Was it just a coincidence that I had my first—televised—encounter with sperm whales only a day after I read Barry Lopez’s essay, “A Presentation of Whales”? Was my strong spiritual response to Scott Russell Sander’s “Buckeye” a sign that I, too, will feel the ghostly presences of my beloved kindred when they leave this world? No way! I am not a mystic. I am not supernaturally connected to sperm whales or spirits, but I will admit that I entertained self-important thoughts while reading both essays. Not only did I stare at the professional headshots of the writers before I read their essays; I adored them and empathized with their visions.
Perhaps nature writers are advantaged: they can be scientific and not be perceived as being such by non-scientific readers. After all, the word ‘nature’ generates images of the earth and all of its sensory treasures, whereas ‘science’ generates images of laboratory coats, long calculations, laborious extractions, and obscure words like genome, polypeptide and spermatozoa. Nature writers are free to incorporate various genres in their writing, which interests a broad population of readers. Readers are attracted to writing styles that reinforce their subjective perceptions of themselves and the world. A readers’ opinion does not necessarily indicate the success or failure of a writer, but rather the state of mind of the reader when she approaches the piece. This is also how we approach people and events in our lives. We are animals, and therefore we must engage with nature. While Barry Lopez and Scott Russell Sanders have a keen sense of the innate connection between animals and landscapes, ...
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...aren’t scientific or historical, they are still objects in his immediate landscape. Alone, they are solitary objects, but together they create a story of human life.
Curiosity and neediness attract humans to philosophy, in a similar way that they attract humans to religious dogma, cults and magic. Fortunately, nature narratives draw on human interests in various disciplines without simultaneously wreaking havoc on society. Writing helps us create and understand ideas. Personal values and scientific information are often used interchangeably by Barry Lopez and Scott Russell Sanders. Unless the reader is indifferent, both writers prove they are capable of illustrating essential elements of the human experience in both public and private moments. As readers, we are bonded to Lopez and Sanders because of our role in the innate chaos of human interaction.
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