From the Afterword
Two journeys unfold in Dual Tracks — a journey through words and one through
photographs. John Muir, the naturalist and avid preservationist, penned the words;
Max Brodsky is the traveling dog. Muir lived from 1838 to 1914. Max Brodsky, an
almost two-year-old Westie in these photographs, lives in Pittsburgh, now, during
the 21st century. Yet, though time separates them, there are important commonalities.
For one, they share ancestry — Muir’s birth country is Scotland, and
Max, too, traces his breed to those scraggly hills where his ancestors kept their
snouts close to the ground sniffing out vermin. And second, both Muir and Max
are natural trekkers. Muir pushes off into the woods whenever he can, communing
with the universe, finding comfort and meaning; Max, who not only shares
my last name but also my home, leaps at all opportunities to run off to the street
as soon as I open the door. Both Muir and Max are driven to ‘push-off-into…’
and it’s not clear if either feels regret for what he leaves behind. And last and least
important, both John Muir and Max Brodsky each have two names, a first and a
last, and one of those names is one syllable and starts with M.
But even though strong resemblance exists between the two, differences remain.
Muir lives in idealism… Max in realism. Muir would not be happy on trash-lined
streets where Max finds heaven. Muir took pilgrimages into the wilderness to
renew and to find himself, but Max’s nose is easily made happy by abandoned
stockpiles of gook left by man.
Muir was a visionary who respected our earth. He was avid environmentalist
before most knew that protecting our natural resources would be a dire need.
Considered the ‘Father of the National Parks,’ Muir’s writings and activism influenced
the U.S. government’s formation of a national parks system — protecting
large tracks of beatific land from commercial use so that it would be ‘accessible
by all and preserved for generations.’ Muir’s world was not ‘man-centric.’ A deeply
spiritual person, Muir recognized that man was only a small part of a mighty creation
that had its own schema.
Muir’s voice merges with Max only in the end of Dual Tracks, when Max looks
ahead. As Muir writes, “This good and tough mountain-climbing flesh is not my
final home, and I’ll creep out of it and fly free and grow!” But perhaps if Muir
and Max ‘in twain had met’ with some crossing of paths between the pair, this
little tragedy would be a comedy. Man’s world is exemplified by Max’s surroundings,
and even though this environment shows a reckless concern for the earth’s
resources rather than man’s finer accomplishments, it does exist. Muir, on the
other hand, shows us a world without man’s tracks, and one wonders if it is at all
possible to get there.