• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

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The clearest way

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
John Muir

I’ve been rereading Muir since our friend died last week. Which reminded me that nature writing has been a popular subject this summer, both at Granta and at Lapham’s Quarterly.

Granta‘s Summer issue, “The New Nature Writing”, includes an article by Mark Cocker, which is a lovely wide to tide yourself over while waiting for Crow Country to swim across the pond; I’m getting very close to ordering the book from The Book Depository. Also Jonathan Raban’s article on “the de-landscaping of the American West”. From Jason Cowley’s editor’s letter,

When we began to commission articles for this issue we were interested less in what might be called old nature writing – by which I mean the lyrical pastoral tradition of the romantic wanderer – than in writers who approached their subject in heterodox and experimental ways. We also wanted the contributions to be voice-driven, narratives told in the first person, for the writer to be present in the story, if sometimes only bashfully. The best new nature writing is also an experiment in forms: the field report, the essay, the memoir, the travelogue. If travel writing can often seem like a debased and exhausted genre, nature writing is its opposite: something urgent, vital and alert to the defining particulars of our times.

The writers collected here are all on some kind of journey of discovery, as the best travel writers were, but at a time when so many of us are concerned about the size of our carbon footprint, they have no need to travel to the other side of the world to understand more about themselves and their relation to the world they inhabit. In this sense, many of the stories in this issue are studies in the local or the parochial: they are about the discovery of exoticism in the familiar, the extraordinary in the ordinary. They are about new ways of seeing. Many of the pieces can also be read as elegies: we know how our world is changing and what is being lost and yet we are powerless to prevent the change.

Lewis Lapham’s summer issue, “The Book of Nature”, includes old writings — by John Muir, Thoreau, Henry Beston (who was also Elizabeth Coatsworth’s husband), Rachel Carson, Hitler, and Countee Cullen on New York City — and also new ones, from Frederick Turner on “The Art of Nature”, and Bill McKibben on “Living Deliberately”, among others. From editor Lewis Lapham’s preamble,

The texts in this issue of Lapham’s Quarterly go in search of an understanding of what we mean by nature, ask where to mark the boundaries between mind and matter, body and soul, the human and the nonhuman, between what’s out there in the woods and what’s in here with the endorphins and the organelles. Absent an answer to the questions, I don’t know how we call off the dogs of planetary ruin. The steadily multiplying world population (projected to increase from 6.5 billion to 9.1 billion people by 2050) is likely to impose unbearable burdens on increasingly scarce supplies of earth, air, fire, and water. The arithmetic suggests that we have no way of avoiding calamity without first giving up our belief that somehow there is an irreconcilable difference (substantive and spiritual as well as moral and aesthetic) between what is “natural” and what is “artificial.”

3 Responses

  1. Thanks for the pointers, Becky–I’m always on the lookout for something good to read about nature and/or naturalists.

    ~Christina in MA

  2. I have been drawn to nature writing lately as well, running across an old copy of Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac. Therre is something so centered and true about it , and it helps me regain perspective and focus.

  3. Oh dear, I’m very behind on comments. Thanks for the comments, C and A!

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