Showing posts with label nature writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nature writing. Show all posts

November 10, 2007

"Those deer are agressive. . . "

Via Steve Bodio, this side-splitting New York Times piece on anxious displaced city folks in the woods:

"Four hours east, in Estes Park [Colorado], Natalie Galyon, a photographer who lives in Dallas, was recently host of a friend’s bachelorette party at her cabin overlooking the Big Thompson River. 'When a herd of elk jammed the road, we got out of the car to take photos, but one of the girls stood by the car guarding everyone’s purses, when we were the only people in sight,' said Ms. Galyon, 32, 'and each night they would shut all the blinds, even though we were on a cliff in the middle of nowhere.'”

As soon as I learn of any purse-snatching elk, I will be the first to blog it. Read the whole thing.

This article goes into the illegal photocopied anthology for this spring's nature-writing class, for sure.

October 24, 2007

Children in the Woods.

Last spring's nature-writing class responded positively to readings on children & nature and the whole "nation of wimps" meme.

So I have added a chapter of Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods to my illegal-photocopy anthology.(Might use this newspaper piece too. His sort-of blog has not been updated.)

The other text will be The Landscape of Home, I am thinking, which is fairly Colorado-centric.

Looking for something else in the university library, I found one autobiography of a man who definitely did not suffer from "nature-deficit disorder." Paul Errlington put himself through South Dakota State College in the 1920s partly through trapping (skunk, mink, muskrat) and later became a biology professor at Iowa State University. His autobiography The Red Gods Call was published by Iowa State University Press in 1973.

At the end of my last semester in high school I had an attack of rheumatic fever. [He had had polio too.] The acute phase was agonizing, brief, and without special complications, though my joints had a lingering stiffness for weeks. This was in the spring. The next fall I planned to go to northern Minnesota to spend a winter traipping. My doctor did not discourage me from going ahead with these plans providing I avoided overexertion.

His parents, too, did not try to keep him indoors. Nowdays we need organized programs like this one.

October 07, 2007

You Didn't Need 'Scent-Lok' Anyway

This cracks me up: ALS Clothing, maker of "Scent-Lok" hunting clothes, which are in all the catalogs (Cabela's here), is being sued on the grounds that its product does not work.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota alleges the clothing doesn't work and hunters have been - and continue to be - defrauded. . . .

Attorneys are requesting a class-action status for the suit, saying that "tens of thousands" of Minnesota hunters have been deceived into buying millions of dollars of odor-eliminating clothing. . . .

The question of the efficacy of scent-blocking technology has, indeed, been one that has been heavily debated since the introduction of the technology more than a decade ago. Now, it seems the question may be one with millions of dollars at stake.


Honestly, I sometimes wonder how ancient hunters with their atlatls and bows killed anything at all, considering that they lacked Gore-Tex, GPS positioning systems, all-terrain vehicles, binoculars, and Game Ear hearing amplifiers.

Since I suspect that they rarely bathed, perhaps they just watched the wind?

Nature writer Dave Petersen of Durango, Colorado makes that point in his new book A Man Made of Elk:

In order to hunt safely, comfortably, with dignity and success, we don't need an $8,000 ATV perched on a $3,000 trailer pulled by a $40,000 SUV to get us there and home. We don't need "scent-proof" designer camo clothing, electronic trail-timers and infrared cameras, automatic game "feeders" (in fact high-tech bait stations), optical rangefinders, cell phones, Taj Mahal portable ground binds and tree stands and on and on el barfo.

Dave's book is worth buying though.

September 05, 2007

A Naturalist in Custer County

I am reading Theodore D.A. Cockerell: Letters from West Cliff, Colorado. (That is "Westcliffe" today, our county seat.)

Cockerell was one of the classic late-Victorian naturalists. He was born in a London suburb in 1866, and he and his brother used to visit William Morris, where they no doubt were caught up in pre-Marxist socialist fantasies of people living in organic communities and printing their own tasteful wallpapers.

He was passionate about natural history from an early age: "Very early, indeed, it was given out that 'Theo is found of animals," he writes in a memoir.

His brother Sydney, another boy naturalist, later directed the Fitzwilliam Museum. (Cambridge bloggers please copy.)

No one can write about Custer County in the late 19th century without quoting Cockerell, for the letters he wrote to his fiancee and her brother in 1887-1889 remain an important primary source for the social history of this county in that era.

Some lung ailment brought him to Colorado. It does not sound as though he had serious tuberculosis, but "lungers," many of them English, were a recognizable social group back then, particularly in and around Colorado Springs.

Working odd jobs to pay his bills and assiduously reading and collecting specimens, Cockerell founded his own Colorado Biological Association and solicited memberships. He returned to England in 1890 and obtained a curatorial job in Jamaica. (I lived there too, but in Mandeville, not Kingston.)

His lung trouble reoccurred, so he and his new wife returned to the Rockies, living and teaching in Mesilla and Las Vegas (I've been there). Then he moved on to Colorado College (I worked there too), and on to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he finished his career as professor of zoology. (I went to graduate school there).

The young Cockerell is a little too much of a naturalist some times, proud of his learning. Disembarking in New York in July, he writes, "It is very hot and the place swarms with Musca domestica." Like just saying "flies" is not good enough for him. But his essential good nature comes through. ("The green banks of Staten Island look good for snails!")

Right now I am reading of his trip west, which includes the inevitable digressions:

• The difference between British and American trains.

• The difference in prices. The US was more expensive then, at least for meals and travel. How things change.

• American "misuse" of "shall" and "will."

• The presumption of all these struggling little prairie towns with "City" in their names.

Cockerell's letters were also collected in an edition called The Valley of the Second Sons -- in other words, the Wet Mountain Valley.

More excerpts coming from time to time.

July 22, 2007

Get Colorado Outdoors

If you are reading this blog and you live in Colorado or come here a lot, you really do need a subscription to Colorado Outdoors.

It is ridiculously cheap, thanks to its state subsidy. Two years (12 issues) costs the same as 5.9 gallons of unleaded regular, as priced today at the Loaf 'n Jug in Florence.

And its writers get paid too.

June 10, 2007

The Pre-Conference Assessment

I almost have my conference panel presentation ready. On the other hand, I know that our time slot is at six in the morning following the drunken barbeque bash. So why I am bothering? I could just go in there and say to the three other panelists and a bunch of empty chairs, "Some students like to write blog posts while others see it as a distraction from the 'real writing' that they will be graded on. Draw your own conclusions."

And then I would crawl into my coffee cup until it was time to go to the airport.

June 05, 2007

Writers, Readers, and Rabies in Spartanburg

On Monday I will leave for Spartanburg, S.C., site of this year's conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment.

We are already warned about rabies, but, hey, we don't fondle foxes. We compose sensitive essays about them.

There's a little local boosterism among--what do they call them, Spartanburgers? Local officials are hard at work approving new logos. Your town is nothing without a logo. (Magdalena, N.M., take note.) I won't be bringing home a new BMW, however. Everywhere I go for any kind of convention, however, I find these people.

As the saying goes, "I will be so blogging this."

May 01, 2007

'Final Exam' at the Cactus Flower



The semester ends in a mixture of exhaustion, graduation parties, uncertainties, new jobs, and everyone saying, "Now I get to read the books that I want to read."

The nature-writing class met today for its final exam, which meant turning portfolios and reading the menu at the Cactus Flower restaurant in north Pueblo.

Here they are, by their blogging handles, starting at top left: [1st photo] RFaithHughes, Shelly, michellew, K, Frank Oteri

[2nd photo] April Maes, meg_nicholle, Sara M. Kelly, Holly Beth, J. Ben Manzanares

[3rd photo] Juliana, Kati Rice. Not shown: JPH.

A great group, and I wish them all possible success.

February 15, 2007

Back to the Stone Age! (Beginners welcome)

The Cottonwood Institute in Crestone, Colorado, offers a "Back to the Stone Age" week-long camp for high-school students.

We will experience first hand how we used to live, thrive, and survive in the natural world by learning and practicing stone age survival skills. We will focus on shelter, fire, cordage, and stone tools. We will discuss the environmental impact of these skills, look at the waste we produce, and contrast that to the way we live today.

The philosopher Paul Shepard, writing in his book The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game, suggested that all teenagers should have at least a one-time experience of hunting large game with primitive weapons. He regarded the experience as part of human maturation and development--much of his critique of our culture revolved around Americans being stuck in adolescence.

So is this "Stone Age" camp at least a start?

Quite a few nature writers and others say that Paul Shepard changed their lives.

Fur hat tip to SLV Dweller.

February 01, 2007

Brad Pitt as Hayduke??

From the Better Late Than Never Dept.: The Goat reports that Ed Abbey's classic piece of enviro-fiction is finally being prepared for the silver screen.

A longer story ran in the Deseret News in Salt Lake City.

The real question will be whether [director Catherine] Hardwicke can resist the temptation to soften Abbey’s eccentric but steel-cored characters into mere lovable buffoons, and whether she’ll submerge his pro-environment/anti-development message in a bland sugar coating of comedy

(She also directed The Nativity Story.)

January 29, 2007

Dolores LaChapelle

Dolores LaChapelle of Silverton, Colorado, died January 22 at an advanced age. (She was still skiing deep powder in her seventies.)

She begins the preface to her 1992 deep ecology book Sacred Land, Sacred Sex: Rapture of the Deep: Concerning Deep Ecology and Celebrating Life by stating that it does not fit into any categories:

it's neither psychology nor philosophy, neither history nor anthropology--not even social anthropology. It's most certainly not "eco-feminist," "new age," or "futurist." Yet it takes in all this and much more.

So did she.

The University of Utah has an online collection of her skiing photographs. She was a pioneer of ski mountaineering, among other things.

The Durango Herald ran this feature article about her in 2002.

LaChapelle became renowned in skiing circles for her powder skiing prowess. [While at Alta] she even earned the nickname “Witch of the Wasatch” for her uncanny ability to predict storms.

Look at her article "Ritual is Essential" for an understanding of how she connected human ritual with living "in place"

Ritual is essential because it is truly the pattern that connects. It provides communication at all levels - communication among all the systems within the individual human organism; between people within groups; between one group and another in a city and throughout all these levels between the human and the non-human in the natural environment. Ritual provides us with a tool for learning to think logically, analogically and ecologically as we move toward a sustainable culture. Most important of all, perhaps, during rituals we have the experience, unique in our culture, of neither opposing nature or trying to be in communion with nature; but of finding ourselves within nature, and that is the key to sustainable culture.

January 13, 2007

Teaching nature writing - Part 1

This blog started as a class blog for English 325, "Nature Writing in the West." The class is on a three-semester rotation, so if you were to look at entries for spring 2004 and fall 2005, you would see some student-written entries.

It only became my individual blog when at the end of spring semester 2004 I hated to see it die and kept on writing my own contributions during that summer.

In some cases, however, as student "team members" were added and dropped and the blog was republished after template changes, my name ended up on some of the entries that they wrote. No matter.

Now I am working on the syllabus for another semester. That is a two-glasses-of-wine job at the least. I hate writing syllabi (and grant proposals and book proposals) but, unfortunately, I cannot always just go into the classroom and extemporize brilliantly.

It's a Tuesday-Thursday class, 90 minutes each time. That means I see the students only 28 times, plus a field trip or two. With so many students having job and/or childcare responsibilities, additional times are a problem. Maybe this year I could do something over spring break—but M. and I like to flee the area during spring break ourselves.

And there is so much to do. Familiarize students with a group of writers of whom most of them have never heard. (Gary Snyder or Deidre Elliott or Reg Saner or SueEllen Campbell or Ken Lamberton or whoever.)

Toss out new words like "ecocriticism" and "bioregionalism" and the famous Lynn White, Jr., essay that blamed our environmental crisis on the Judeo-Christian-Marxist matrix.

Talk about historical events like the Dust Bowl, which happened literally just down the road in SE Colorado, but which is forgotten in popular consciousness of most people younger than my parents' generation. Or about how the Forest Service's recreation program got started just outside of Pueblo, partly to counteract leftwing organizers in the old CF&I steel mill.

I look at nature writing as a type of creative nonfiction mixed with contemporary literature, but it is more than that. It is philosophy in the classical sense ("How shall we live?"). It is self-discovery ("What ecological and geographical factors led to my living where I do?"). It is history—the Dust Bowl, for instance,
as I mentioned.

It is also my favorite class to teach.

August 23, 2004

"Where You At?"

Rebecca of "What's in Rebecca's Pocket?" blog rediscovers the "Where You At?" bioregional information quiz, which first appeared in CoEvolution Quarterly, later known as Whole Earth Review, in 1981. I am glad to have done my part in disseminating it through my nature-writing classes.

(Whole Earth Review is no more, but the Web site still exists.)