Field Notes #3

April 21, 2009 (pre-Earth Day)

Today, as I head out for the trail into the canyon that will take me past the dead coyote, I decide to  call that trail Coyote Trail, or maybe Coyote Way, to remember that coyote mouldering at the trailhead.   As I pass those remains, I try to satisfy my curiosity about the animal’s gender, but the back legs are frozen together in a rigor of modesty.   A cloud of black flies on and around the carcass goes a-buzz at my intrusion into its community  feast and fur-lined creche. Continue reading “Field Notes #3”


What I did and thought, Earth Day 2008

Parts of this entry rise a little above-average personal in nature.   I don’t mean to make this an “alms before men” post.   I want  to try to show how easily— for me, anyway—  thinking can slide between my  experiences with  animals and the ones I have  with people.     Also, I don’t remember ever having written down the “Hillbilly Dilly” episode noted below, and since the hummingbird called it to mind, after my not  thinking about it for  many years, I  imagined the moment right for the telling.

April 22, 2008

At the cliff this morning, I find  a colony of  white-throated swifts fully active, hunting the wild blue, tangling into the wind gusts that stream  through the canyon’s channel  and splash  against  its rocks.

A vulture passes by, very low, slightly out from the ledge where I sit.  

A swift just cut in  quite close, the vrrrrr of its wings  as they sliced  air sounding like a miniature jet.   A pair of hawks circle high overhead.

Will eagles come?   I barely finish writing the question  when I  look up to see a golden eagle, juvenile or maybe second year, brown feathers flecked with white.    As I  gaze up  at the eagle, a black-chinned hummingbird rises like a helicopter  into my line of sight, directly between the eagle and me, probably examining the burgundy tones in my shirt, faded overall but most vivid in the cuffs.

Continue reading “What I did and thought, Earth Day 2008”

Get out there!

I don’t like to tell people what to do.   In fact, except for my kids, who lack imagination where performing necessary tasks is concerned, I’ve come to  dislike it extremely.    Well, even then.   But I’ve been thinking lately that Mormons  appear to be  beeline people, traveling in more or less straight lines between this or that field of responsibility and the home hive.   Work, home, school, home, temple, home, ward house, home, stake house, home, temple, home, Walmart— home, thank goodness!    

Is  Mormonism  an indoor culture?    

Whether  it is  or not, Earth Day is coming up April 22, less than  one week away.   If at all possible, I hope folks try to get outside, day or night, and  have a good look around.   And  consider taking  the kids.   Even if it’s backyard exploration or a half-hour jaunt to the local park.   Do a little bird-watching— populations are migrating right now, you might see something surprising.   No need to step very far out of your comfort zone, and please, don’t take unnecessary risks.   Keep it simple and close, if that’s your speed.   It’s all call of the wild.

The world’s  extraordinary, even when strange,  even  where it isn’t as beautiful as it used to be,  and it stands in needs of us.    Mormons.   Not to save it, but to abide with it, to wind ourselves deeper into its braid.      To change simply by witnessing, to be changed.   It’s the nature of spirituality to rise to the surface at the least opportunity.

So try?   Even for a few minutes.   Stop between buildings.    Wind down the car window.   Think about God’s taffy pull with  light, stretching it into  being, shuffling land and sea, granting earth permission to  sprout grass,  sprinkling stars around the sun and moon, invoking the waters to bring forth life, shaping animals upon their bones, and seeing it all as good.

It is good.   Even the seemingly bad  reflects glints  of good.

Get out and see for yourself.    I’ll be reporting on  my Earth Day activities, so if something cool happens to you while you’re out,  you’ll be able to post  about it  in the comments.

Like I said, not to tell people what to do (shudder), but to suggest a possibility.      People can’t have too many possibilities.

A primer: What is nature literature?

This brief, light treatment of possibilities for the LDS nature writer is excerpted from my unpublished paper “Why Joseph Went to the Woods: Rootstock for LDS Literary Nature Writers,” presented at the 2008 Association for Mormon Letters Annual Conference.   This paper arose out of blog posts at A Motley Vision and Times and Seasons.

Perhaps one reason LDS writers haven’t ventured far into the field of nature writing is because they’re not sure what it is or does and whether or not writing it fulfills covenants they’ve made to help build the kingdom of God.   Furthermore, in my experience, many in the LDS population don’t know how to interpret the anger, misanthropy, or sorrow that crops up in traditional nature writing, especially when the high rhetoric expressing such emotions threatens LDS lifestyles and beliefs.   Important, call-to-action terms like €œstewardship, € a word that many if not most LDS accept as an essential component of concepts like €œservice € and €œrighteous dominion, € prove uncomfortably mercurial when applied to environmental issues.   Writing nature literature might qualify as exercising €œgood stewardship, € and thus as an act of building the kingdom, but what kind of writing qualifies as nature writing and what aspects of building the kingdom might it accomplish? Continue reading “A primer: What is nature literature?”