The Alphabet of the Trees

One of the books I am currently reading is The Alphabet of the Trees: a guide to nature writing. I purchased it some time ago, and it has finally bubbled to the surface of my reading stack; for this I am grateful. I am really enjoying this collection of essays.

The first two essays focus on urban nature writing and the presence of nature in the city. In the first, a teacher is surprised by the discussions and observations of his class in their nature writing and discussions. The students questioned the line that divides the natural from the  manufactured and managed to blur what had been clear to the author. The students’ writing squarely placed the natural objects they chose within the human context of the urban environment.

The second explores how nature in the urban setting defies romanticized notions found in many children’s books.  “In many children’s book, outside is where you go to be by yourself, to get away from people. Being in the natural world is depicted as a contemplative experience. For my students the opposite is most often true. If they want to be alone, they stay inside. To be outside is to be social, watching the world go by from their stoops of playing in the park with friends. The presence of nature in the city, whether by accident of by design, serves to draw people together.” p17

These two essays start the book by forcing the reader to reassess what nature means in his or her own particular setting.

My meaning making in and with nature serves as a core piece of who I am, but it is not my children’s. They are crafting their own every day. Their nature is not that of my childhood. Its messages will be different. My relationship with nature is informed by my parents’ connection, but it is different, too. Similarly, my passion for nature will undoubtedly influence my children. My job is to hear their voices as they share their evolving relationship with nature .


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