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Archive for the ‘Natural World’ Category

Fireflies

Last year my students and I read one text that we returned to again and again in conversation: William Cronon’s fabulous essay on “The Trouble With Wilderness”.  I’ve written about the essay before and I’m sure I will again.  Its ideas and themes have transformed my work and that of my students.  The essay argues against the  environmental movement’s focus on wilderness areas, because it divides the natural world into small sanctuaries worth saving on the one hand, and everything else, which we feel free to pollute or demolish, on the other. (more…)

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A friend of mine uploaded this photo he took of a luna moth to Facebook and gave me permission to use it, along with his original caption, which read

“Dear Mr. Moth: your fantastic leaf-like camouflage works much better if you actually sit on a tree.”

Actias luna

Image credit: Paul Erickson.

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A rear-view glimpse of a white-tailed deer

A rear-view glimpse of a white-tailed deer

Coming home tonight at the end of an evening with friends, I turned off Massachusetts Avenue onto Calvert Street.  This intersection sits, more or less, in the front yard of Naval Observatory, which is where the Vice President lives.  The grounds of the Observatory are always thick with deer; I often see them in the evening grazing.  Tonight, turning left, I saw a deer run across Calvert Street and into a neighboring yard.  I pulled my car over to catch a glimpse of it. (more…)

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One thing I noticed shaping my perception of my trip to Kansas City was my recent reading of William Cronon’s “The Trouble With Wilderness.”  It’s a key essay in environmental history that apparently generated a lot of controversy when it came out.  It makes the argument that the idea of wilderness in American history has been harmful to the extent that we think of wilderness as pure, unspoiled, and something that we ruin by our presence.  It’s made us value nature only (or especially) when we perceive it as wild, untamed, or untouched.  In this view, though, as soon as we enter the picture, nature is irretrievably damaged.  (more…)

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My much-loved aunt, Mary Bennett Johnston, passed away just over a month ago.  Mary was an animal lover as far back as I can remember.  My favorite picture of her, from the 70s, shows her nuzzling her beautiful gray cat, Cleopatra.  Her unruffled manner with both animals and people was probably what endeared her to all of them.  I remember bringing one of her retrievers to her one day when I’d found a tick on its skin—I was hysterical, since my father had taught me that the natural world presented chiefly risk, whether of ticks, lyme disease, rabies, or some other life-threatening bacterium, virus, or parasite.  But Mary calmly and expertly plucked it off, with the dog—who was gazing adoringly into her face—seemingly none the wiser. (more…)

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