A lovely recent post on Orion Magazine’s Facebook page: “2015 marks 95 years since the Algonquin School painters mounted their first exhibition. Also called The Group of Seven, its members’ works were inspired by the Canadian landscape. They believed that a distinct Canadian art could be developed through direct contact with nature, a wonderful mission statement for this, their country’s first major national art movement.” Visit their Facebook page here
When it’s due to interest or temperament, I’ve always been drawn to nature writing. For many, its mere mention conjures up certain associations – bucolic landscapes, nostalgic meditations, longings for golden ages, of days lost. But nature writing has never been a static genre, and increasingly it transcends the standard pastoral narratives. Last month, I had the pleasure to listen in on a live chat with critically acclaimed authors Rebecca Solnit and Robert MacFarlane as they delved into the evolving form of nature writing. In this entry, I’d like to summarize a few points I connected strongly with. You can listen to the entire talk below: Robert Macfarlane and Rebecca Solnit on Nature Writing If you want to follow along the timestamps I have provided in the post, you can also access the discussion directly on Orion Magazine’s website.
Have you ever read something where the author articulated precisely the ideas that you’ve been trying to work out in your own mind for ages? Have you ever felt that flash of recognition, that chill of goosebumps, and obeyed that urge to nod along and shout “yes!” out loud? And once the giddiness subsides, have you ever felt that sinking realization that someone managed to conveyed those ideas better than you ever could have? I recently had that experience with a piece from Orion Magazine. “Out of the Wild” features a conversation between authors Michael Pollan and William Cronon as they chat about many of the ideas I’ve been grappling with on Ekostories: Concepts of nature and culture, the power of stories for change, the importance of personal sustainability. Regular readers will know that I’ve written a few essays on Pollan’s work, namely on Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education and The Botany of Desire, so it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed his contributions to this piece. But in my opinion it was Cronon, an environmental …
“But what, precisely, is hope? At a talk I gave last spring, someone asked me to define it. I turned the question back on the audience, and here’s the definition we all came up with: hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless.” (Derrick Jensen, Beyond Hope)
I referred briefly to the essay titled The Politics of Play: Seeking adventure in a risk-averse society in last week’s exploration of The Curious Garden, but I think it merits some attention of its own. In the piece, Jay Griffith argues that unstructured and free play (something that is increasing rare nowadays) is vital for helping children grow up into mature, sustainable, and resilient individuals capable of exercising sound judgement. I would like to share a couple of choice quotes: