Clare Kines at The House and other Arctic musings tagged me and four others with an interview meme. I think this might be the first time I’ve ever participated in a blog meme. I liked that Clare made up the questions just for us, and I was flattered to be included along with four nature-bloggers I really admire: Debby Kaspari, Seabrooke Leckie, Susannah of Wanderin’ Weeta, and Pohangina Pete.
1) You seem to have an intense curiosity of the natural world. How did that curiosity come about?
I was raised on a remote mountaintop farm without television or neighbors. Everyone else in my family was a nature nerd, and I resisted as long as I could, refusing to learn the birds and so forth, but in the end I succumbed, in part because of my interest in poetry (which also began at an early age). You simply can’t write about something unless you know its name. And once you know the name, curiosity takes over and you have to learn more.
2) What would you change about your home, your neighbourhood, your corner of the world? What one thing would you change to make it a better place?
3) Describe your most profound encounter in the natural world.
The one I had at dusk two hours ago, listening to two thrushes sing from opposite sides of the yard. That was it for today, at any rate.
I don’t know. I might not use the word “profound” for many if not most direct encounters with charasmatic critters. This photo my Dad took of me chattering my teeth at a porcupine back in the late 90s was the main image on my Geocities website for five years:
Though I jokingly refer to the porcupine as one of my totem animals — I share its big teeth, love of trees, preference for dark, cave-like places and penchant for solitude, not to mention at times its prickliness — I don’t regard it as a spirit guide in any meaningful way. I don’t go in for that fake-ass neo-shamanism bullshit.
I am much more interested in trying to relate to animals as persons than as avatars from some spirit world in which I don’t believe. Yes, I’ve had my share of spooky crepuscular encounters with creatures such as gray foxes, screech owls, and coyotes, but it’s the little observations in broad daylight that have given me I think my most durable impressions of non-human nature. For example, when I think of black bears, I think of digging, snuffling, log-ripping, birdsong-listening, mostly amiable, shy folks you’d have a hard time pissing off (and god help you if you did). Come to think of it, on a single morning in June 2009, I had both a spooky dawn encounter and an amusing, broad-daylight encounter with what I presume was the very same bear.
4) If you could have a conversation with any person in history who would it be, and why that person?
I’d like to talk to Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu), the Chinese philosopher from the late Warring States period, describe our own chaotic period and all the profound environmental challenges we face, and ask him what kind of wei wu wei could possibly make a difference now. Also, I’d just like to get drunk with him.
5) What advice would you give to anyone wanting to better experience the natural world?
Learn to find, gather, and prepare some wild foods.