana music. To say the least, Jim Stoltz is a legendary folk treasure; a tireless grassroots champion of nature and wilderness.
Until this podcast, I had long forgotten about Walking Jim Stoltz. But I knew him once, briefly, many years ago. We talked for about an hour, just he and I, and Jim’s ever present trail weary guitar. It was October, and we sat together in the golden warm autumn sun and lush grass of Concord College, tucked away in the southern hills of Pipestem, West Virginia. We were both there attending a gathering of long-distance hikers, a special band of slow-moving adventurers who tread hundreds or thousands of miles along some of our greatest foot trails. Jim and I were both veterans of the old Appalachian Trail and the newly forming Continental Divide Trail, so during our time together we shared a lot of “trail stories.” We laughed hard about some of the characters and comical mishaps we experienced along the way. We talked about the best places to get a cold beer, and the cleanest hiker shelters, and the friendliest mom and pop diners. We talked about getting caught in spring snowstorms, sweltering July heat, and the splendid colors of the fall forests of the mountain high country.
As the afternoon wore on, Jim strummed his guitar and sang a bit whenever our conversation lulled. He was slow warming his fingers and voice in preparation for a benefit concert later that evening at the college, where I would sit in the front row and he’d occasionally smile and nod in my direction. As was his hallmark, he would sing in that deep resonate voice about the wonders of nature, the wonderment of hiking, and the fierce willfulness of the environmental movement to protect and defend what wilderness we have left. Jim Stoltz surely sang about Rachel Carson that evening.
That was thirty years ago. Although Walking Jim Stoltz left us about a decade ago, I am glad his music remains, timelessly reminding us, just as Rachel Carson did: “Those who contemplate [and sing about] the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
And about that web of interconnectedness? As I write this, I look over at my ever present acoustic guitar propped up in the corner of my room—an old friend that’s comforted me through many tough times in my life. I often marvel at its gorgeous natural spruce and rosewood construction, dinged up and weather-worn, of course, but still sounding splendid. Its rich resonance rings exceptionally well with folk music —Walking Jim Stoltz music.
Indeed, Jim Stoltz was my first musical inspiration and muse; but I’d forgotten about that. Hearing his voice again on this podcast reminds me. And to finish this tale, not long after our encounter that day in the rolling mountains of West Virginia, I picked up my first guitar—the one near me now. What a blessing it is to have old friends reappear in our lives.