Someone I revere and respect recently explained to me (paraphrased):
“No one has read those nature writers you read. They aren’t mainstream. No one knows who they are. They were published because they’re weird.”
Based on some on-the-ground market research I’ve done (i.e. living in a city where everyone doesn’t think exactly like me), it’s come up true. All of the liberal, earth-loving, smart people I went to college with can spout off names beyond Thoreau because our professors in rural Vermont (of course) assigned nature writing with urgency and conviction. Anyone else I’ve ever met has never heard of them or that thing called “nature writing.” I have two reactions to that:
#2 Well, that makes sense because environmentalists are famous for marginalizing themselves. Preaching to the choir might feel good, but it’s ultimately only as useful as the energy the choir has to go mingle with, let’s say, Republicans, if your choir is Democratic.
For all the pushing against it I did while living in New York, I am now re-reading Wendell Berry’s agrarian essays, ‘The Art of the Commonplace,” which I’m guessing most of you reading this blog haven’t read or heard of. Taking stock of the hour and the day, 3pm Mountain Time, United States of America, August 21, 2009, Berry’s words could not be more apt. Sure, some of the language is outdated, he uses words like household; some might be jargony, not witty, too idealistic. But many of his ideas are radical and would appropriately offend people. Usually, he is wise, sharp, humble and moral, a word not highly-prized these days, even by me (I think “oh, moral, how boring, how 1950’s).
But in an era where knowledge of elders is underused, I wish… Continue reading