What could be better than trolling the asymmetrical paths, piles, and aisles at Niantic Book Barn, eyes peeled for the next great nature read? David Gessner’s essay anthology Sick of Nature certainly caught my attention and its contrariness made me grin. I love well-written books on nature but have always had a love-hate relationship with Thoreau and his perfectionist, purist streak (see Ignoring Walden in the Get Satisfied book!).
How refreshing it was to read Gessner’s title essay, which begins by describing how sick the writer is of trees, birds, and the ocean, and of “writing essays praised as ‘quiet’ by quiet magazines”. He talks about how nature writing can be akin to church or Sunday School—either worshipful or preachy—and about how a kegger party with nature writers would probably go over like a lead balloon, although Thoreau and he might end up BSing late into the evening (if Thoreau’s drink was spiked).
After his rant–after all who wants to be boxed up in a genre?–he comes clean and admits to thoroughly savoring a memory of October on Cape Cod. (AHA, I knew he couldn’t turn away for long, considering all of the top-notch writing he’s done about the earth):
A month when the tourists finally packed up and cleared out for good. A month when the full moon rose over the pink-blue pastel of the harbor sunset and the blue-grey juniper berries shone with iridescence at dusk, and when masses of speckle-bellied starlings filled the trees (and the air with their squeaky-wheeled sounds). A month when the ocean vacillated between the foreboding slate grey of November and a summery, almost tropical blue (while occasionally hinting at its darker winter shades). Most of all, a month of color, a month when the entire neck caught fire in a hundred shades of red.