Welcome to Wilderness Interface Zone

There’s something  about  walking out of the desert or other wild or marginally wild area that you don’t  get walking into it.   Something  that you feel in  your return to others sharing the fire or that comes from sliding into  your vehicle to head home at the end of a hike or campout.   Something about completing the journey on foot, walking through the front door, closing the circuit.  

Anyway, there’s something that I get.

It isn’t a sense of satisfaction, exactly, though there’s some of that, especially if while you were out there you survived an accident (minor landslide?) or precarious encounter (yikes, a skunk!) or witnessed the  wrenching beauty or  drama of some scene or event that  jimmied your soul.   A good  bit of what I feel when I come back is excitement about what I’m bringing to my family or to other interested parties: stories about what I saw, what happened, what has changed.   Stories about what’s possible.  

I don’t think of nature stories as being different in kind from or  as having any higher quality than tales I bring away from  adventures with other human beings €”say, students in my English classes or my own kids €”or from what are  broadly termed €œspiritual experiences. €   I carry these stories  out of  the wild contained in the same vessels of hope with which I tote ripe tomatoes from garden to kitchen or  explore scriptural  terrain in church classrooms: Look at this!   What does it open to us?

It  all seems pretty wild to me.

It’s in the  spirit of  swapping    good tales that we’ve built a fire ring,  a traditional seat of storytelling, here at Wilderness Interface Zone.   We do not aim to exalt the nature €œexperience € over the temple or chapel €œexperience € or to elevate nature’s concerns over human ones.   Literature that romanticizes nature and in process vilifies people is self-limiting.   Speaking for myself, I find events erupting in any of these elements €”the spiritual, the natural, the human €”and in overlapping zones between them  completely immersed in the unbounded moment, containing ripple after ripple of engagement.   This suggests to me that the potential quality of human experience need not be  located wholly   €œout there, € in the assumed character of an environment or setting for relation, but  depends a great deal upon the spiritual brio we  bring to  any given moment.  

We launch Wilderness Interface Zone knowing nature literature is something of a spiritual and artistic frontier for Mormons…and yet not.    With Joseph Smith’s First Vision, Mormonism certainly stakes  a defensible  claim in the  tradition of finding God in the wilderness.   Couple this  claim with belief in eternal progression, add the central role repentance plays in Mormons’ lives, and Mormons really have quite the lenses for gazing upon the grandeur of the Mystery.   With growing LDS scientific and cultural communities,  Mormon literary nature writers ought to abound.    Concern does seem to be  mounting in the church for taking a different stance  toward how we live in this world, for re-imagining our stewardship in the Creation.   One of WIZ’s  raisons d’etre  is to support stewardship through story.

Before we start,  I want to  express deepest thanks  to  the wiz at A Motley Vision, the inestimable William Morris, for helping me  build this space and  try something I’ve ached to do since I began blogging over three years ago.      

And  I want to make a promise: Nature is sufficiently extravagant that one need not embellish to tell the tale straight.   I don’t take the Annie Dillard’s cat approach to nature writing.   If I  say a white-throated  swift approached me of its own will, it did.   If  I tell you that a coyote shadowed me and my dog  up a canyon, that’s what happened.     My thinking on what such incidents mean might  wander, but the overall narrative trail will run true.

Okay then.    Here we are.   Let’s go see what’s out there.

20 thoughts on “Welcome to Wilderness Interface Zone”

  1. Best wishes on this new exploration. I am excited to follow you.

    I am hopeful that this approach will reach those of us (like me) who are stuck in the messy political and scientific treatment of our relationship with nature.

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  2. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the new site, so I confess I’m excited! I am learning along the way and so I ask questions:
    Is a wilderness interface zone where two kinds of wilderness meet? Like a forest meeting a field, that sort of thing. I’ve been thinking about what a delightful opportunity this can be for LDS and Nature to meet and it certainly feels as if we’re at the edge of something. It feels less bound in than it might on other sites, so thank you.
    This week I’ve been reading my first whole book of Wendell Berry. I’ve come across quotes by him over the years but not his books. I finally bought The Long Legged House for 4 dollars thru Deadalus Books catalog. It was written in 1965 but I often am moving thru time at a different pace than others around me and I have gotten used to the feeling that I am lagging behind. He talks a lot about our relationship with nature, which perhaps you already know. My favorite piece so far talks about the relationship people have when they come to the Kentucky River to ‘get away from it all’ only to be frustrated and confused because they have in fact brought with them what they were trying to escape. By this Berry was referring to their noise, lights, arrogance, irresponsibility, restlessness, etc. It reminded me of an allergic reaction- these people come into unframed wilderness, uncontrolled silence, unmediated life, and they have a reaction to it. As I have been reading, I have thought about some of my own experiences and seen them in a new light.
    I really like Wendell Berry. I hope to get my hands on another of his books that is perhaps even twenty years more recent than this one.
    I said I would ask questions:
    Who took the beautiful pictures that appear at the top of the page? Is there any way to keep one there so I can see it a little longer, or rather, come back to it? They are stunning!
    Will you have a book list? I could use that.
    Your site is gorgeous, the colors and borders and pictures and more. I like “It all seems pretty wild to me”!

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  3. L-d Sus, thanks for the good wishes.

    I am hopeful that this approach will reach those of us (like me) who are stuck in the messy political and scientific treatment of our relationship with nature.

    Just guessing, but I’m thinking that behind your grabbing of that tar baby lie stories, lots of them, ones that drive your political and scientific will in this matter.

    And you rightly identify this site an exploration. That’s exactly what it’s up for.

    Besides exploring stewardship through its narrative routes, I’ll be further developing my ideas about sustainable language. The basic idea: Any efforts we make to improve our behavior in the natural world ought to include efforts to improve behavior in the environment we call language.

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  4. Lora: Is a wilderness interface zone where two kinds of wilderness meet?

    For an explanation, click here.

    I’ve been thinking about what a delightful opportunity this can be for LDS and Nature to meet and it certainly feels as if we’re at the edge of something. It feels less bound in than it might on other sites, so thank you.

    You’re welcome! It’s important to me that this site to feel “less bound.” (Than what? Not sure.) So I think it’s really cool you sense that. I want to be open for anything (well, just about).

    Who took the beautiful pictures that appear at the top of the page?

    Teenaged son Saul, who also took the photo the graphic artist used to design the cover of my novel, The Pictograph Murders. We actually went out–me and my two ambulatory kids–to shoot those photos for this site. We’ll be going out to collect more–twist my arm!–and will add them or from time to time change the pictures over to freshen the site up.

    Will you have a book list?

    If I can. I’ll certainly be doing reviews of nature-related books. Currently, I’m reading Wyman Meinzer’s Coyote to continue my study of those animals, because I’ve been running into them more frequently when I’m out walking and I want to understand better what I’m seeing and what’s going on. Also, I have Terry Tempest Williams’ latest, Finding Beauty in a Broken World lined up for reading and review.

    Wendell Berry is among my definite possibilities. On my desk I have an essay he wrote I hope to discuss here. I’m also open to suggestions!

    Your site is gorgeous, the colors and borders and pictures and more. I like €œIt all seems pretty wild to me €!

    I’m really happy you like the look of the platform.

    And you know, it only seems to get wilder everyday.

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  5. Patricia:

    I get the tingles whenever I “hear” you talk about language. It’s an environment I become more and more passionate about every day, though at times it frustrates me so!

    I’m excited for the potential here and will be keeping my eyes on the site, right along with AMV.

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  6. Thanks for coming by, Tyler.

    And you’ll be happy to learn that there are plenty of tingles ahead. I see no clear division between the natural world and the human rhetorical world; in fact, I believe the two intimately bound up in each other. So you can’t talk about or achieve effectual action in one of these environments without the stance you take affecting the other environment.

    Likewise for the negative flipside.

    The best language, I believe (as you probably know), changes everything, opens up possibilities, multiplies and replenishes.

    So lots of talk about language as wilderness coming up.

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  7. I think this is going to become an important stop for us all in our internet wanderings–a site that will bring together all the ways in which language and location and earth and culture “place” us, in our parts of creation, wherever that may be. I’ll be reading!

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  8. I take this opportunity to complain about the name of the blog. Good heavens, woman. If you can find poetry in BLM bureacratic-speak, poetry is dead.

    Its probably dead anyway, so maybe you’re just making the most of it, I dunno.

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  9. Russell, I’m very glad you made it by.

    I’m not sure this site will bring together “all the ways” in which language and location and earth and culture “place” us, but it’s for certain going to try matching up a few of them. The best fun is in the exploration.

    There’s always more going on than we’re aware of. It’s like aspects of creation are hanging off our starboard or port side–right in plain sight–except for those darned cloaking devices.

    But you still feel something you can almost touch.

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  10. Adam,

    Complain away, I said you could, anytime. But I don’t exactly see beams and rays shooting out of the name “Times [ampersand] Seasons”!

    Besides, everybody knows that where blogs are concerned, it’s all about the acronymns. In Wilderness Interface Zone’s case, the acronym rocks. (IMO, you can’t beat that word “Zone” either. Many cool and funny cultural facets flashing on that word.)

    And: Greatly exaggerated, those rumors of poetry’s death. Though in the hands of zombies, many things look dead that might yet be rescued and fed reviving broths.

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  11. Patricia, I am glad I found your new post! As you recall, I am a reader of Nature, but a poor writer of it. But know you have my eyes and ears. I feel like I am walking on a new path. Thank you.

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  12. Hi, Bob! I’m happy to see you here. Seems like it’s been a long time.

    I feel like I am walking on a new path.

    Me too, and it’s unmarked. No clear, beaten trail, no helpful cairns.

    I’ll try not to get us lost. 😉

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  13. “the potential quality of human experience need not be located wholly €œout there, € in the assumed character of an environment or setting for relation, but depends a great deal upon the spiritual brio we bring to any given moment.”

    I love this thought as it allows for a wilderness experience to occur at a busy sidewalk of pedestrians as often as in the middle of the desert. My school portfolio was entitled “Moments of Intensity” and for me these moments that stand out from the others in our life help to bring clarity and meaning – wherever our current ‘wilderness’ may be.

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  14. Where “wilderness” is concerned, I see no clear point at which lonely desert trails leave off and busy sidewalks begin. And I see high potential for the lines becoming even more blurred.

    Thanks you for coming by, gma.

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