Nick Hayes, The Book of Trespass (Bloomsbury, 2020), Pt. I

I grew up in Louisiana. Lake Charles, in fact, where Hurricane Laura just broke the record for strongest landfall since 1856. Louisiana, like most Gulf Coast states, isn’t a walker’s paradise. It’s too hot and too humid to go traipsing around the neighborhood. Imagine waking up at what should be a cool, dark morning hour, just before sunrise, and stepping outside into an atmosphere thick as spit. I doubt any sort of pedestrian thoroughfare regularly makes the city council’s priority expense list.

Which means, if you’re a born walker—I mean, someone whose spirit animal looks more like a knuckle-dragging Sasquatch than a penguin—you’re shit out of luck if your stork picks a doorstep on the bayou. Unless. Unless trespassing fulfills some unaccountable need in you. Trespassing doesn’t fix the jungle swelter. But it does open up your rambling radius, especially if you want to get away from car exhaust and the seismic rumble of humanity.

Railroad tracks, for instance. Technically, they’re private property. Having been escorted by police off the track corridors many times, I can tell you that the lack of fences does not mean free passage. I doubt trespassers are prosecuted much though. Legions of good old boys in good-old-boy trucks leave shotgun shell cases on the tracks, and none have ever made headlines. Anyway, it’s not the tracks themselves that lure me in. It’s the access to vast stretches of pasture. The fencing for these places typically face the roads. But the parts that run alongside the tracks are almost always open. The landlords live elsewhere. Most of them. I’m not a mushroom hunter, myself, but if I were so inclined, let me tell you, the tracks would be a yellow brick road.

That’s a little free association after reading the first few pages of Nick Hayes’s The Book of Trespass. I have much more to say about trespass, as it’s been an important part of my intellectual and artistic education over the years. But I’m enjoying Hayes’s book immensely. And what’s more, the book is gorgeously illustrated with woodcuts by the author (see more here). Thanks to the brilliant photographer Deborah Parkin for the recommendation!