Category Archives: Mormon nature literature

Field Notes #3

April 21, 2009 (pre-Earth Day)

Today, as I head out for the trail into the canyon that will take me past the dead coyote, I decide to call that trail Coyote Trail, or maybe Coyote Way, to remember that coyote mouldering at the trailhead.  As I pass those remains, I try to satisfy my curiosity about the animal’s gender, but the back legs are frozen together in a rigor of modesty.  A cloud of black flies on and around the carcass goes a-buzz at my intrusion into its community feast and fur-lined creche. Continue reading Field Notes #3

Field Notes #2

April 13, 2009

Why do I still do this?  Why, at my age, do I follow as if I were nine years old unmarked, unpaved trails away from what I know into the wilds of what I don’t know?   That’s how this striving creation—part light, part water, part air, part earth, and all aspiring flesh—shows itself to me, in the mutual bodying forth between us. It seems an involvement composed of equal slices revelation and formation, since in discovery, everything changes, the New erupts into being, not just in me, the older wide-eyed child, but in this juvenile Creation.

Today, I begin at the Crossfire Canyon’s cliffs, taking inventory of the birds.  A few days earlier I saw cliff swallows flash between the rims, returning or passing through.  Had they stayed or gone?  To find out, I take to the air myself, or at least to the boundary between earth and air, the rimrocks.  Continue reading Field Notes #2

Language as wilderness

This piece is more journal-like in its musings than most of my posts.  In fact, parts have been lifted from my hiking journal.  I hope this doesn’t render its structure or possible meanings confusing.  Also, this post plays around with several rather strenuous threads, like I do commonly when I’m out walking alone.  I thought I’d just throw these ideas out there for fun today, but if you have a headache or are looking for something less troublesome to start or end your day on, you might want to skip this one.

Last year(ish), Moab Poets and Writers solicited a bit of writing that would fit compactly into one of the columns of their newsletter.  I’m not happy with the piece I wrote for them; it wasn’t quite focused and in places the language fumbled badly. 

As underdone as it was, it apparently stirred up some folks.  Earlier this year one of the group’s representatives contacted me.  MP&W was designing a brochure laying out membership information and other goodies.   They wanted to include a few lines from that earlier piece in the brochure.  I was delighted to hand it over … more or less.  Like I said, the passage does contain some serious flaws.

This is the line MP&W selected for their brochure (again, forgive my clumsiness): Continue reading Language as wilderness

Bird in the hand

First published at A Motley Vision, this essay explores the nature of stewardship by wondering if we understand what stewardship is or if we’ve merely assumed that we understand.  Are we fully conscious of the needs of other creatures, as good stewards ought to be? Are we imaginative enough to visualize the possibilities of faithful stewardship, which may include providing other species with opportunities for … oh, I don’t know … progression, maybe … or perhaps gaining from them insight that endows our own progression?

An abridged version of “Bird in the Hand” was published in 2007 in Glyphs III, a regional anthology containing writings by local writers and visitors to southeastern Utah’s redrock country that Moab Poets and Writers publishes every two years.  I’ve written more about MP&W here.  

In July 2005 my brother Jim and I threw camping gear into his new Toyota 4Runner and headed for a canyon in the San Rafael Swell. The object of our trip: try out the 4Runner on real four-wheel-drive roads and see petroglylphs at the canyon’s mouth. We arrived at the canyon at dusk and as evening fell helped each other wrestle up tents in a whipping canyon wind. Continue reading Bird in the hand

Field notes #1

Posts in this series are semi-polished exerpts from the pocket-sized hiking journal I carry when I go out walking in local canyons, etc.  If something interesting happens or a bolt from the blue strikes, I pull out the old journal and get down the basics.  I’ve left Field Notes elsewhere around the bloggernacle, such as here and here, but I thought that for Wilderness Interface Zone and simplicity’s sake we’d just start over again at #1.

As always, if you, dear reader, have field notes or vivid memories of trips taken, you’re invited to make entries you’d like to share in the comments section. 

February 18, 2009, a.m.  Approaching the trailhead into Crossfire, I glance at the knoll northeast where reposes the horse skeleton.  My eye catches a flash of movement.  I stop.  Small deer maybe?  No. The tail end of some other kind of animal slips into a juniper’s scant cover.  Will the animal reveal itself? 

Wait for it. Continue reading Field notes #1

A primer: What is nature literature?

This brief, light treatment of possibilities for the LDS nature writer is excerpted from my unpublished paper “Why Joseph Went to the Woods: Rootstock for LDS Literary Nature Writers,” presented at the 2008 Association for Mormon Letters Annual Conference.  This paper arose out of blog posts at A Motley Vision and Times and Seasons.

Perhaps one reason LDS writers haven’t ventured far into the field of nature writing is because they’re not sure what it is or does and whether or not writing it fulfills covenants they’ve made to help build the kingdom of God.  Furthermore, in my experience, many in the LDS population don’t know how to interpret the anger, misanthropy, or sorrow that crops up in traditional nature writing, especially when the high rhetoric expressing such emotions threatens LDS lifestyles and beliefs.  Important, call-to-action terms like “stewardship,” a word that many if not most LDS accept as an essential component of concepts like “service” and “righteous dominion,” prove uncomfortably mercurial when applied to environmental issues.  Writing nature literature might qualify as exercising “good stewardship,” and thus as an act of building the kingdom, but what kind of writing qualifies as nature writing and what aspects of building the kingdom might it accomplish? Continue reading A primer: What is nature literature?

The fly

Late summer of 2008, I was sitting in Crossfire Canyon (here are parts two and three) at one of my favorite sandstone perches when I became conscious of a persistent buzzing noise. Looking down, I spotted an insect hovering just above the ground about a meter below me. The insect looked something like a yellow jacket, black and bright yellow in coloration, but in morphology it more closely resembled a fly than a wasp. A yellow jacket’s buzz changes pitch constantly as it moves, and it’s always in motion because it has no real talent for hovering. This look-alike hovered like a champ, so it droned at a fairly constant pitch rather higher than a wasp’s.  Continue reading The fly

Welcome to Wilderness Interface Zone

There’s something about walking out of the desert or other wild or marginally wild area that you don’t get walking into it.  Something that you feel in your return to others sharing the fire or that comes from sliding into your vehicle to head home at the end of a hike or campout.  Something about completing the journey on foot, walking through the front door, closing the circuit. Continue reading Welcome to Wilderness Interface Zone