Contemplating Kerrick Meadow

I returned to Kerrick Meadow last week. I hadn’t been there since October a couple of years ago when the water in Kerrick Creek stood in little pools that froze at night. The water was low but trickling along this time in mid-August, and it was much warmer. A month and a half makes a big difference in the High Sierra. After camping the night at Peeler Lake, I hiked into the meadow in time to catch the morning light as it poured between Crown Point and Cirque Mountain.

Morning light on Kerrick Meadow

Kerrick Meadow Morning

The journey around the high country loop out of Twin Lakes is beautiful, taking in Snow, Crown, and Robinson Lakes as well as Peeler. Rock Island Pass is dramatic, living up to its name. But there is something about Kerrick Meadow that feeds my soul. It’s the high point of my backpacks around this loop.

The main thing I like to do in Kerrick is to sit and let the sounds and sights of the meadow surround me. I know that such inactivity is not popular in this age of nature adventures. I don’t climb up any rocks, race down any trails, catch any fish, or find any geo-caches. I just sit. I choose a place out of sight of the trail, so other hikers that pass by won’t have to wonder what is wrong with me.

As I sat on a big white granite slab, a cool breeze soughed through the lodgepole and whitebark pines. Warblers of several types, probably early migrants, worked through the branches. A junket of juncos, nuthatches and chickadees followed them as the sun rose higher above the ridge separating the meadow from Peeler Lake. The brown grass and powdery dirt baked in the heat releasing an earthy, herbal aroma

The birds moved on and I did too, ambling along Rancheria Creek, until I reached then far end of the meadow, just before it narrowed and dropped off to become Kerrick Canyon. I found a shady spot by the creek where a round granite boulder and choir of pines sheltered the creek bank.

A shady spot along the creek

Rancheria Creek in Kerrick Meadow

Beside the boulder, a single blue lupine surprised me. Only a couple of inches tall, the blossom stretched up fresh and bright in the cool morning. At first it looked to be sprouting from a clump of alpine laurel, but on closer look I found it’s prostrate stem stretched form a small clump of hairy, grey-green leaves–Brewer’s Lupine (Lupinus breweri var. bryoides).

Brewer's Lupine blooming in the shade

Brewer’s Lupine

Philip A. Munz in his Introduction to California Mountain Wildflowers says that Brewer’s lupine is particularly well-suited to growing in the alpine zone because it’s leaves shield it from the effects of the drying wind and bright sun. But there was only one flower. I looked around for others before I sat down beside this one. Other little mats of lupine were dry and flowerless.

Flowers are like everything else. Sure a flower belongs to a species and variety and has a common name that categorizes it, but each flower also has a unique way of manifesting life that reflects all it has gone through to reach that point in life. I watched this little lupine a while to get to know it better. In spite of the drought and heat, it grew vigorously and held its solitary blossom high.

The desert artist, Henry R Mockel (Mockel’s Desert Flower Notebook) advised aspiring artists to “find yourself a solitary bloom. Visit it daily. Observe as the colors cycle from morning to night” (California Desert Art).

Thoreau thought one of the beauties of lupine was how they colored whole hillsides with the color of the sky, but he lamented that even a third of a mile away he couldn’t see their color. I sat close enough to this one for it to fill my sight and like “The bluebird carries the sky on its back” (also Thoreau), this single flower brought the blue sky to the brown earth.

I lay down on the grass beside it and looked up at the cloudless California sky. A bee or fly buzzed by my ear, perhaps investigating the flower. I didn’t look. I closed my eyes and felt life around me and within me.

Posted in Plants, Summer, Yosemite | Leave a comment

Milkweed Morning

On my walk to the local park this morning I saw that a milkweed patch (Asclepias vestita, Woolly Milkweed) had burst into bloom over the weekend.

Woolly Milkweed blooming

Woolly Milkweed, Asclepias vestita, in a park in Rocklin, California

No butterflies flitted by, but several hummingbirds sat guard over it from nearby oaks. The patch looks very healthy in spite of the drought, and I imagine that this local species is adapted to California’s periodic–sometimes very long periodic–dry years. I plan to go back later and check for butterflies. I’ve seen a few butterflies in my backyard but no monarchs.

Seeing the milkweed this morning reminded me of an article in the March 2015 Natural History magazine. Researcher Dara A. Satterfield from the University of Georgia in Athens found that Monarchs in some areas are overwintering in the United States instead of migrating to Mexico. Rather than traveling south, the butterflies spend the winter feeding and breeding on tropical milkweeds planted in gardens. The tropical milkweed is not native to the United States and doesn’t die back as the native milkweeds do. The researchers found that the non-migrating monarchs have much high levels of a protozoan parasite that results in “deformed wings, shorter lifespans, and decreased breeding” when it infects the monarchs. These infected butterflies could spread the disease to healthy migratory monarchs.

The article says that gardeners need to plant milkweed to help monarchs, but it should be the native kinds that grow naturally in the local area. Unfortunately, you can’t just go down to the local garden shop and pick up milkweed seeds. However, the Xerces Society a non-profit group working for invertebrate conservation has a milkweed seed supply finder that can help you find where to buy milkweed seeds that are native to your area of the USA.

Monarch butterfly on Swamp Milkweed

A monarch butterfly on Swamp Milkweed
Asclepias incarnata

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Walt Whitman: the Rhythm of the Sea

In Specimen Days, Walt Whitman explains how the rhythm of his writing developed from his experience of nature. Cover of Leaves of Grass

From his earliest days, Walt Whitman loved the sea: the toss and rush of the wind-blown waves, the vast expanse of the open ocean, the booming of the surf against the shore. As a boy he planned to write a poem about the sea that would capture all the moods and sounds and sights of the sea and shore. As an adolescent, he knew he couldn’t accomplish that goal in a single poem, so he decided to write a book with the ocean as its theme.

Later he realized that the sea and shore is too great a subject for a poem or a book or even an epic literary project. He concluded that instead of writing about the sea he must let the sea reside within him, empowering his writing with its rhythms and open space and depth. His writing must show that “we have really absorbed each other and understand each other.”

He expanded the idea to include all the great human perceptions of nature: mountains, rivers, forests, prairies. Instead of trying to capture his experience of the entire region in a single piece of writing, he would let his experience of the mountains or rivers or prairies, flow into his words in whatever he was writing.

As Whitman wrote in the 1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass, a poet’s role is far more than describing the general beauty of nature. “The land and sea, the animals, fishes and birds, the sky of heaven and the orbs, the forests, mountains and rivers, are not small themes–but folks expect of the poet to indicate more than the beauty and dignity which always attach to dumb real objects–they expect him to indicate the path between reality and their souls.”

Man walking alone on sunset beach

Photo by Michal Bednarek

In his poems, Whitman not only indicated the path for experiencing the unity of nature and our own lives but also provided music for the journey in the rhythms of nature incorporated in his words and structure. The rhythm of writing provides its soundtrack and that music links the words’ meaning to our lives, our souls.

In his famous poem, “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” he is writing about a time in his life when he realized his calling to be a poet. The rhythm of the sea flows in the lines and empowers them:

And thenceforward, all summer, in the sound of the sea,
And at night, under the full of the moon, in calmer weather,
Over the hoarse surging of the sea,
Or flitting from brier to brier by day,
I saw, I heard at intervals, the remaining one, the he-bird,
The solitary guest from Alabama.

Blow! blow! blow!
Blow up, sea-winds, along Paumanok’s shore!
I wait and I wait, till you blow my mate to me.

Yes, when the stars glisten’d,
All night long, on the prong of a moss-scallop’d stake,
Down, almost amid the slapping waves,
Sat the lone singer, wonderful, causing tears.

Even the mockingbird sings with the rhythm of the sea in his song–a good idea for any poet.

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Ribbon Fall Rainbow

I took my Wednesday Walk on Thursday, March 19, last week and hiked the trail up from the Wawona Tunnel up to Artist’s Point and then on along the ridge on the Pohono Trail visiting the original Old inspiration Point, as well as Stanford, Crocker, and Dewey Points. It was a breezy beautiful day and the Valley glowed in the cool spring sunshine.

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley from Artist’s Point

I expected more birds, but perhaps they were staying in the sun, as the south ridge was still in cool, dark shadow. Reaching the area of Old Inspiration Point, though, I heard a Northern Pygmy-Owl calling from an old sugar pine near the trail. I stopped to listen and he kept calling, undeterred by my presence. I hear them around my house too, at a lower elevation, and have seen them several times. They seem very confident in their ability to remain unseen, as they let me approach within a few yards before they fly. I didn’t even try to see this one. I moved on along the trail, hearing his calls receding in the distance.

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

I had lunch at Crocker Point and then hiked on up to Dewey Point for views of the Clark Range and the High Sierra. Some snow remained on the higher peaks and snow still covered Horizon Ridge and Mount Hoffman, although I’ve heard the coverage is only 16% of normal.

The real treat of the hike came on the way back when I saw something I’ve never seen before. I stopped at Old Inspiration Point (the upper one, not the one designated by the trail sign) for a snack. It was about 3 pm and the sun slanted toward the horizon. Looking across at El Capitan I noticed a flickering of color in the chimney slot in which Ribbon Fall tumbles. Ribbon Fall is the longest single fall waterfall in North America–when there is water. I hadn’t seen it on my hike up the trail, so I assumed there wasn’t enough snow melt for Ribbon Creek to even be flowing. As I watched, though, I saw some white spray being blown by the wind up through the chimney and a rainbow appeared filling the slot. The sun must have been at just the right angle to illuminate the inside of the chimney and catch the spray. The rainbow display continued for about another ten minutes and then started to fade.

Ribbon Fall Rainbow

Ribbon Fall Rainbow

It was one time I wished I had a good camera with a telephoto lens, but I took several shots with my iPhone. Every time I hike, even an old familiar trail like that one, I see something new. I have a friend who doesn’t like to hike the same trails over and over, but I do. It’s like visiting with an old friend–there’s always something new hidden in the familiar.

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Starling Sounds of Spring

A walk up the ridge to the mailbox often brings unexpected surprises. Several European starling pairs have taken over the nesting spots in the hollow oak branches formerly used by the acorn woodpeckers. Their nesting is in full swing, accompanied by the amazing repertoire of sounds and calls they make, many imitating other birds.

The starlings first appeared on my ridge, south of Yosemite, about seven years ago, although they are not strangers to the area. Starlings first appeared in Yosemite Valley on April 27, 1966 (Gaines, Birds of Yosemite, 1992), almost eighty years after their introduction in New York in 1890. There are fewer oaks on our ridge now, due to new homes, the death of old oaks, and the cutting of young oaks. There are also fewer acorn woodpeckers and bluebirds–but more starlings.

The first week of April, I walked to the mail box, enjoying the clear blue skies and warm breeze. Scrub jays and spotted towhees flitted through the brush, finches called from the trees, bushtits chattered in the live oaks. As I approached the top of the ridge, I heard a starling sounding off with clicks and whistles and a variety of finch like sounds.

Suddenly I heard the distinct sound of geese flying overhead. I had seen and heard Canadian geese flying across the mountains to the east several times in March. In March I figured the geese were taking off from Bass Lake and working their way north to nesting places, but I was surprised to hear them now. I looked up over the mountain, but I didn’t see any geese. I looked all around and couldn’t see geese anywhere.

As I came to a house with a large oak in front, the call stopped and was replaced by a series of clicks and whistles: a starling perched on a bare limb was vocalizing. He paid no attention to me as I watched him and he changed his song several times. When I resumed my walk, I heard the geese calling again. This time I knew the source. I turned around to watch the starling make the geese call for a few more seconds, and then he switched back to other calls.

I suppose the starling had also listened to the geese flying overhead weeks earlier and learned their call. He did sound good. It was his best song that day. For me the sound of geese flying overhead evokes a definite emotion and the starling’s imitation gave me the same feeling. I have no idea why the starling was using the sound of geese in his repertoire that day. Maybe his mate appreciates it, too.

I know the starlings are often unwanted, and I regret their displacement of other birds, especially bluebirds, but I enjoyed this starling’s amazingly accurate rendition of a flock of geese winging their way north for the spring.

Starling singing

Starlings can imitate a number of other bird sounds.

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Yesterday, I noticed two gray squirrels foraging together under the live oak trees. We have one resident squirrel, but this is the only time of the year we have more than one around the house. In our area near Yosemite, the usually solitary gray squirrels meet up to mate from December through February. I looked back through my journal and saw that new gray squirrels visited us last January, too.

Haiku writers use seasonal words, kigo, to connect their poems to a particular season, without having to name the season. I’m not sure how I would work “gray squirrels mating” into a haiku, but if I could, the phrase would denote winter.
A Saijiki fro San Francisco
For centuries, Japanese haiku writers have used lists of standardized seasonal words, collected into books called kiyose, to write haiku. A kiyose with sample haiku using the seasonal words is known as a saijiki.

As I looked through my journal, I thought about creating a saijiki for my area: gathering words and phrases associated with the seasons in the Sierra Nevada, adding haiku using those words.

There are several kiyose and saijiki online. The World Kigo Database lists seasonal words from many regions, and you can help build it. The San Francisco Bay Area Nature Guide and Saijiki is available both online and in print or ebook format from Lulu.
Clark Strand in his excellent book on writing haiku, Seeds Birch Tree Coverfrom a Birch Tree, says that “haiku come of the place where objective description overlaps the heart.” That’s  true of all nature writing–the human heart and the description of nature combine to create a moment of awareness and understanding. As writers, Strand says “it is important for us to realize that this can only happen when we make space enough in the heart for nature to overlap it and space enough in nature for the play and exercise of the heart.”

I enjoy writing haiku and keeping a nature journal. I’m going to begin my own saijiki project this year as a way to make space for my heart and nature to play.

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The Junction

John Schreiber’s latest book, The Junction, is the kind of nature writing I find especially Book Cover of The Junctionmeaningful–essays by a person exploring and discovering connections with the natural history of the world close to home. His homeland is British Columbia, Canada, as he explains: “I have been exploring backcountry places in the southern half of the British Columbia Interior by auto, on foot and occasionally by horse, nearly all my adult life. I have particularly focused on a large, wild region west of the Fraser River and east of the Coast Mountain Range called The Chilcotin.” The Junction is his third book on the area.

I enjoyed the book on several levels and John was willing to share a bit more about it in the form of a “Questions for the Author” interview.

1. The title of the book was also the title of a chapter of about a specific place in British Columbia, Canada, where two rivers come together, but I sense the phrase “the junction” has a deeper meaning for you. Why did you choose it as the title of your book?

John: “Junction” refers also to connections, ecological, cultural, and spiritual: a] between the myriad, diverse elements of nature, most of which are wild, i.e. beyond our long-range capacity to control; b] between we humans and the land and places where we live; and c] between our sub-cultures–most especially aboriginal and settler, rural and urban, and working and middle classes.

2. The book is composed of separate essays about an area of interior British Columbia. Each one has a different perspective. Is the order of the essays in the book important, or can a reader skip around?

John: Each of the ten stories in The Junction is meant to stand alone. However, I have aimed at presenting an unfolding of underlying issues and awareness beginning with references in “Two Cabin Lake” and proceeding through “Junction” to the last two pieces: “Asking Rock” and “Lone Creek,” which I consider to be quietly climactic.

3. You use the word “practice” several times in key passages in the book. What does the word “practice” mean to you?

John: Most skills we learn (for example: cooking, woodcutting, going for a long walk, being mannerly, sports) need to be done repeatedly in order to achieve and maintain a degree of proficiency. This is particularly true of the fine underlying art of paying attention, of being mindful of all that we do, as much as we are able. “Doing practice” implies that we practice paying attention to the process of awareness itself. Practice is about finding balance; finding balance is, in part, about listening to yourself, not the mental chatter so much, but your own inner knowing deep down within. Slow down and hear.

4. One of your themes is that humans are part of the ecological equation and that we can’t live without changing the natural world in some way, and often in a harmful way. You encourage an ethic of Ahimsa, or living by trying to do the least harm. What led you to adopt that position? How does that perspective influence your everyday life?

John: For the first half of my childhood, my parents were financially poor. As with most poor, we worked hard at avoiding waste, a practice requiring some ongoing attention. Particularly, we considered that throwing away usable goods–including especially hunted meat, angled fish and dug and picked shellfish–was careless and disrespectful to the living critters killed. Attempting to do “least harm” and the avoidance of waste are parallel practices in a generally wasteful and thoughtless (North American) culture. My brothers and I are informed also by the example of Patrick, our Dad, who, at a certain point in his life, said, “We make a good living now. We don’t need the (deer) meat; I’d just as soon watch them walk around.” Whereupon he hung up his hunting rifle.

5. In some chapters, you seem like a detective, imaginatively reconstructing the human lives that once interconnected with the wild places you visit. You write about the personal lives of people mostly ignored by the big political histories. Why are those people important to you?

John: I write about them because often their stories are interesting, and because most rural folks I know or have met, are relatively aware of WHERE they live. Their livelihoods are often directly connected to the facts of their local landscape. Some older, rural individuals  are acutely aware, detail by detail, of where they live. When you have traveled mainly on foot, horseback, by wagon, or even by slow pickup, you learned to notice what you were passing.

6. One of the things I enjoy about your writing is your honest, humble voice. You don’t come across, as some nature writers do, as an expert whose experiences are so exotic and unique that readers can only marvel at them. Instead, you draw the reader into your explorations with warmth and  personal openness. I get the thought as I read, “Hey, I can explore my world like that, too.”  What advice would you give to writers who are trying to find their voice?

John: First, practice story telling and listening. I grew up in a pre-TV world of story telling. I learned what a good story sounds like, what the experience is; most of us are capable of that if we stop to listen. Take your time. There are stories going on all around us. Second, write about what you know. This may be another way of saying “Tell the truth,” your best basic truth; stick to the facts and try to include detail. It’s the details that make a story rich, but don’t get lost in them. Honest truth liberates; to respect the truth of things and events helps to give us our authority as would-be story tellers. Write about what you love. Follow your curiosity. Sleep on it; let your unconscious do its job. Every day is a different day and a different way to see. I listen hard to where I am, where I have been. Sometimes, it seems as if the story and/or the places are telling me. I find myself on the receiving end of another way of being.  Stories like to be told. Myth stories are alive and well, whether or not we know they are there.

7. The Junction combines your own experiences with research and readings. Do you keep a journal of your experiences, thoughts, and dreams? Do you have a system for keeping track of all your ideas?

John: I do keep notes in a notebook, esp. when I’m traveling, or later, having walked a trail or driven a route. At home, I note key thoughts, ideas and phrases, and a very occasional dream, the ones that seem unusually strong or significant. As well, I have a large personal library, mainly non-fiction and land-based, and organized by broad topic. I have a good spatial memory (as opposed to my abstract memory) and can usually find pertinent books. I write, frequently, with a pile of relevant books beside me, so I can quickly check out facts and references.

8. In The Junction, the concept of reciprocity in life seems important to you. Could writing be a way of reciprocity?

John: Life in an ecological world is a series of give and takes, ie. balances. If we listen and pay attention, as much as we are able, at least some of the time, and if we stay open to possibilities, we may come to see that our connection with the animate and inanimate worlds around us is subtly two-way. We share a complex set of relationships, a few of which we are conscious of. And yes, our thoughts, observations and feelings come back to us via the process of writing. We develop a working relationship with them as we externalize and commit them to print. Our words, thoughts etc., not to mention all the elements of nature, are not without liveliness.

The Junction by John Schreiber can be purchased from Caitlin Press or Amazon or local independent booksellers.

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Chipmunk Games

Chipmunks are active and busy this time of year. Fall brings out the new brood of young, born in summer and now adult size, scampering about in search of seeds and berries to store for winter. At one campsite on my last backpack in Yosemite National Park, I saw two chipmunks taking time out for an interesting game of tag. Chipmunk on granite rock.

At least it looked like a playful game to me. Some biologists insist that animals don’t really play, that what looks like fun and games to us is really practice for adult behavior. I suppose they might say the same thing for human play. Whatever the scientists call it, it sure looked like the chipmunks were having what I would call fun.

The two chipmunks chased each other over the rocks and fallen logs under scraggly Jeffrey and lodgepole pines. Back and forth, over and under they went, squeaking at each other, alternating roles of chaser and pursuer. Every few seconds they would stop and rub noses, holding their tails aloft and wagging them from side to side, squeaking rapidly to each other. Then they continued the chase, sometimes changing directions and roles and sometimes not. One time the chaser stopped chasing, distracted by some scent or sight on the ground, and the pursued stopped to wait for it, squeaking encouragement until the chase resumed.

They obviously weren’t fighting, so I wondered if the behavior could be courtship. Chipmunks do quite a bit of chasing around in early spring, the males chasing each other away and following the female until she consents to mate. Perhaps these two were engaging in a game similar to what they would enact in ernest next spring.

If they make it. In addition to making sure they have enough food stored in their secret caches, they have to watch out for predators like coyotes, foxes, and bobcats. Their only defenses are their speed and ability to hide. Several kinds of chipmunks climb trees to escape predators, but the ones I watched didn’t climb. That fact and their coloration made me wonder if they were yellow-pine chipmunks (Tamias amoenus) rather than the lodgepole chipmunk (Tamias speciosus). In my backpack area, the ranges of the two overlap, but my camping spot was in a drier, more open section with lots of scrub and sagebrush typical of the yellow-pine chipmunk’s habitat.

Whatever their species and whatever their motivation, I enjoyed watching them that fall day. There was no winner or loser, just a lot of running and squeaking and tail wagging on a bright crisp day. They made me want to get up and play.

Posted in Animals, Fall, Yosemite | 2 Comments

A Stellar Warning System

I began hiking down the Mono Meadow trail for my traditional fall equinox backpack. A cool breeze sang through the tops of the firs and pines. It’s an easy start for a backpack because the trail drops steeply downhill to a meadow. Coming out of the shadows, a coyote glanced over its shoulder and trotted down the trail ahead of me. After a dozen yards, it cut off the trail into the forest, and that’s when the noise began. A group of Stellar Jays spotted the coyote and raised their alarm cries. They followed it, heckling and harassing it as it worked its way along the side of the meadow.

Stellar Jay sits on a pine branch

Stellar Jay

The Stellar Jay warning system was a theme of my backpack this year, alerting me to wildlife every day of the trip. At my campsite, I heard the jays across a ravine from me making a fuss with similar vocalizations to the ones they had used with the coyote. Sure enough, after a few minutes, I heard a young coyote yipping from the same area.

The next morning the jays squawked again and a big adult coyote, probably a female (because they’re bigger than the males) came up out of the ravine. Although she didn’t see me at first, she soon sensed me and made eye contact, curious and confident. She turned to leave, but paused and looked back over her shoulder at me.

On the hike out, I heard jays making a similar racket, and I wondered if they were fussing at another coyote. I stopped and checked out the scrub. No coyote. This time the nuthatches had joined in the fracas, so I thought an owl might be the villain. I checked the trees, and high in a fir a big rust-colored hawk sat hunched next to the trunk. When I approached it flew off and so did the jays and nuthatches.

I hiked a little farther and the jays once again were crying out in warning. The hawk had relocated and it flew far away over the canyon when I approached.

Stellar jays are beautiful birds, but they are so common in this area that human residents tend to ignore them. The jays frequent campgrounds and picnic areas in Yosemite hoping for leftovers and handouts. Away from human congestion, though, they take on a wilder demeanor. They ignored and avoided me, neither fussing at my presence nor approaching in search of food, but my observations of them enabled me to experience wildlife, I might not have seen otherwise and to glimpse a little deeper into their world.

I was reminded of a passage I underlined in Thomas Fleischner’s book, Singing Stone: Understanding plant and animal lives requires focus on the smallest details and the largest landscape patterns–on both individuals and their interactions” (70).

I was glad I had the opportunity to see that first interaction between the jays and the coyote because it opened my eyes to the larger pattern for the rest of the trip. If I had dismissed the incident as just those noisy jays again and walked on by, my journey would to have been as meaningful.

Cover of Singing Stone

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Is Nature Writing Dead?

Recently several articles in the entertainment media have discussed the evolution of nature writing into a literature of memoirs about people discovering themselves in the wilderness. The articles say the focus of these books is not nature, but people and their problems. Works such as Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Into the Wild and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild were mentioned as examples.  One article said the real genre of nature writing is dead–displaced by these personal memoirs.

The authors of those articles are correct that sensational personal memoirs sell far more copies than nature writing books. From a marketing perspective, books focused on experiencing moments of interconnectedness with nature don’t compare to books about disasters and overcoming personal issues.

But perhaps that is a false comparison. To say that the genre of nature writing is dead because of the popularity of sensational personal memoirs is like saying that slow dancing with someone you love is dead because of the popularity of twerking.

True nature writing is about a person entering into what he or she usually sees as life that is separate and apart from the human experience and realizing the interconnectedness–the interbeing–of all life. The mindfulness experience that is at the core of nature writing can happen anywhere, at any time. You don’t have to journey to an exotic wilderness location or be under life-threatening stress. If you are open to it, a moment of awareness of your interconnectedness with nature can happen as you go about your daily routine in your own hometown.

People like to share those moments of awareness with others in the form of journals, essays, poems–even stories and novels. That is true nature writing. I don’t imagine that those works will make the world’s best-seller lists. But that is not the goal of most nature writers. Nature writing centers on moments of mindfulness and seeks to share those moments and to encourage others to experience an awareness of interbeing with what we call nature.

Nature writing is not dead. Nature writing is a slow dance with love.

“They are all about us–these other worlds–the world of the fox, the squirrel, the beetle, the fish, the bird. We need only the keys of curiosity and imagination to reach their infinite variety. Adventures in viewpoint are within the grasp of all.” –Edwin Way Teale in Near Horizons.

Couple walking hand in hand


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