My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I bought this book at the height of my addiction to Matthiessen. I’d read everything he’d written and wanted more. Mark Tredinnick’s The Land’s Wild Music was advertised as a collection of nature writers, including Matthiessen, so I assumed I’d get a boatload of essays with a similar passion, insight, a like innate ability to see into the soul of nature.
I now know that was an unreasonable goal, but, unfortunately, my opinion of Tredinnick’s encounters (his word) has forever been shaded by my sky high expectations. There is no other Matthiessen. If I’d known that going in, I would have been more accepting of the writings contained in this book. They are, after all, excellent examples of some of the best names in the nature writing genre–
- The Edge of the Trees by Barry Lopez
- The Heart of an Arid Land by Terry Tempest Williams
- The Real World by James Galvin
As I look back on the book, I realize that it did expand my horizons of nature writers by presenting a side of the genre I hadn’t experienced, one that I’m not entirely comfortable with, but valid none the less.Here are some excerpts:
- …that kind of enterprise, that sense of geologic time, that feeling for the larger order of life, that placement of the present human moment in the broader scheme of things…
- …I point to a shrubby tree, one of many of its kind I’ve noticed crowding a logged slope, its leaves the shape and color of an olive.
- We are standing high above the Horse Creek drainage, looking inland over the Three Sisters wilderness area. The spine of the Cascade range, running north and south, rises in three places before us.
- I find myself swimming toward an eddy in the river, slow water, warmer water. We are whirling, twirling in a community of currents.
- Both the Great Basin and the Colorado Plateau belong to the same weather; they are dry and full of sage.
- The section borders the three hundred and twenty acres– ‘that almost imaginary thatch of peat bog surrounded by low hills and tall stands of lodgepole pine, with its own ocean of sage-gray-prairie lapping on tits shores and the whole Medicine Bow Range to drink in every day’.
Do you see what I mean? At times, it reads like talking to a brilliant scientist whose thoughts rest more in theory than the world around him. These essays hover above the land, not quite plumbing its true nature (although that last excerpt is pretty close). The words are slightly off center because I don’t believe the writer felt it as Matthiessen does. I don’t either, which is why I gave up the goal of being a nature writer. The best I could do was appreciate a well-written essay, not reproduce it myself.
Do you get those feelings when you read about nature in books? That feeling of oneness, of respect, of a shared goal?