Han Shan, Cold Mountain, that Zen sage
1200 years ago enjoyed a view from his cave
better than the Emperor saw when he
looked out his windows in the Forbidden City.
Han Shan also used–with the other monks
from the caves around his– a heated pool
at least four times a month.
Living in his own stench was not his style.
And then there was Noah John Rondeau,
rooted deep in the mountains on Cold River,
his hut on display in the Adirondack museum today.
There were times when he trekked down
to Albany to sportsman shows and
gladly shared his loneliness with everyone.
One of the best things, he famously said,
about being a hermit is the people you meet.
Now, in these times of forced isolation,
I wonder how many of those old loners
simply sought to embrace humanity closer.
— Joseph Bruchac
Editor’s note: Joseph Bruchac is an author, educator and Abenaki elder and storyteller. This poem is part of Adirondack Center for Writing’s annual Poem Village project. Published by permission of the author.
I may have written about Noah John Rondeau here before – if so, my apologies!
I met Noah John around 1962 or so when he came to speak at our summer camp’s Sunday night campfire. This was at Silver Lake Camp in Hawkeye NY. He appeared, long white beard, overalls, I think, a tattered jacket, carrying a little tin suitcase that had “N. Rondeau, Adirondack Hermit” in black block letters on it. He told us that he became a hermit because he “couldn’t get an eddication” and urged us to be sure to get one. Then he opened his little suitcase and sold autographed postcards.
I took his advice and made sure to get an “eddication” and still have his postcard somewhere. I remember hiking to the site of his campsite on the Cold River, in the mid 70s. I think the hut remained.
So great to see the work of Joseph Bruchac again, noting Han Shan and Noah John Rondeau in the same poem! Perhaps the same breath. They are both immortals in my book. Just happen to be now re-reading Maitland de Sormo’s excellent book on Rondeau. We are all indebted to David Greene for cracking Rondeau’s arcane code!