I recently read Visualizing Nature: Essays on Truth, Spirit, and Philosophy edited by Stuart Kestenbaum. This book was released in June 2021 and it is a collection of essays built around the themes of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature.
For these essays, Kestenbaum asked the essayist “How does nature speak to you? And how do you listen to nature?” Each essayist responded in their own way by harnessing their personal experience and expertise to share stories about forests, deserts, coral reefs, and shorelines.
All the essays in this collection are compelling in their own right, and below are a few quotes from the essays that I found particularly impactful. There was something about the way these authors talked about their connection to nature that really inspired me.
From Alison Hawthorne Deming’s essay “On Discipline”
“Think Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Fuller, Alcott. And the good citizens who turned out in crowds to hear their lectures. Here, the American land gave instruction to its inhabitants that nature was to be of use not only in the kitchen and barnyard but also, and most importantly, in the world of thought, in the life of the spirit. The discipline of nature is to transfer experience into thought ‘by perceiving the analogy that marries Matter and Mind.’ It is a short step from these words of Emerson’s to Muriel Rukeyset’s ‘Breathe in experience, breathe out poetry.’”
From Maulian Dana’s “Growing through Fire”
“She is disrespected and demoralized and yet she still loves and cares for us. When I am faced with uncertainty and doubt in my journey that causes fear, I think about the strength and love that the Earth has for us even when we don’t deserve it. I love my children without conditions, without fear, without thinking of myself. Mother Earth has shown me how. She models a love that is radical, real, and pure.”
From David Haskell’s essay “Elders: Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine”
“At any one place in the world thousands, perhaps millions, of times coexist. The land calls us out of our own time, drawing the imagination into a tempo incommensurate with our own.”
From Doug Tallamy’s “The Indispensable Oak”
“Since it is nature that sustains us, have an unsustainable relationship with nature is simply not an option.”
From Max Morningstar’s “Nature’s Seasons”
“The dragonflies, having feasted well, with their offspring left in ponds for spring, have passed.
And we remain. The ebbing and flowing slows, the color fades from green and brown to shades of gray and white and black. We promise ourselves that we will notice more and appreciate more next time, before it has gone.”
Interested in learning more about this book?
Stuart Kestenbaum joins Kristen Case on Maine Public Radio’s program Maine Calling. In this hour-long episode they talk about the origins of this book and speak to some of the essayist who contributed their thoughts.
You can listen to this interview at “Writers & Nature: Maine Carries On The Tradition of Writers Who Focus On the Meaning of the Natural World” on Maine Public Radio.
If you decide that you want to purchase this book, consider using NaturalistWeekly’s Bookshop.org storefront. NaturalistWeekly.com is an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I may receive a small commission if you buy a book from Bookshop.org.