February 26, 2018

"A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape."

Wrote Wendell Berry, quoted by Etienne in last night's "Winter Road Café," after Bunk said "Hey, this photo..."

IMG_1845

"... appears to be a bike path, not a road."

I love the Berry quote, and thanks to Etienne for bringing it to us. It perfectly explains why I, using that photograph and needing a title for the "café," could not bring myself to use the word "path," even though I knew for sure — what you were left guessing* — that it is the thing most people call a "bike path."**

___________________

* Danno observed that if it's not a bike path, it's got "a very wide stripe!"

** Actually, around here, the official term for a thing like that is "bike trail." So you may want to discuss the path/trail distinction or bring out evocative poetic quotes with "trail." There must be many, "trail" being an even more powerful word in the legend of America. The Chisholm Trail, the Appalachian Trail, etc. And yet "trail" refers to dragging something along behind you. The oldest meaning is the trail of a long robe. On the landscape, then, the "trail" is what those who've gone before have left behind. And "trail" has only meant "path" since the early 1800s. "Path" has referred to "A way or track formed by the continued treading of pedestrians or animals" for as long as we can find a language called English — the period the OED calls "early OE" (600-950). That's profound. And — here's where I change my mind and decide that "path" is more powerful than "trail" — the word "pathfinder" has special resonance (from the OED):
1840 J. F. Cooper (title) The pathfinder.
1860 W. Whitman Leaves of Grass (new ed.) 425 The path-finder, penetrating inland, weary and long....
1847 R. W. Emerson Poems 169 Sharpest-sighted god.., Path-finder, road-builder, Mediator, royal giver.
1898 W. James Coll. Ess. & Rev. (1920) 408 Philosophers are after all like poets. They are path-finders. What every one can feel, what every one can know in the bone and marrow of him, they sometimes can find words for and express.
4 great American names, clustered in the great English Dictionary.

There is no word "trailfinder," though there is — we must give "trail" its due — "trail-blazer." But "trail-blazer" only arrives on the scene in the 20th century, and its earilest recorded usage cannot compare to the quadrumvirate of James Fennimore Cooper, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James:
1908 Daily Chron. 19 May 3/2 Mrs. Hubbard's journey..with a small party of ‘trail blazers’ native to the ways of Labrador....
1957 V. Packard Hidden Persuaders xxi. 233 Tide, the merchandisers' journal, admonished America's merchandisers to pay attention to this trail-blazing development as it might be ‘tomorrow's marketing target.’
The "trail-blazing development" was a planned suburban community in Miramar, Florida:
What does it mean to buy a "packaged" home in a "packaged" community? For many (but apparently not all) of the Miramar families it means they simply had to bring their suitcases, nothing more. No fuss with moving vans, or shopping for food, or waiting for your new neighbors to make friendly overtures. The homes are completely furnished, even down to linens, china, silver, and a refrigerator full of food. And you pay for it all, even the refrigerator full of food, on the installment plan.

38 comments:

rhhardin said...

Trailblazing is marking trees so you can go from one blaze to the next. The trail develops with use. Path is a short trail when it's in the woods.

traditionalguy said...

Great day. Four old European white men are getting all Althouse Gold Medals. How about adding a Lifetime Achievement Award for Walt Whitman. Thanks for all you do.

Fernandistein said...

"As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape."

LOL. So it doesn't count or doesn't work "as a form" in a shiny new unknown landscape? What a load of poetical crap.

A path is about 8-10" wide and made by deer and their ilk, which is elk.

A trail is about 4' wide and made by ATVs and motorcycles.

A road is paved.

rhhardin said...

Trailless peaks in the Adirondacks have trails from so many people climbing them, but no trailblazing.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

I don’t believe the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts only started being called that in the 1800s.

LincolnTf said...

I was in the "Pathfinder" (8th Infantry) Division in the early Nineties. The insignia was the number 8 with a gold arrow signifying John Fremont, as the unit was originally formed at Camp Fremont, CA.

Jaske said...

That narrow road reminds me of New York State Road 38, on the west side of Owasco Lake. My Uncle (mom's side) hade a cabin on the lake, we could use it whenever we had time and means of transport. My Aunt sold it after Uncle passed, I still make time to drive by when visiting the area. An old favorite path.

Ann Althouse said...

"Trailblazing is marking trees so you can go from one blaze to the next. The trail develops with use. Path is a short trail when it's in the woods."

I understand this inference and know about the "blazes" on the Appalachian Trail, but to be sure this is the origin of the word, you need to do some research into the ways of the people of Labrador.

It's annoying to try to do Google searches about the people of Labrador. You keep getting the dogs.

Bob Boyd said...

A trail doesn't exist until something has passed that way.
But a path can exist in advance actual passage.

The onrushing wall of water left a trail of destruction and threatened all in it's path.

Ann Althouse said...

"I was in the "Pathfinder" (8th Infantry) Division in the early Nineties. The insignia was the number 8 with a gold arrow signifying John Fremont, as the unit was originally formed at Camp Fremont, CA."

Thanks!

I'm seeing at Wikipedia: "The 8th Infantry Division was known as the "Pathfinder" division during World War I, and both it and the "Golden Arrow" division during World War II. Both nicknames originated from the division's insignia, which includes a gold arrow to represent the 19th-century explorer of California, John Fremont. The division was formed at Camp Fremont, California in 1918. It was later known to many of its post World War II soldiers as Eight Up (Ate Up: a military term meaning out of order, screwed up) and "The Crazy Eight," after the card game."

Bob Boyd said...

"A road is paved."

Unless it's unpaved.

traditionalguy said...

One interesting Etymological study could be "Path-ology." It appears to be a study of pathos/suffering caused by things going wrong in human bodies. But the ancient Greeks used it first.

Cooper's Hawkeye was probably an early NRA member, his Huron nickname being "La Longue Carabine."

And in English Common Law, the stating that a person has a disease is one of 4 statements that are deemed Slander, per se. Maybe that's why they coded medical pathology in Ancient Greek.

Ann Althouse said...

"A trail doesn't exist until something has passed that way.
But a path can exist in advance actual passage. The onrushing wall of water left a trail of destruction and threatened all in it's path."

Yes, it's the difference between between the past and the future.

If you are in my path, you're up ahead. If you are in my trail, you are following me.

Bob Boyd said...

"Path-ology."

Exploring en-trails.

Gilbert Pinfold said...

@LincolnTf:
The Army now has a Pathfinder School (Ft. Benning) which trains all the services in dismounted navigation, establishment, marking, and defence of landing and drop zones, as well as slingload operations and traffic control and management of air assets. It is a highly-coveted qualification resulting in a distinctive uniform badge of a torch, and is often worn in conjunction with parachute and air assault qualifications when earned. These qualifications in addition to achievement of the Ranger tab make those wearing the Pathfinder badge among the most qualified of the members of the Army's maneuver branches.

kwenzel said...

I come to this blog for the hodology!

LincolnTf said...

One of my Drill Sergeants had the Pathfinder tab, he was a bad mofo.

traditionalguy said...

Captain John Fremont was appointed due to connection with Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. They were both Scots-Irish Jacksonians from Nashville who were smart enough to hire and to follow another Missouran, who was the actual pathfinder involved, named Kit Carson.

LincolnTf said...

I can say that me and my buddies did our best to live up to the "screwed up, out of order" traditions of our Division. We also interpreted the insignia as depicting the 8 hours we spent on a plane to get there (8th ID was in Europe at the time) and the arrow was the shaft you got up the backside once you landed.

AllenS said...

The original pathfinder was a man whose motto was: "I'm going this way."

tcrosse said...

It's annoying to try to do Google searches about the people of Labrador. You keep getting the dogs.

I know what you mean. My Grandmother was a Pomeranian.

AllenS said...

Looked at some Gary Larson The Far Side cartoons this morning.

Roger Sweeny said...

There are many, many discontinued rail lines in the United States. By the 1970's, some of them were being graded and paved (once the rails were removed). Perhaps because of the rhyming, they were called "rail trails." The federal government now makes it almost impossible to sell off old RR rights of way and provides some money for conversion into "trails."

LincolnTf said...

The Cape Cod Rail Trail (bike path) serves as a commuter route for all the young seasonal employees (largely from Ireland/England) who work at the shops and restaurants. It's the only one I've ever used, and it's great. Cuts right through a pristine State Park, past ponds, marshes, etc.

Ann Althouse said...

"A trail is a walk in which all the edges are distinct. A closed trail has been called a tour or circuit, but these are not universal, and the latter is often reserved for a regular subgraph of degree two. Traditionally, a path referred to what is now usually known as an open walk. Nowadays, when stated without any qualification, a path is usually understood to be simple, meaning that no vertices (and thus no edges) are repeated."

That's what you get when you ask Google what's the difference between a path and a trail — graph theory.

Lash LaRue said...

See also Adam Schiff,a.k.a. Pathfinder

Roger Sweeny said...

Again, probably because of the rhyming, the process of turning an abandoned railroad right of way into a pedestrian/biking way is often referred to as "rails to trails."

Ralph L said...

With his flaunted jaunt, the neighbor's cat made a visible path diagonally across my back lawn. The grass remained, but shorter.

Put some hedgerows on the sides of that trail and it's a rural road in England.

Ralph L said...

I was told there'd be no math on this blog.

Wince said...

This comment thread is so pathetic.

Michael K said...

"The Army now has a Pathfinder School (Ft. Benning) which trains all the services in dismounted navigation, "

The "Band of Brothers" company in WWII was trained by a company commander but he was removed before they deployed because he got lost in a field problem.

Danno said...

Blogger Fernandistein said...A road is paved.

With all of the competition for tax money, some Minnesota counties are unpaving some roads. As many rural areas have small and declining populations they are squeezed to maintain the roads. The state (mostly metro area) likes to build shiny new light rail systems rather than maintain the state's infastructure.

https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2018/01/squeezed-tight-maintenance-budgets-and-rising-pavement-costs-minnesota-count

Danno said...

As to bike paths and/or trails, the Madison area has quite a few of them (mostly paved) and they are a great local resource and very enjoyable to use.

On the politics of bike trails, greater Wisconsin has many more bike paths and trails, mostly unpaved, as the state money is sucked out of the hardscrabble areas and into the Madison area, where it doesn't leave.

Richard Dillman said...

Let me suggest James Fenimore Cooper’s novel “Pathfinder,” part of the Leatherstocking Tales, 1840. Also for great takes on
paths, roads, or trails, I recommend three essays by Thoreau: “Walking,” “A Winter Walk,” and “A Walk to Wachusetts.”

“Walking” is the best of the lot, one of the best explorations of the joys of casual walking I’ve ever encountered. “It is a fine art to saunter.”
The three essays are usually considered as Thoreau’s excursion essays.

Richard Dillman said...

Other Cooper novels exploring the walking, trail blazing theme include “the Deerslayer,” “Pioneers”, and “The Prairie.”

D. H. Lawrence thought that Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales laid out the basic patterns and archetypes of the American western, with its
emphasis on movement and long journeys.

Michael said...

No Road by Philip Larkin
Since we agreed to let the road between us
Fall to disuse,
And bricked our gates up, planted trees to screen us,
And turned all time's eroding agents loose,
Silence, and space, and strangers - our neglect
Has not had much effect.

Leaves drift unswept, perhaps; grass creeps unmown;
No other change.
So clear it stands, so little overgrown,
Walking that way tonight would not seem strange,
And still would be allowed. A little longer,
And time would be the stronger,

Drafting a world where no such road will run
From you to me;
To watch that world come up like a cold sun,
Rewarding others, is my liberty.
Not to prevent it is my will's fulfillment.
Willing it, my ailment.

Rusty said...

It is a sendero luminoso.

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