Rambling into the Times

Finding Zen in a Patch of Nature” — The New York Times has published a beautiful profile of my work. I feel very lucky and honored to have my work discussed in this venue, especially the Science section which for years has been my go-to place for science news and great writing. Jim Gorman has done a fabulous job of situating The Forest Unseen at the junction of science, literature, and contemplative practice. Ramble also gets a mention and regular readers may recognize themes from some of the photographs. I’m looking forward to seeing the full spread in the print version tomorrow. Also in the works is an interview in the weekly Science Times podcast, available soon on the Science page.

Thank you, Ramble followers, for your ongoing support of this blog. It is a great pleasure and privilege to share my biological and literary musings with you. Our “regularly scheduled programming” will resume shortly (with more ticks, among other delights).

52 thoughts on “Rambling into the Times

  1. earthcaretaker

    You words are educating and inspiring many of us (especially folks like me that might struggle with the scientific lingo) and it was a GREAT article. I enjoyed hearing of how Sarah and your professor were inspirations in your life/writings. I think of the people that have inspired me in so many ways and am grateful to remember them.

    This morning I shared about still hearing your words from a most recent talk when you asked when was the last time you really paid close attention to surroundings…taste, smell, visual…this really effected me and I struggled to remember when I last did. This question has stayed with me and helps me to slow down and appreciate all that is in this world. Awareness is important. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. David George Haskell Post author

      Hi Debbie, I’m so glad that you were able to take something useful from the talk. I have to remind myself about awareness all the time. We all need reminders! I’m very happy that you enjoyed the article. Thanks for commenting here!

      Reply
  2. Jim Markowich

    How splendid and well-deserved! Congratulations!

    I like your comparison of not knowing nature with not knowing Shakespeare. That’s very much how it is, and we feel something akin to being blessed for having had the opportunity to muck around a bit in the natural world on a regular basis.

    Reply
  3. Phil Terry

    David,

    Congratulations on the wonderful review in the New York Times – and, more importantly, on what sounds like a great year of watching and listening.

    You are an inspiration to the Slow Art Day community. We run an annual event where we ask participants all over the world to slowly look at five individual pieces of art for 10 minutes each.

    Participants love it – and discover new ways of seeing and thinking about the painting or sculpture they are looking at. All we have to do is encourage them to slowly look and then get out of the way. It’s really quite amazing to me how such a simple activity as slowly looking can yield so much.

    I thought about that as I read you describing how slowly observing squirrels helped you realize something that is in no modern biology curriculum – that squirrels seem to love lolling around in the sun.

    Yes. What a great discovery. And, as you said, a discovery that adds important dimensions to the mechanistic view of nature.

    I blogged about the review and your book on our website this morning. I look forward to reading your book and hope that many in the global Slow Art Day community read it as well. We could clearly learn a lot from you.

    Thank you – and good luck!

    Phil

    Phil Terry
    Founder, Slow Art Day

    Reply
    1. David George Haskell Post author

      Dear Phil, Thank you for this thoughtful comment. The Slow Art Day sounds like a great project: helping us connect by giving our attention to art. This obviously has very strong parallels with paying attention in “nature”. Thanks for blogging about this and for getting in touch via this blog.

      Reply
      1. Phil Terry

        David,

        You are quite welcome. Thanks for your kind response.

        BTW, I’m quite partial to biology. A few years ago I ran a global celebration of Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of “On the Origin of Species” – as part of my other nonprofit, Reading Odyssey (you can see the lecture series we hosted here: http://Darwin150.com). Sean Carroll, EO Wilson and others participated.

        I look forward to reading your book. And I’d like to keep in touch. Let me know if you make it up to the New York area as part of a speaking tour, or for any other reason – I would love to meet and treat you to one of our great restaurants.

        Phil

        P.S. I’m heartened by all the comments on your blog. Really glad to see the participation and engagement of your readers!

        Reply
        1. David George Haskell Post author

          Hi Phil, Thank you! I’m glad to hear about the Darwin project. We had our own celebration here (incl Sean Carroll) — and did a party in the “Darwin Garden”, an area that models the various changes in life’s history.

          I’ll be in NYC next yr in March (13th) for a public lecture at AMNH, but I’m not sure if or when I’ll be there before. I’ll love to stay connected. Email — dhaskell@sewanee.edu — works best, although this blog is also a good place to grab me!

          Again, thank you for your interest.

          Reply
  4. Erin

    In fact, I read that article yesterday, and that’s how I found your blog! I’m very glad I did, and I can see I’ll be coming back to read here often. Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    A HUGE Congrats! Well done, as we all know.
    Any more strange findings in small critters out there? Gulf Coast residents have a theory that there are mutations abounding post-BP oil spill and that polluted air has been blown north by storms earlier this year.
    Again, Contrats and Blessings,
    Kay MacKenzie

    Reply
    1. David George Haskell Post author

      Hi Kay, Thank you. I have not noticed any unusual degree of weirdness. We’re pretty far inland from the Gulf, so the effect here must be small. The effects in the ocean are well documented and very sad.

      Reply
  6. Kalaya

    Interesting that I read your article this morning because it seems that the universe has been talking to me lately. I wish the Times had published a color picture of that mushroom! I just came back from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and went mushroom hunting at the foothills. Such a magical experience. I posted some pictures on my blog if you want to take a look. http://kalayasteede.blogspot.com/2012/09/south-of-border-part-dos.html I also just posted a blog about going to Cocodrie, LA. Taking a look at the marshes at LUMCON. Anyway I just wanted to say I enjoyed the profile on you.

    Reply
  7. Kalaya

    P.S. The cicadas are deafening but I told someone that I should enjoy the sound while I can because one day I won’t be able to hear them anymore (I will lose that tone) and then I will miss them…:(

    Reply
  8. JO, Chapel Hill NC

    I attended the Sewanee Writers Conference in 2005 and hiked Shakerag a bunch, in part because of the name. I also left the domain to hike Fiery Gizzard, another great name and great place. I look forward to reading your blog.

    Reply
  9. Tom Howick

    David –
    Well deserved piece in the New York Times – Science Section…on your recent work and book. I appreciate the way you “see” the world and have shared it with your written words in your book that I feel will be read and admired for years to come. Once again, I appreciate your time you spent with our Master Naturalist class at the Chattahoochee Nature Center a few weeks ago. I feel you are the “Master” Naturalist of the Cumberland Plateau…through your book and Ramble. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. David George Haskell Post author

      Hi Tom,

      Thank you! It was a real pleasure to visit the Chattahoochee Nature Center and spend time with some of your students. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.

      I sure don’t consider myself a Master anything. Beginner’s Mind is the way — keep on the learning curve! And keep watching the pros: great observers and communicators of nature like you.

      With my best wishes, David

      Reply
  10. collette126

    Saw the article and it brought me to your blog. I’ve been reading it for the past 2 hours straight. Your writing reflects the passion you feel brilliantly. I find myself wishing I could take your courses and I hope your student’s understand how lucky they are. Do you teach outside of your standard courses?

    Reply
    1. David George Haskell Post author

      Hi there! Thank you — I am very happy to hear that the blog is interesting to you. Right now, my students are getting midterm exams back, so they might not feel so lucky (!) But that aside, we do have a great time (at least I do…) Most of my teaching is through the college classroom, but I also see my book and blog as a key part of that work: sharing love and fascination of nature and science and language. Again — thank you!

      Reply
  11. Ceza Kassem

    Dear David,
    Enjoyed very much the article in the NYT. Inspiring and lead me to your blog. Your column on Rachel Carson is a gem because it pointed to the real value of her message, not only the practical aspect of preserving the environment but the forever incentive of “wonder” in our lives.Nice to have met you and will follow your blog from Cairo, Egypt.

    Reply
  12. Dagoberto chavarro

    So surprised by the beauty of your experience, so delighted by the magic of your words. I live in a small town, Guaduas, near Bogota, Colombia. As a teacher who is planning to retire, I find your work a way to continue getting surprised by nature. Thanks.

    Reply
  13. Charles Anthony

    I am one of (hopefully) many new readers who have landed here for the first time after reading Jim Gorman’s piece in today’s New York Times and will be an enthusiastic reader going forward. I enjoy your insights and creativity. I am an artist who loves nature and wishes he had paid more attention in biology class. I just purchased “The Forest Unseen” … look forward to the journey of a good read.

    Reply
    1. David George Haskell Post author

      Thank you, Charles!

      I think that wishing that we had paid more attention in class is a widely shared characteristic of those of us who are past our “formal” education. For my part, I take it as a good sign, a sign that we have a growing desire to connect to the world, to each other, to ideas.

      Thanks for checking out the blog. I hope that you enjoy the book.

      Reply
  14. Sang-Froid

    Wonderful profile and wonderful work! The NYT article got me to your blog. I shared your writings with colleagues at work here in London because it inspired such freshness in thought and reflected such passion. It was a pleasure to read your thoughts through the lens of your eyes, please keep them coming. Thank You. S, London / India

    Reply
  15. Jane McClaren

    Hi David, Loved the article in the NYT’s, especially the comment about Shakespeare, we don’t need him, but our lives diminish without, just like a lessened attentiveness to nature. Do you read Diane Ackerman? I thought of her while reading the article. She is a contributer to the NYT’s and Orion Magazine along with several best sellers including A Natural History of the Senses. So many share a yearning for a closer relationship to nature, but are we enough? I wonder, do your students want to follow the cause, meaning placing a higher priority on saving the planet? Thank you for your teaching, your book, and your attentiveness.

    Reply
    1. David George Haskell Post author

      Thank you, Jane. Yes, I admire Ackerman’s work. She knows how to pay attention. Her recent op-ed in the Times made this point beautifully. (Although I wondered who the cell phone girl that she discussed was talking to — her grateful mother perhaps?) Thank you for your comment here. I’m very happy that the article gave you some joy. My students are varied, but many do indeed want to connect to the world, pay attention, and figure out the best next step. They inspire me.

      Reply
  16. Gail Henk

    Being a non-scientific observer of nature, and the things that people bring to the habitat or have left or are threatening to do to it, I was immensely relieved to see that others walk in the woods, stop to breathe and perhaps sniff, and absorb the Net while reflecting it. I’m firmly of the idea that you can’t see anything if you’re moving…Thankyou Dr. Haskell.

    Reply
  17. Linda Dahl, Helena, MT

    Dr Haskell
    I just finished this article in the Times. I am sorry to say that I was not familiar with your work before now. I will read your new book. My husband has said I should have been a detective because I am so observant of life around me. Perhaps I should have been a scientist instead. Anyway, I feel comfort that others take so much pleasure in nature as I do. Thank you for making me feel part of something truly wonderful. :)

    Reply
  18. Erica Beck Spencer

    What a lovely article in the NYTimes! So glad that it brought me to you. I work for the Lawrence Hall of Science at The University of CA, Berkeley. More specifically for the FOSS Project and OBIS (www.outdoorbiology.com) on outdoor initiatives to help get students outdoors on a regular basis. I also have taken a personal journey to get outside every day for at least 30 minutes and blog about it at http://www.everydayoutside.com (although I’m not the greatest writer my friends have been inspired to get outside more regularly. Will buy your book and follow your blog. Again, congrats. “Tick Drag” sure sounds like an OBIS activity!

    Reply
    1. David George Haskell Post author

      Thank you!

      Wow — OBIS looks like a great project. I’m very impressed.

      And your practice of daily attention to the outdoors is absolutely fabulous. Love the blog! What an incredible role model!

      Thank you very much for connecting.

      Reply
  19. Kat Z.

    I’m among those who have gained wonderful insights, delight, and amusement from David Haskell’s blog (and, of course, his book). Folks new to the blog site will definitely want to visit his June 5, 2012, entry on his introduction to banana slugs at UC Santa Cruz. David is an intrepid explorer of the sights, sounds, feel, smells, and tastes of nature. I am a very grateful reader.

    Reply
    1. Linda Dahl, Helena, MT

      I have love hate deal w banana slugs. Used to live in Willits, CA . They were interesting to see in my garden, but not esspecially welcome with letuce.

      Reply
      1. Kat Z.

        I can imagine they would quickly annihilate any available patch of lettuce. Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with them in any form other than as UCSC mascots. But, David had the courage to actually lick one (the slimey slug, not the mascot). One must have a lot of intellectual and sensory curiosity to do that!

        Reply
  20. Randy Tindall

    I very much enjoyed the NYT article and am now enjoying your blog! Your approach to your little mandala is similar to my approach to our backyard—-trying to see grand themes reflected in small places and intimate things and events. I look forward to reading much more of your work.

    Reply

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