It's finally over. All those books.
I almost thought I'd never be done. I mean, I didn't literally think I'd never be done, I only felt as though the list would go on and on. Twenty books is a lot. And reading has more or less structured my day for months. That and writing the short essays or summaries to go with each book. I'm not really sure what to do with myself, now.
I think I posted the list before, but here it is again;
1. Cultures of Habitat: On Nature, Culture, and Story, by Gary Paul Nabhan
2. The Desert Smells Like Rain: A Naturalist in Papago Indian Country, by Gary Paul Nabhan
3. The Practice of the Wild: Essays by Gary Snyder, by Gary Snyder
4. Walden and Other Writings, by Henry David Thoreau
5. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, by Edward Abby
6. Becoming Native to This Place, by Wes Jackson
7. The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape, by James Kunstler
8. Ecological Identity: Becoming a Reflective Environmentalist, by Mitch Thomashow
9. A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin
10. The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula K. LeGuin
11. The Farthest Shore, by Ursula K. LeGuin
12. The Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean M. Aule
13. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard
14. Honey from Stone: A Naturalist’s Search for God, by Chet Raymo
15. John Muir: Nature Writings, by John Muir
16. A Sand Country Almanac, by Aldo Leopold
17. Ansell Adams: An Autobiography, by Ansell Adams
18. A Reason for Hope, by Jane Goodall
19. Encounters with the Archdruid, by John McPhee
20. Refuge: an Unnatural History of Family and Place, by Terry Tempest Serena Robin Williams
I didn't read them in that order, I don't remember the exact order. I do remember getting a sense of structure as I read. For example, David Brower (the Archdruid of "Encounters with the Archdruid") clearly lived and worked in a world that John Muir and Aldo Leopold helped create. Like, the stories of all of these people interact, inter-relate. And there are themes and sub-themes within the list...
And I read each one and the way I read it is influenced by the earlier ones I read. Like, David Brower's insistence on leaving wildlands utterly alone (except for the visits of hikers and campers and so forth) seems really strange after reading Gary Paul Nabhan talk about how the Papago people increased wild biodiversity by managing oases in the desert, how the birds would come to their orchards because, they "like people." And Gary Snyder talking about an ethnic group in Japan where the people would hunt or fish and then throw a dance party so that the spirits of the dead animals would be entertained and would go tell their friends that being caught and killed by humans was really a lot of fun--Snyder's idea that human's relationship with the land can and should be reciprocal.
Even Aldo Leopold says that deer like to bed down in garden terraces built a thousand years ago by long-forgotten farmers. He says he would like deer to bed down in his garden a thousand years from now, or something like that.
I think I would have agreed with Brower before...and I'm not sure I disagree with him now. I mean, it does seem good to me to have some place to go where people aren't, to be able to get outside the human world for a while. I like the idea that something beyond the human world exists. But at the same time...defining conservation as just trying to keep human influence to a minimum seems lopsided or something. Like there should be more than that. And if the Papago were busy making biodiverse oases in the desert, maybe other peoples were making other things in other places? I mean, maybe there's no "nature" in the sense of untouched by humans in any case? In which case, what exactly are we trying to save?
Something. Environmentalists are trying to save something, I just can't put my finger on what.
I wrote about this some in one of the summaries I wrote. Occasionally, Charlie responds to what I write--he'll put notes in the margins when he gives me my writings back. For this one his not was "Inhabited land untouched by humans (e.g., North America pre-contact) = racism. Humans touch."
I think he meant that since humans do alter our environment that referring to an inhabited area as "untouched" is tantamount to denying the humanity of the people involved.
Anyway, I've spent five months kind of soaking in these books--and Charlie's comments in their margins--and I'm sure it's changed my thinking. I'm just sort of used to having all these ideas in my head that I never used to think about before. Sometimes I think they are Charlie's ideas and that I've sort of loaded his ideas into my brain by reading all these books.
But I can't possibly have exactly the same ideas reading these things as he does. We're different people. I don't even think we're that much alike. We wouldn't both have the same ideas and learn the same things from the same books. I think, more realistically, we do have related ideas because the ideas come out of a similar body of other people's thought. We might--literally--be on the same page about things.
Maybe that was the point?
[Next Post: Friday, March 14th: Looking Forward to Classes]