Deliberate Encounters with the Visible World
Seeing Nature is a series of true stories or parables that offer tools for understanding relationships in the natural world. Many of the stories take the reader to wild landscapes, including canyons, tundra, and mountain ridges, while others contemplate the human-made world: water-diversion trenches and supermarket check-out lines. At one point, Krafel discovers a world in a one-inch-square patch of ordinary ground.
Inspiring for parents and teachers seeking to encourage excitement about the positive role of people in nature, Krafel’s work harkens to St. Exupery’s The Little Prince, Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and Jean Giono’s The Man Who Planted Trees. As Barbara Damrosch has noted:
[This book] is a gift…. With curiosity, wit, and a spare and graceful style, Krafel notes why birds in flocks land as they do, how islands can move upstream in a river, how kelp forests, swaying gently, break the force of the sea’s power, how tundra plants create whole ecosystems on bare rock from mere specks of life. Yet there are no long-winded sermons about the woods, or cute anthropomorphizations of animals. The book’s economical, unsentimental style is part of its originality.
Paul Krafel’s years as a park ranger afforded him time to walk and think—his job was to observe the world around him. He is now a teacher, creating a curriculum for young people that is built on a startlingly simple truth: The world around us is an extended conversation between “upward spirals”—nature in regenerative, procreative modes—and downward spirals toward entropy and disintegration. As nature refreshes and rebuilds, the downward spirals are overcome. Nature’s process becomes the process of replenishing hope.
Reviews and Praise
Krafel gets his insights while exploring granite basins deep in the Rockies that once cradled Ice Age glaciers, or while watching a million heliotropic buttercups' synchronized turning toward the sun on the Arctic tundra, or while climbing into an ancient cliff dwelling that housed the Hopis' ancestors. His deeply personal, lyrical meditation beckons readers to see the world as a spiral of coevolution, whereby life forms grow symbiotically through small, accumulating changes, rather than in linear cause-and-effect fashion. A former park ranger and naturalist with the National Park Service for eight years, Krafel is now a teacher in Northern California, where he and his wife founded Chrysalis, a chartered public school operating out of a natural science museum, with emphasis on nature study outdoors. Originally self-published 10 years ago under the title Shifting, this quietly ambitious book is an individualistic attempt to reorient everyday observation along the lines of the Gaia hypothesis formulated by scientists James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, who envision Earth as a single, gigantic, self-regulating organism. The book unfolds as a series of perceptual exercises and intense interactions with the natural world. Though Krafel seems to aspire to the soaring lyricism of Annie Dillard or Loren Eiseley, he seldom achieves their profundity, and while some of his examples are illuminating, others are murky or pedestrian. Nevertheless, his inquiry beautifully underscores his central message that we tend to become what we practice: hope spirals into new possibilities, while cynicism restricts one's range of vision and begets more cynicism. Line drawings.
More Reviews and Praise
About The Author
|Book Art:||Black and white illustrations|
|Size:||6 x 9 inch|
|Publisher:||Chelsea Green Publishing|
|Pub. Date:||December 1, 1999|
Available In/Retail PricePaperback, 193 pages, $25.00
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