The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

The Good, The Bad and The Zucky

There are piles of books in the Messeder residence, as the Resident Home Decorator often reminds me, especially when she enters my atelier – which is a French word for “studio,” itself a fancified substitute for “office,” which, to me, sounds too darned, well, officious. I’d much rather sit in my studio with a drink and my books, and maybe … But I digress.

Some of our books have not been looked at for awhile. One of them arrived in the mail yesterday. Others had been in the attic, and not boxed for discard or library donation when the lady of the house took her desire for order to the floor beneath the roof.

I love books. Some more than others, but in principle, all of them. As I occasionally told my son, who came up before the current Internet was the overflowing repository of knowledge it has become, “Everything that’s ever been known is in a book somewhere.”

In high school, I read about a kid about my age who learned to drive an MG-TD really fast, and drift it through corners with just the right combination of speed, gas and brakes. I got a little older and tried it; with a little practice, I found it worked really well.

James A. Michener has taken me through the generations of history of South Africa, the American West, and the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, and this month introduced me to Diane Les Becquets, whose 2016 novel took me on a search for a lost hunter in Montana. It is one of the few tales to have made me cry.

I wish I’d known of her sooner. “The Last woman in the Forest” so far promises to be just as good.

Back in the day, the “Encyclopaedia Britannica” was a wondrous library in its own right, containing in about 30-40 books a little bit about nearly everything then known about nearly everything, with maps and color pictures and information about stuff a 16-year-old had never even thought of existing.

The latest crop of high-schoolers has the penultimate encyclopedia, the Internet. Google a phrase from a song accompanying a TV show or ask it how high is Engineer Pass, and the Internet delivers the entire song and the how long it’ll take to from the paved road to the 12,800-foot summit of Engineer.

It’s in the Rocky Mountains near Ouray, Colorado, by the way, and I drove a Jeep within about 800 feet of that summit one spring before the snow had melted enough to unblock that last few feet of two-track road.

Daughter and I once waded online through a portion of the U.S. Constitution to discover for a paper in her masters degree studies, whether the federal government had authority to establish gun-free zones around schools.

Our granddaughter, then eight years old, came home one evening to look up Frederick Douglass, and was amazed to see how much the live one she’d just met looked like the dead one the live one pretended to be.

Like the encyclopedia of my youth, the Internet is a passport to nearly everything one could possibly want to know — or at least it’s a pointer to where that knowledge can be found.

The Internet also has Mark Zuckerberg’s most famous creation. Zuck invented Facebook while in college as a device to catalog girls. The platform has made him very wealthy on its way to becoming eminently useful for spreading information about all manner of organization, mayhem and outright lies.

I do not spend much time on Facebook, though I pay close attention to a half dozen of them. I am bothered to discover that because I didn’t comment on a friend’s post, Zuck hasn’t shown me anything the friend has posted since before Covid.

And I announce my weekly column on Facebook where, with a little luck, my friends will “Share” my posts with their friends.

But the platform’s “feature” allows a truckload of false information to be passed around, while blocking information that might actually be helpful. For that reason, many people report emphatically they do not “do” Twitter or Facebook.

I wonder how many of my readers regularly inhabit the Facebook Interverse, and for what reasons.


  1. Stephanie Roelker

    December 5, 2022 at 17:24

    I look at Facebook to read your work, Heather Cox Richardson, connect with high school and college friends, some political groups. I find myself fact checking a lot of what I read from political groups. This is not new to me, but it is tiresome.

    • It’s good to see people using the tool for its advertised usefulness. Like anything else, it has its limitations, and fact checking news items is important. I found one today in which the poster interpreted a news story differently than what the story actually said.) Maybe that’s the journalist in me; I often look at something and think, “That’s not what he said.

      Thanks very much for reading my wanderings.

  2. Nicely done!
    If the Internet is the penultimate encyclopedia, what is the ultimate one?

  3. I just love this. Every single word.
    And the photo is fantastic.
    I really appreciate you, John Messeder.
    So very happy to see you on Gettysburg Connection too.

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