The intensive reading and writing required by my writing conference meant forgoing my long walks. My knees were stiff from disuse, and my soul craved the variety, stimulation, comfort, and sense of spirit that sojourns in nature bring. I slipped a book from my nature library into my bag, escaping into some fine turns of phrase for a few minutes. From where does the impulse to read and write nature rise? To me, it’s a sort of meditation–not just a good proxy for the actual experience, but a wholly necessary act of reflection and appreciation. Barbara Hurd, in Stirring the Mud, gets at what’s behind our literal connection with the earth, and how words can bring us closer to it, with compelling gusto:
When the German poet Rilke tells us to leave our houses and enter the enormous space outside, surely what he means is to follow the asterisk to the bottom of the page, to drop to our knees in algae, push hands into the fringed and seepy edges into which pieces of our lives have sunk, places where year after year the crust grows thin, too thin, finally, to mask the sense that underneath this unkempt border something else is breathing; the origins of our words, wiser afterthoughts, the whispered asides of the spirit.