Nature Writing

NATURE: August—The Green Pasture by Aldo Leopold

August 11, 2018

From A Sand County Almanac Some paintings become famous because, being durable, they are viewed by successive generations, in each of which are likely to be found a few appreciative eyes. I know a painting so evanescent that it is seldom viewed at all, except by some wandering deer.  It is a river who wields the brush, and it is the same river who, before I can bring my friends to view his work, erases it forever from human view.  After that it exists only in my mind’s eye. Like other artists, my river is temperamental; there is no predicting when the mood to paint will come upon him, or how long it will last.  But in midsummer, when the great white fleets cruise the sky for day after flawless day, it is worth strolling down to the [...]

NATURE: A Child’s World by Rachael Carson

August 5, 2018

From The Sense of Wonder  A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement.  It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.  If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength. If a child is to keep alive his inborn [...]

POETRY: The Mocking-Bird by Frank Lebby Stanton

July 28, 2018

He didn’t know much music When first he come along; An’ all the birds went wonderin’ Why he didn’t sing a song. They primped their feathers in the sun, An’ sung their sweetest notes; An’ music jest come on the run From all their purty throats! But still that bird was silent In summer time an’ fall; He jest set still an’ listened, An’ he wouldn’t sing at all! But one night when them songsters Was tired out an’ still, An’ the wind sighed down the valley An’ went creepin’ up the hill; When the stars was all a-tremble In the dreamin’ fields o’ blue, An’ the daisy in the darkness Felt the fallin’ o’ the dew,— There come a sound o’ melody No mortal ever heard, An’ all the birds seemed singin’ From [...]

NATURE: Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

July 20, 2018

From Nature Chapter I: Nature To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those Heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the Heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these [...]

NATURE: Birds That Are New Yorkers by Donald Culross Peattie

July 14, 2018

From The New York Times Magazine February is a good month in which to make friends with the birds of a great city.  It is often deemed the dullest page in the bright almanac of birds.  For all of nature February is the last, not the second, month of the year.  It is the hour before the dawn when, it is customary to say, nothing of interest happens.  Practically no birds arrive in February on their Spring migrations, and almost none of the Winter visitants depart. Yet where others have long despised to look, be sure that there is at least a grain of gold undiscovered, and sometimes a whole lode.  The spirit of discovery, true scientific discovery, is, after all, not concerned with the rare, but with the tremendous importance of the [...]

NATURE: Nature Near Home by John Burroughs

June 30, 2018

From Field and Study After long experience I am convinced that the best place to study nature is at one’s own home, – on the farm, in the mountains, on the plains, by the sea, – no matter where that may be. One has it all about him then. The seasons bring to his door the great revolving cycle of wild life, floral and faunal, and he need miss no part of the show. At home one should see and hear with more fondness and sympathy. Nature should touch him a little more closely there than anywhere else. He is better attuned to it than to strange scenes. The birds about his own door are his birds, the flowers in his own fields and wood are his, the rainbow springs its magic arch across his valley, even the everlasting stars to which one [...]

POETRY: Morphometry by Helen Macdonald

June 22, 2018

I have had live crows, hawks, owls, opossums, squirrels, snakes, and lizards so that my room has sometimes reminded me of Noah’s ark; but Noah had a wife in one corner of it, and in this particular our parallel does not altogether tally. (Alexander Wilson) I had an idea of this, is stacked with song & cool blood, bruised with salad herbs & oil Of petrae, callt oil of peter, salts, flats, larks. Wet feathers continue to rise in my breast Whereas your darker plumes operate a weak tacet broken in twain, se muer, to moult & speak for a hope For a moment or two for the pile of the land rocks back in a dubitable movement shiny as a climate sere As desert, it is all flush. Through a miracle of hatred an expansion of range will [...]

NATURE: A Wind-Storm In The Forests by John Muir

June 15, 2018

From The Mountains of California The mountain winds, like the dew and rain, sunshine and snow, are measured and bestowed with love on the forests to develop their strength and beauty. However restricted the scope of other forest influences, that of the winds is universal. The snow bends and trims the upper forests every winter, the lightning strikes a single tree here and there, while avalanches mow down thousands at a swoop as a gardener trims out a bed of flowers. But the winds go to every tree, fingering every leaf and branch and furrowed bole; not one is forgotten; the Mountain Pine towering with outstretched arms on the rugged buttresses of the icy peaks, the lowliest and most retiring tenant of the dells; they seek and find them all, [...]

NATURE: Orion Rises On The Dunes by Henry Beston

June 8, 2018

From The Outermost House So came August to its close, ending its last day with a night so luminous and still that a mood came over me to sleep out on the open beach under the stars.  There are nights in summer when darkness and ebbing tide quiet the universal wind, and this August night was full of that quiet of absence, and the sky was clear.  South of my house, between the bold fan of a dune and the wall of a plateau, a sheltered hollow opens seaward, and to this nook I went, shouldering my blankets sailorwise.  In the star-shine the hollow was darker than the immense and solitary beach, and its floor was still pleasantly warm with the overflow of day. I fell asleep uneasily, and woke again as one wakes out-of-doors.  The vague walls [...]

NATURE: About Trees by J. Sterling Morton

June 1, 2018

From Arbor Day Leaves  A tree is the perfection in strength, beauty, and usefulness of vegetable life.  It stands majestic through the sun and storm of centuries.  Resting in summer beneath its cooling shade, or sheltering besides its massive trunk from the chilling blast of winter, we are prone to forget the little seed whence it came.  Trees are no respecters of persons.  They grow as luxuriantly beside the cabin of the pioneer as against the palace of the millionaire.  Trees are not proud.  What is this tree?  This great trunk, these stalwart limbs, these beautiful branches, these gracefully bending boughs, these gorgeous flowers, this flashing foliage and ripening fruit, purpling in the autumnal haze are only living materials [...]

POETRY: Science by Alison Hawthorne Deming

May 25, 2018

Then it was the future, though what’s arrived isn’t what we had in mind, all chrome and cybernetics, when we set up exhibits in the cafeteria for the judges to review what we’d made of our hypotheses. The class skeptic (he later refused to sign anyone’s yearbook, calling it a sentimental degradation of language) chloroformed mice, weighing the bodies before and after to catch the weight of the soul, wanting to prove the invisible real as a bagful of nails. A girl who knew it all made cookies from euglena, a one-celled compromise between animal and plant, she had cultured in a flask. We’re smart enough, she concluded, to survive our mistakes, showing photos of farmland, poisoned, gouged, eroded. No one believed he really had built [...]