It seems like a long time ago now, the day I crashed into the bushes next to a north Georgia cornfield with over eighty pounds of cargo strapped to my back. My steel-toed boots and jeans were a poor fit for mid-day in July and I didn’t know yet whether any of the supplies I’d brought would suit these unfamiliar conditions either. Sweat ran into my eyes as I leaned against a tree, sat and caught my breath. My heart rate returned to normal as I sipped from a bottle and watched the unfamiliar southern forest. I was about to try walking back home to Pennsylvania but there were hundreds of miles of mountains between here and there.
Sitting there, wide-eyed and unsure what I was supposed to do next, my confidence was shattered. When I’d hatched the scheme a year earlier, I’d felt excitement and had trusted my own abilities and experience to propel me through the sojourn to come. Now I realized, in an instant, how insignificant all of my former experience on trails and waters was in comparison to this. A pitiless blue ridge of mountains lay to the northeast of me and everything between here and Fayette County, Pennsylvania would be new.
This was how it felt to take a great leap, to stretch the boundaries and expand my mind far beyond my comfort zone. Over the next five years I’d experience immersion in the wild and take myself to a place of comfort and intimacy with the woodland that I couldn’t have imagined prior to living among the wild creatures day and night.
The moment described here was truly one of the great turning points. I’d left behind a lot of comfort, familiarity, family and friends to do something worthwhile and to experience a wild life. Getting on the bus down to Georgia was necessary as was staying and walking the walk once I’d arrived.
None of the things I’ve done over the last eleven years would have been possible if I hadn’t put all I had into a project called the Eastern Brook Trout Solo Adventure. I’d be a less well-rounded individual, be less comfortable alone in wild places and be able to speak less authoritatively on all things wild.
Woodrisebooks.com is your portal to the mind of Cedric C. Keith. Hence, a read of the material presented herein will be a wide-ranging foray over the years to come, I’m sure.
One reason I can be sure of this is because of the material presented on my former blog, thedyingfish.com, a site originated to accompany the release of my first book, The Dying Fish (2016). The site was meant to help sell this thick volume but the marketing tool quickly deteriorated into a wide-ranging journal of thoughts on the wild covering topics as diverse as the unforseeable, dealing with fear, book reviews and commentary on our pandemic of authoritarianism, all presented from the perspective of nature and wilderness. I never did sell a lot of books but I did provoke some worthwhile discussions and met some good people. I try to keep some focus in my writing but my mind likes to wander, often taking the rest of me in tow.
I’m not a marketing person, I’m a wilderness person. If I were a marketing person, the site you’re now viewing would have a different look to it and few of the topics I choose would be covered. I’d endeavour to use more current key words to optimize my SEO at all costs. Our world seems run nowadays by marketing concerns and we deviate from prescribed paths at the peril of our views, conversions and sales. But how much does this also affect what we’re willing to say? How much is our portrayal of or desire for truth affected by the pursuit of “likes,” views and clicks? Moreover, what happens to the veracity of texts when we realize that search engines are selecting for approved narratives?
I feel I’m at an age now where I’ve grown content to know that I’ll have a roof over my head (or sometimes not) and something to eat when I wake up in the morning and I don’t need to sell my soul to sell my books. I have enough and if I can sell some books and disseminate some ideas, so much the better. So what will shape the direction of my writings here at woodrisebooks.com?
My whims, the things that appeal to me, have perplexed me lately or have occupied my time will find their way onto this blog. I don’t live a life appealing to the purveyors of pop culture and sensationalism but I do live an interesting life. Not a fun life, but a life of learning, adventure and wildness. I will never run my ideas through a focus group or pass along the results I found this week on Google. If you value original thought, and particularly thoughts on the wild, you may be in the right place though.
So, what about the books?
“Woodrise” is a series of four books built from my writings over the last several years. The outdoor and conservation topics addressed are diverse, some of practical value to folks wishing to diversify their woodland skills and knowledge and some certainly more theoretical. A recurring theme of the series is the resurgent eastern forest which has expanded dramatically over the last century. This is also the best explanation of the mysterious series’ title. The books will appear at the rate of one per year beginning at the tail end of 2022 with the release of Winter. Naturally, Spring, Summer and Autumn will follow. The material is extremely wide-ranging but will certainly include essays on environmental recovery, the way we think about the earth, adventures in mushroom hunting, wildness and fishing without reels. But even the theoretical isn’t entirely theoretical on this blog. All of this is built from the way I live.
I’m Cedric Keith and I’m an explorer. I’m a writer, a life-long student, a devotee of wilderness and an advocate for liberty, without which nothing else matters. I grew up traveling around the eastern U.S. and Canada, capturing every life-form available and fishing all the water. My qualifications as a sort of literary guide are summed up in about 10,000 forays to the woods and waters from Newfoundland to Florida, Washington State to Washington D.C., but here are a few more noteworthy biographical highlights:
I learned to tie fly-fishing lures (flies) as a child in Jackman, Maine and I went on to tie flies semi-professionally under the trademark, Cedric C. Keith Custom Flies.
My knowledge of eastern fishes metastasized after moving to New York State, a place of far more diverse fisheries than I’d encountered in the mountains of western Maine.
My first two jobs at the age of 15 were probably my best. I built trails for a developing nature center in New York’s Finger Lakes region and then went to work at the adjacent Tunison Laboratory of Fish Nutrition, running a sort of reference manager system on a computer and seeing something called the “Inter-net” for the first time.
I slept alone in the woods the first few times during my senior year of high school and found that nothing bit me during the night.
I took my longest canoe trip ever down the length of Illinois’ DesPlaines River while still a teen, navigating the length of the Chicago metro area by water, mostly at night.
I spent many nights alone along Tennessee’s Cumberland River, tending catfish lines.
I began to take photography more seriously while in West Virginia, acquiring a few film SLR cameras which were all obsolete a few years later. Still, I’d learned a few things about capturing light.
After settling into Pennsylvania in 2001, I made it my mission to explore the western half of the state, carrying along camera and fishing tackle.
I began to visit the St. Lawrence River and the Adirondacks region of New York for the first time – places that captivated me and broadened my horizons.
In 2007 I left my menial job in downtown Pittsburgh and took a bus to northern Georgia where I began walking back north through the Appalachians.
Over the next five years, I returned to the eastern forest annually, walking hundreds of miles and eventually reaching the New Brunswick border in the fall of 2011.
In 2016, I released my book, The Dying Fish(A Sojourn to the Source), an account of my months alone in the wild learning about the native trout of the east.
On a strange impulse, I headed in a radical new direction about the time my first book came out, beginning to learn, seek and harvest Pennsylvania’s abundant wild edible mushrooms.
I spent most of 2021 walking across the North American continent in protest of federal authoritarianism.
Curiosity and exploration have remained constants and this is also what guarantees my readers something worthwhile in the books and blogs to come.