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March 16, 2006

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Lene

I wish we had met when I had my blog, Leaning Birch, still up. I, like you, preferred not to do a confessional style blog, but instead, to engage the issues in relationship to my "sense of place," in Vermont. I posted over 250 photographs and essays over the course of a year. In Dec., I began a MFA program in Writing program and decided to take my personal blog down.

Since then, I've found several literary journals that I think you would enjoy and would be able to publish in (specializing in nature and/or environmental literature). If you have any interest in visiting more about the writing side of environment/nature/literature, please email me off my profile page. I'd love to share any resouces I come across and keep encouraging you too. Your work is a pleasure to read.

:)

Tim Abbott

I love what's going on at Whorled Leaves, and may have to pull Lopez's book off the shelf for a new read. Thanks for making my visits feel welcome there.

Thanks also for your kind words or encouragement, Lene. Conservation is all about storytelling, and finding fresh ways engage others with ecological and social patterns and processes much bigger than ourselves and yet impacted by our choices and actions. It's a good field for a English major with broad interests who likes making connections and enjoys working with folks who come at these questions from different but complementary perspectives.

I do love to write and am really pleased that you enjoy what I have posted. Starting this blog was a way to bring writing back to my personal life after a long absense, and use the familiar landscape of the Berkshire and Litchfield Hills to work out the intersections between place and people, past and present that occupy my daily thoughts.

I have avoided a strongly confessional format, letting my personal history emerge gradually and find expression in service of the essays that typically constitute my posts. In this way my blog echos the letters I wrote from Africa in the 1990s: literally thousands of pages over 4 years that explored the many wonders and complexities of that experience.

I have not sought a wider audience for my writing in recent years until recently. I had a couple pieces published long ago - one nonfiction story published in SPITBALL: THE LITERARY BASEBALL MAGAZINE in 1993 was nominated for the Pushcart Prize that year. Work and family have demanded most of my creative energies since then, but now I am re-examining many things in my life and the role that writing plays in it. I feel closer to making as a writer what in rock climbing is called a "commitment move", when the way forward requires unwavering dedication to a course of action to reach the next secure hold.

Lene

Hey Tim,
Your field guide is a great idea! Really. You should pull it off this blog before someone snags it. :) From the writing you offer us here, I have to disagree with you about your talent--I think you could definitely do it.

I thoroughly enjoy your writing. You engage the complexities inherent in environmental issues, and you do it in a way that keeps me hooked to the last line. I'm so glad that you poked over to whorled leaves one day.

Take care.

Tim Abbott

Thanks, Lene. Those are great links.

Field guides, like maps, are as intriguing for what they depict as well as how they present their information. I've had an idea for a while for a Field Guide to the Pleistocene, which would bring that geologically recent time period vividly to life for modern readers without being merely a necrology of the extinct. Can you imagine opening a work on this subject in the familiar field guide format and reading about the best places to observe the great migrations of Pleistocene mammalia, or an ecology of the Mammoth Steppe for visitors to ice-free Berengia, or for a shoreline 300 feet below present sea level with temperate species refugia far off the modern coastline?
How about an exploration of the Hudson Canyon, or the terminal morraines of emerging Cape Cod?

Instead of the Big Five of modern African safaris, wildlife viewing during the Pleistocene in what is now Eurasia would have included woolly rhinoceros, aurochs, Irish deer, mammoth as well as Elephas antiquus, two bison species (one still surviving as the Wisent),and the scimitar cat. There were half a dozen species of pronghorn in North America, only one of which survives today.

I have neither the expertise nor the required talent to pull this project off but it would be fun to design and a great read. I could see it as a series: a Field Guide to the First Growth of the Eastern Forest; A Field Guide to Olduvai at 2 million BP. Perhaps no further back than this; I would want us to be able to see ourselves as part of these vanished worlds, even at our beginning.

Lene

This is an excellent essay, Tim. Wow. Sibley is going to be speaking up here about what they found (or did not find.) I honestly haven't been paying much attention to the issue, but you have intrigued me. Not because of the bird, per say, but because of what it symbolizes in our response to the natural world--the way we approach the living, as well as the extinct. Your observation about including extinct species in bird guides is poignant. You got my attention with this one. Wow.

I wanted to include the information about VINS' (Vermont Institute of Natural Science)involvement in looking for the ivory-bill. On the way, I found this link, which you may have seen: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory/. Here's a VPR clip too about it: http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/vpr/news/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=880158

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