|Photo credit: Thea Linnaea Pyle|
People naturally root in place. Our special places affect us as individuals, as societies, as a species; but what happens when children no longer have such sacred spots to explore?
Welcome to my rendition of America's Wild Read. I am pleased to be asked to take part, in the train of such a distinguished and compelling series of writers. I remember when Cristina Eisenberg brought her notes and outline for a book on trophic cascades to discuss with me when I was teaching writing in the University of Montana's Environmental Studies department (which I'll be doing again next spring). I thought it was a neat idea and a big job. Christina seemed enthralled, impressive, and entirely up to it. How exciting now, then, to see how she has brought it through to this important book, so well received. The discussion she inspired here was deeply engaging, and it's both a challenge and an honor to follow up. [Editor's note: Read more about Cristina Eisenberg's The Wolf's Tooth: Keystone Species, Trophic Cascades, and Biodiversity]
If you have dipped into The Thunder Tree, you'll know that I refer to this phenomenon under the slogan "Everybody's Ditch." In my experience, almost all people who feel any sort of close connection to the land can identify a particular patch of ground that caught their hearts and imaginations as children. And not just naturalists and conservationists: engineers, doctors, laborers, homeworkers, all manner of adults tell me essentially the same story: they had a special place where they did certain things, and these experiences meant the world to them. And they were seldom the big wild: rather, a rock, a tree, a back forty, a back yard; a ditch. And very often, a vacant lot--for what is less vacant to a curious kid than a vacant lot? What we did there often involved water (damming, diverting, skipping stones), chasing and catching (crawdads, tadpoles, grasshoppers, fireflies), and always, making forts (in Australia, delightfully known as "cubbies"). There was a cultural lingua franca to such exploits. The Thunder Tree tells mine.