“They are haunted by visions. They are visited by strange dreams. They are – like Muhammad on Jabal al-Nour and George Fox on Pendle Hill – vouchsafed revelations in high places. They are the nature writers, and they bring us wisdom from the wilderness.
The question is, why do we listen to them?”
This from Richard Smyth’s latest piece in the New Humanist, The Cult of Nature Writing. I was delighted to be interviewed for the essay and I’m greatly enjoying Richard’s insight and wit.
“Go birdwatching or bug-hunting; take a hike. Experiences of this kind shouldn’t require the mediation of a prophet.” Yes, indeed. Let’s take off the prophet’s robes. Then, perhaps, write a short essay about what the defrocking experience teaches us about chickadee physiology?
You, David, are indeed
A “precious golden nature-child”!!!!!
“The question is, why do we listen to them?” Thankfully we do listen. I would put John Muir in the messenger category. His best writing is very personal and lyrical and look what he was able to accomplish. I’ve read books by Bernd Heinrich who doesn’t let much of the personal in and Robert MacFarlane who does and I still like both of them. You, like Bernd, are a biologist first and foremost and it informs the way you write.
Thank you for your posts.
Thank you. Muir is the premier example of a nature writer who was not shy about his sense of the sublime. His prose overflows with explicit and implicit religious imagery.
It’s hard to believe that Dickie Smyth has ever personally experienced the indescribable sense of wonder in nature that a few people can feel. He’s one of the clever ones … an intellectual. Writing about the endlessly miraculous ain’t easy. Literary criticism is.
I certainly have, Mark. That’s one reason why I’m so exasperated by writers who in my view make a shoddy job of it.
Thanks for reading the article, anyway.
Oops. How was I to know? There are way (way!!) more clever critical writers around than people who can groove, not to mention people who can groove and *write* about it — shoddily or not. I stand corrected. Sorry. Markie