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Thread: Nature Writing

  1. #1
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Feb 2004

    Nature Writing

    There’s some great writing about the natural world out there. Danik and I got to talking about it over on another thread, but I think nature writing deserves a thread of its own. So here it is. A place to chat about the works that cover the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky, and the fishes in the sea; as well as the crawling and slimy things, the bumbling and buzzy things, the giant sequoia and the grassy mountain meadow, from the tiniest microorganism right on up to Gaia herself, and beyond - the nature of the universe is open game as well (after all Danik and I started this discussion over on a thread about Mars)

    So anyways this is a place to share thoughts about the scribblings of the natural world. Who’s your favorite nature writer? I’ve found that nature writing sneaks up on me when least expect it. It’s often part of a larger work. A couple of years ago I read The History Of Wolves, a first novel by Emily Fridlund. There were a bunch of well-tuned literary devices in the book - you know, writer’s workshop type stuff, but what I remember most were her descriptions of wild Minnesota. Totally freaking awesome. Made me want to go there…in the winter…brrrr.

    Alrighty then, prose or verse, fiction or nonfiction, even a particularly artful paragraph in a biology textbook qualifies for this thread. And of course I think we’d all like to read something you’re particularly proud of that you wrote yourself.

  2. #2
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
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    Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian contrasted passages of great beauty describing the American west with passages of absolute horror and violence.
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  3. #3
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    St Luke! Long time, no see (or read as the case may be). I miss all those pics you used to post back in the day. Art, as a visual medium, is something I’ve never quite tuned in to. I sense there’s something there that people are getting that I’m missing. So I enjoyed the stuff you posted and the accompanying explanations. Then at some point, I think, the administrators here put the kibosh on the big visual files and as a consequence those discussions of the visual arts sort of dried up. The thumbnails couldn’t quite cut it.

    So anyway, Cormack McCarthy seems to be a writer whose name keeps popping up over here in the “General Literature” section. Blood Meridian is the first book by him I read. I couldn’t put it down. When I finished it I just sat there for a while, stunned. - Holy Sh*t. - Then I had to go back and read Lonesome Dove again. In another of his books, The Crossing, McCarthy’s description of a wolf pack on a snowy New Mexico mountain meadow is amazing. It was unsentimental yet just detailed enough to really get at the nature of the wolf. It also kicked off the whole story. I finished the Border Trilogy not long ago, so it’s still fresh in my mind.

    So here’s one from the book I just finished, Waterlog by Roger Deakin. The writer has taken on the task of swimming in just about every open body of water he can find in Great Britain.

    At the end of my first two chilly lengths, a frog leapt off the bank almost straight into my face, and others watched me from the water. That they are far outnumbered now by toads is due, I think, to predation of their tadpoles by newts, which much prefer the young of frogs to those of toads. There is no native creature quite so exotic or splendid as the male great crested newt, or eft, as the country people called them, in full display. They are the jesters of the moat, with their bright orange, spotted bellies and outrageous zigzag crests, like something out of a Vivienne Westwood show. I hung submerged in the mask and snorkel, and watched these pond-dragons coming up for air, then slowly sinking back into the deep water, crests waving like seaweed. They are so well adapted to the underwater life, I have to remind myself that they only come to the moat for six or seven months from February to July or August, to reproduce. Then they return to land, where you may not notice them unless you’re a gardener. You dig them up with the potatoes. They hide like bookmarks between old, vertically stacked rooftiles, or entomb themselves in dusty crevices in the brick-pile. Sometimes they even turn up mysteriously in the kitchen in autumn. They look a lot happier in the water.

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