"We simply need th[e] wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope (153)." .
Wallace Stegner makes this statement at the end of "Coda", a letter included in his book The Sound of Mountain Water. In this letter Stegner asks David Pesonen, who was working on the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, to work to preserve what wilderness is left in the United States. In publishing the letter in this book, Stegner is arguing not only to Pesonen but to the American people that wilderness is a necessary part not just of the physical American landscape, but the emotional and social landscapes as well. .
Throughout The Sound of Mountain Water Stegner relates his experiences traveling in the western United States, and in the second part reflects upon the ties of the western writer to history. This paper is mostly concerned with the first part of this book in which Stegner writes directly about his experiences with landscape. The book is a collection of writings that come from many different points in Stegner's life, and therefore, throughout Part I of the book the reader is able to see the authors views change regarding certain environmental issues pertaining to the west. In the Introduction, Stegner writes, " I am dismayed to find myself, in "The Rediscovery of America", speaking admiringly of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. I know better now But I have not changed the essay, or any of the essays They represent the way I felt when I wrote them (10)." Because of this, The Sound of Mountain Water reads somewhat like a literary time capsule, capturing Stegner's views and responses to the landscapes he encounters, from the carefree "Rediscovery- to the more philosophical and concerned "Coda". The main points of this essay will relate the authors views and ideals through a discussion of the way his background effected his perceptions of, and interactions with, the landscapes described and the environmental issues involved.