The Green Scene
Nature writing’s sage elders
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Robert Michael Pyle is well-known throughout Cascadia as an amiable writer, knowledgeable field instructor and fervent lepidopterist. His nonfiction books, including Wintergreen, Where Bigfoot Walks, and Mariposa Road, have won many awards, and his popular column “The Tangled Bank” ran for 11 consecutive years in Orion. The Grays River-based author reveals a new side with his first collection of poetry in Evolution of the Genus Iris. Many of Pyle’s literary insignia are on display—insightful nature observations, wide-ranging world travels, wit and a generous heart—but these new forms allow him more leeway to be playful with language and leave open spaces for reader interpretations. Pyle reads from Evolution of the Genus Iris at 7pm Sat., May 10 at Village Books, 1200 11th St. Entry is free. More info: http://www.villagebooks.com
It was sad to learn that W.S. Merwin’s planned reading last February in Bellingham had to be cancelled due to the author’s shaky health, but reading his intimate book, Unchopping a Tree, feels like spending time in his hallowed presence. The 89-year-old poet, translator and prose stylist instructs how to reassemble a tree that has been felled, in language that is both direct yet deep with multiple meanings. Part prose poem, part ecology lesson and part Zen instruction manual, Unchopping a Tree shares a mystical blueprint for healing the planet—the intricate, often invisible web of biological life—that our species so casually destroys. The book is made even more unique by artist Liz Ward’s contribution of 11 delicate drawings depicting the cellular life of trees.
Barry Lopez’s keepsake volume, Outside, brings together six previously published short stories by the Oregon-based author together with elegant engravings by artist Barry Moser. Lopez is widely admired for the way he blends natural and cultural history, philosophy and travelogue in his nonfiction writing—he won the National Book Award in 1986 for Arctic Dreams—but his fiction is perhaps more of a secret treasure. Lopez’s prose is expansive and spacious but grounded in the specific details of nature (“gray-white ice,” “salted blood,” “perfume of pear blossoms,” “hollow-boned, crimson-colored shoulders of the bird”). The author often eschews literary expectations in favor of ambience and a deep sense of mystery, of meaning that lingers at the edges of our normal perceptions.
For the past six decades, Kentucky-based author Wendell Berry has thought deeply about the overlapping issues of agriculture, democracy, conservation, social justice and the human spirit, recording his findings in numerous books of essays, poetry and fiction. His latest publication, It All Turns on Affection, contains his 2012 Jefferson Lecture—a lecture series the National Endowment for the Humanities calls “the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.” Turning again to the most pressing issues of our time, Berry finds clarity and room for optimism in the ineffable: “Truth, nature, imagination, affection, love, hope, beauty, joy…these words are hard to keep still within definitions; they make the dictionary hum like a beehive. But in such words…we find our indispensable humanity, without which we are lost and in danger.” This slim volume also includes an interview with Berry, as well as a handful of recent essays, including “About Civil Disobedience” and “The Future of Agriculture.”
The wonder of the woods
Pacific Northwesters may grumble about the lack of sunshine for nine months of the year, but when summer does bring its nonstop infusions of vitamin D, many residents choose to hide from the sun and seek cover in shady moss- and fern-filled forests—whether they’re in their backyards or a…
Summer at Baker Lake
A splendid sunny weekend beckoned. The North Cascades were still buried in snow, so our original plan of a backpacking trip up high against the sky needed some inspired revision.
Christopher solved the problem: Paddling up Baker Lake and camping on the wild east bank was just the thing.…
Splash and Dash
Salvation at Cougar Lick Falls
There were 10 of us trying to finish up some time-sensitive rock-work in an exposed talus field high on a south-facing mountainside when the sun hit that morning.
Although we managed to maintain a productive pace through increasingly sweltering conditions much longer than I expected, …