The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Unknown Country

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Nature wants to kill you.” You look tasty to all other creatures, and it’s probably in your best interest to just up and slaughter any animal, insect, or vegetable that you might meet – just in case, and in the name of self preservation. Additionally, there’s a reason our ancestors paved over everything. Further, who in their right mind would want to sleep in a tent – by choice when they don’t have to – in the middle of the woods where there’s bears and Sasquatchs and all kinds of crazy running around in the dark. There’s probably a cache of feral children on the loose out here, howling and scratching about amongst the trees.” That’s what I was thinking when visiting the Hollow Oaks nature trail recently.

As you may gather, a walk in a nature preserve was recently on the menu here in Pittsburgh. There were trees, and a couple of quick running streams of some sort – creeks, runs, something. My shoes became very dirty, and were soon covered in mud. The sun light… the sun light was dappled.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was on high alert as always in case I had to engage “maximum boogey” runaway mode, and I’ll admit to scanning the tree line for evidences of that monstrous pig/dog hybrid reported to inhabit the deeply forested valleys of Western Pennsylvania which is called the Squonk. The world is a terrifying place full of existential and unknown threats, especially so in areas where nature has not been conquered and reshaped with hammers and scythes. Walls, and doors that lock, keep the Elks out when you sleep.

Seriously though, this was a really nice and low intensity trail through a protected conservation area which winds around a patch of woods and several streams, ultimately joining up with the Montour Run waterway near Coraopolis. Really nice spot, but since I’m a City Boy and anything natural is unnatural and threatening to me… it’s threatening and weird.

What if some predatory bird was to attack and try to take the eyes? Snakes… there’s actual Rattlesnakes around here too. What if I drop my car keys, how would I ever find them? What if a Deer ate my keys? I can’t chase a Deer through the woods…

I once got into a fistfight with one of those dick Canada Geese at First Calvary Cemetery in LIC, have had to fight off a raccoon in the dead of night at the Maspeth Plank Road using the legs of my tripod to fend it off, and I grew up in a neighborhood known for having packs of wild dogs roaming about (1980’s Flatlands/Canarsie.) See? Proves the point. Nature wants to kill you, or at the very least – Me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All of the above is a composite of various statements transmitted to me by my parents whenever the subject of leaving Brooklyn for a day and going somewhere nice – “En Da Kuntree” as my Mom would screech – came up. The entire “country” storyline presented to a young but already Humble Narrator would inevitably lead to my hair getting wet causing a condition known as ‘wet head,’ resulting in me getting deathly ill as a result of the moistening, and subsequently being buried “In Dah Grownd.” The final salvo was “Is Dat Whatchu wants… yore a real icehole, don’t know who raised you but youse didn’t learn dis from me, go reads a book instead.” Before leaving the conversation about taking a walk in some sylvan glade, one would be commanded to fetch and prepare a “soda glass” filled with Diet Pepsi and 4, not 3 not 5, ice cubes.

Despite the programmed in script offered above, which is an embedded part of my source code, I actually quite enjoy a nice walk in the country these days. The ‘wet head’ threat is ameliorated through the simple prophylactic of wearing a cap. When I die, my wish is to be sealed up in a large glass ampule filled with preservatives and put on commercial display as a cautionary tale. A traveling freak show, perhaps. That is, if animals don’t get to my corpse first.

At least I’d be continuing to visit new places, in my glassy ampule.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 13, 2023 at 11:00 am

3 Responses

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  1. FYI: It turns out that there is an elevated risk of getting ill when one ventures outside with the wet head. Being a challenged type, I don’t go out with a wet do when it’s 50 F or lower.

    PS Urban animals are far from urbane. Must be emulating humans.


    April 13, 2023 at 11:13 am

  2. FWIW, you might want to consider adding (legal-in-PA-but-not-NY) pepper spray to your walking-around-in-nature kit; a snootful from 20ft away will make most mammals rethink their life choices and decide you’re a bit too spicy for a meal.
    I decided to keep one around after one late night near miss with a bear crossing the road – if the MOP happened to be not so lucky, dealing with a flat (or worse) as well as an injured and annoyed bear could be no fun..


    April 13, 2023 at 11:23 am

    • I’ve come into possession of a sonic deterrent – the worlds loudest “Hyperwhistle,” which ships with industrial grade ear protection (142 decibels)

      Mitch Waxman

      April 13, 2023 at 12:14 pm

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