Friday, 29 May 2009

Brink / Man / Ship

In a recent RSA-sponsored collaboration between poets Melanie Challenger and John Kinsella (here), the word “brink” makes an appearance. Mel is a poet interested in, amongst other things, mining the English language for resonances associated with place and landscape. She reminds us that “brink” is an “East Anglian Fen dialect term for riverbank.” Attempts to evoke the Fens, and in particular the uneasy relationship between man, land and water in that landscape, have challenged writers and musicians in recent times. Perhaps the most famous example is Graham Swift’s prize-winning novel Waterland, but other Fen-dwellers have undertaken similar endeavours – Robert Macfarlane’s recent radio essay looked at musical (The Great Fen Project), and poetic (Benjamin Morris) elaborations on the region.

The term “brink” remains in common usage, although it is now perhaps most often used in a metaphorical sense, indicating not geographical but temporal transition – a point (or, more accurately, moment) of no return. The OED confirms that “brink” refers to an “edge, margin or border,” often involving a steep drop, and that its secondary sense relates specifically to “the edge of land bordering a piece of water.” A further historical usage has the term refer to the edge, or brim, of a vessel. It can be no coincidence that Brinkley is a Cambridgeshire village, given that county’s shifting lands, multiple waterways and numerous boat-dwellers.

The various uses of “brink” are drawn together in the related word “brinkmanship.” The latter term denotes a brave (or foolhardy) attempt to advance “to the very brink of war” without actually engaging in battle. But the addition of the “-manship” suffix creates a portmanteau word that combines “brink” (point where land meets water), man (person negotiating the land / water borderline) and “ship” (means of making a transition from one element to another). “Brinkmanship” might very well be used to refer to our current attitudes to climate change, concerned as we are with tipping points and projected futures. But the term has additional implications if we borrow Mel’s Fenland use of “brink” and return “brinkmanship” to its roots in the negotiations between man and landscape. The two interpretations of brinkmanship suitable for our times – the arrival at the point of (climate) war, and a means of working with the natural environment – are not of course unrelated. Particularly if we factor in the issue of sea level rise…

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

"A Certain Just Quality"

I somehow missed John Burnside's "Jura Diary" when it was originally published in The Scotsman at the end of last year. The Scottish Book Trust, who funded the writers' retreat which Burnside recounts, have now posted the diary here. It includes the following musings on sound, a recent preoccupation of springcoppice (here; here):
"The writer's first concern is attention to sound. Not to marks on the page, and - for the poet at least - not to questions of meaning. It might seem mystical to say so, but I do think meaning emerges from the sound. [...] And what of the word 'sound' itself? It's one of my favourite notions: a magical, immensely rich feature of coastal waters, the word for what my trade is all about, and one of the aptest ways of talking about things being right, about a certain just quality to a thing, or a person or an event. She's sound. This boat is sound. All the joy of using language can be summed up in that use of the word."

Verdigris: Greenwash of the Greeks

In a preview of his forthcoming book The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, Douglas Brinkley states that “over the years, Roosevelt has been denied his environmentalist due.” TR provides something of a challenge to those seeking to redress this balance and trace his “green” convictions, as Brinkley himself admits. Certainly, TR was instrumental in establishing 230 million acres of protected wilderness in the United States, and famously collaborated with John Muir and the Sierra Club in their efforts to preserve wild land. Muir’s wilderness walk with the president in Yosemite (pictured) is a crucial part of the mythology of both men. But TR’s passion for hunting, alongside his approval of both the Roosevelt Dam in Arizona and the Panama Canal project, make his respect for the natural world inconsistent to say the least. We must hope that Brinkley’s book addresses such issues in depth, even at the expense of its own thesis, and that it also considers the fate of resident communities and homesteaders asked to clear the National Parks.

The book, due out in June, rides the crest of a green publishing wave, as well as tapping into America’s fascination with its past presidents. The title’s evocative use of “warrior” and “crusade” buys into TR’s own penchant for patriotic military rhetoric, a hangover from his Cavalry Rough Riders days. It would be pleasing to see a less acquiescent approach within the book itself.

Our environmental heroes are often problematic – our attempts to “green” historical figures, even more so. This is particularly true of those whose great power and responsibility pull their morality in conflicting directions. We might consider the green patina retrospectively applied to these figures to be a kind of verdigris. The latter suggests a venerable age – these figures, we argue, have been green for a long time. The process of making verdigris (literally, the green of the Greeks, that used by Greek artists) is far from natural, however. One such process, dating from the Middle Ages, was to bury treated copper in dung. The shit was scraped off; the green remained. An unstable pigment unless bound in oil, verdigris fades when exposed to light. Perhaps Brinkley might contemplate the instructive example of verdigris on the eve of publication.

Leave Only Yurts

Today’s article about the Guardian-sponsored yurt being used for interviews at the Hay Festival got me thinking about the yurt as a structure for our times. The Turkic word “yurt” refers not to the wood-and-felt tent itself, but to the imprint left on the land once the tent is gone, packed up and relocated by its nomadic owners. By extension the term has come to mean, for its Central Asian users, not only tent or home, but kin and homeland. A connection not just to the immediate landscape but also to nationhood is indicated by the use of a stylised version of the yurt’s crown in the Kyrgyz flag. Traditionally the crown (or “tyndyk”) is passed between generations of a family, whatever the other modifications made to what is, in essence, a temporary structure.

The Turkic term “yurt” does not refer to the tent itself, then. Reference to the physical structure has accrued to the term, or its synonyms, in other cultures. The Turkic-speakers are on to something, thinking primarily of what we might today term their environmental footprint, and of the associations formed within their families and communities, inter-generationally. It is in part the nomadic lifestyle that allows a focus on the landscape and its resources, as well as bonds beyond the material – if you are forever to lose the particularity of place, and if the precise structure of your shelter has an element of contingency, your notion of home must be understood through other means.

The fashion for yurts has increased in the Western world since the 1970s, often billed as a sustainable way of living. Yurts play a crucial role in many eco holidays. We would do well to remember that the word itself reorients the yurt-dweller towards the structure’s physical (and emotional) footprint - a connection between dwelling and earth.

(Illustration: Mongolian Ger construction sketch by P.R. King)

Monday, 25 May 2009

Carteret Evacuation Latest

Tonight at 9pm on BBC Radio 4, "Costing the Earth" focuses on the evacuation of the Carteret Islands (details here). Dan Box (mentioned on springcoppice here; his blog here) has contributed many of the sound recordings for this documentary, following his recent return from the Islands. Dan's Royal Geographical Society-funded project will result in his own documentary for the BBC, due for broadcast later this year. 

His Ear is On the Sparrow

Two rather beautiful sound documentaries made by Roger Deakin, one about his timber-framed house, one about his very hospitable garden, are available to listen to here (thanks Christopher Jean-Marain). Deakin, a writer, documentary maker and, by all accounts, excellent friend, made many attempts to capture and convey his relationship with the natural world. The sound documentary seems a more promising medium for such an endeavour than has yet been fully recognised. Further discussion of Deakin's life and work can be found in a very moving obituary by his close friend Robert Macfarlane (here).

Sunday, 24 May 2009

"Love. Art. Gardening."

The May 2009 edition of fashion and lifestyle magazine Harper's Bazaar bears the headline "Fashion Gets Natural." An edition inspired by the natural world, it features a fashion spread entitled "Primal Passions," promising that "A hint of evolutionary theory adds a powerful edge to summer's nature-inspired looks," a claim that appears to have something to do with "fossil-inspired textures." A page devoted to "Natural Facials" requires a visit to a London salon and an outlay of between £50 and £575. It is easy to laugh at the "greening up" of fashion magazines (see also Vanity Fair's Environment section), but such obvious attempts to tap into the marketability of ideas of nature are a useful reminder that, as understood by human beings, "nature" has always been subject to fashions. It is impossible to step outside of trends of thinking and commune with nature, although our language is filled with the husks of such attempts - back to nature, in touch with nature, in tune, in harmony, at one with nature. Is there any way out of this impasse?

Much as so-called "wilderness travel" is on the rise, it remains beyond the resources of many people. But one encounter which we might have with nature on a day to day basis is the activity of gardening (I use the term loosely, writing as I am from my own "garden" - a series of plants in pots on the common stair of a block of flats). The garden is of course a regulated and circumscribed space, often seen in contrast to the "true wild" (although I am short of examples of the utterly "natural" and free from human intervention). But as a place where anyone can interact with soil, weather and cycles of growth and decay, the garden offers a great place to think through human understandings of nature, and the language we use to describe it. Gardener poets such as Alice Oswald, Sarah Maguire, Kathleen Jamie and Stanley Kunitz (discussed by Jamie at the National Library of Scotland, write-up here) have made this connection.

In Harper's Bazaar, Jeanette Winterson muses on the joy of gardening, under the title "Earthly Pleasures." After the obligatory reference to her own childhood, and a nod to the gardening talents of Vita Sackville-West (whose Sissinghurst garden is pictured), Winterson writes convincingly about the useful meeting points of garden-tending and storytellling:
"Gardening, like storytelling, is a continuing narrative. One thing leads to another. Like stories, there is always something going on in the garden long after the gardener has gone to bed. [...] Love. Art. Gardening. Each is about relationship; our relationship to one another, and to the mythic narrative of our lives, and to our one and only real home: planet Earth. [...] It seems to me that to be in relationship to the soil is at once vigorous and robust, peasant-like in its obviousness, and also strangely metaphysical. It embodies so much of what we are - the food we eat, the land we walk upon, our final end."
Perhaps stepping outside of fashion means stepping into the garden? While the eternal connection between man and earth has been re-thought according to ideological fashions (most notably Nazism's "blood and soil"), and while getting one's hands dirty is a Harper's-approved fashionable move, tender care for plants and animals might also be the most accesible way for many of us to move beyond the faddish and find an unencumbered pleasure in the natural world.

Long-Distance Lettuce

In a recent interview discussing his 2008 documentary Encounters at the End of the World, Werner Herzog reveals that his bid for film funding from the National Science Foundation triumphed over a rival proposal by director James Cameron. Cameron had planned to take a crew of 36 to Antarctica, while Herzog suggested a team of two, himself included. Herzog estimates that the cost of maintaining a working person in such a remote location is approximately $10,000 per day, since even "one leaf of salad has to be flown eight hours from New Zealand." One wonders whether Cameron's team might have played up the eco credentials of the resulting film, despite this basis in resource-hungry production. Herzog's film, built on sounder environmental principles, in fact eschews the opportunity to be another penguin-absorbed nature documentary or campaign piece. Neither does it rely too heavily on famous expedition narratives. Instead it tells the story of those who choose to live and work in this extreme environment, focusing upon the human histories and senses of purpose that lead individuals to the ice. It's primarily a story of sacrifice in the name of science, which also hints at the ghosts of lives past which participants inevitably drag with them into what others mistake for a tabula rasa. It's a film which contrasts with a tradition of polar stories that focus on empty expanses, and man's confrontation with himself when faced with the great white beyond. Antarctica could easily be considered the ultimate wilderness location, but Herzog's film allows it to demonstrate more than ever that there really is no "getting away from it all." Wherever there's a human there's a story unfolding, a series of personal ghosts and, in many cases, a serious lettuce bill.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Away With the Fairies

While we're on the subject of Robert Macfarlane, it's worth noting that Robert appeared in the first edition of the latest series of Travellers' Tree on BBC Radio 4, entitled "Wilderness" (available to listen to here, with Robert appearing at around 4.10). The programme considers the recent upsurge in interest in holidays to areas formerly considered too remote, or too inhospitable, to be a vacation option. Such an upsurge is of course partially inspired by, and reinforced by, a spate of books and programmes about adventurous travel, expeditions and the more contemplative aspects of interactions with the natural world. Travellers' Tree touches (albeit somewhat lightly) on some of the ethical issues involved in wilderness travel, the difficulties of large numbers of the population attempting to get away from everyone else, and the thorny issue of defining just what wilderness might mean. Something to which Robert has of course given considerable thought in his book The Wild Places. Photo: Robert's wilderness recommendation - Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye.

Wanted: New Literary Terminology

In a short interview (available on YouTube here), Jessica Woollard from the Marsh Agency discusses her current stable of writers. Seeking a way to describe Robert Macfarlane, Jay Griffiths and Jim Perrin, she goes for "nature writing, for want of a better phrase." Woollard hits upon a problem that many of us analysing such writing, or contributing to the field ourselves, have struggled with of late: what might that better phrase be? "Nature writing" and "nature writers" seem to be terms we're struck with in today's literary critical circles. If a dash of sexiness is needed, we have "the new nature writing" (itself the title of the excellent Granta issue 102, details here). That "new" implies that the long heritage of nature writers (from gentleman naturalists and clerical scholars, to the Romantics, to twentieth century ecologists and enthusiasts) is now joined by a rank of writers responding not only to that heritage, but to today's environmental predicaments. The new nature writers have an acute sense of their moment in history. In addition, they are able to draw on the rich ecological literary heritage (dominated in the critical consciousness, perhaps unfairly, by British and American writers) to develop distinctive ways of writing about the natural world. For Woollard, "it is all about the writing, in this area." It seems that if you're writing about the environment, elegantly and innovatively, with an awareness of the legacy you inherit mixed with a sense of the particular pressures on today's planet, you are a "new nature writer." We'll work on a new literary terminology to better capture this important endeavour.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Dates for Next Year's Diary

Alas news comes to me too late to get involved in National Beanpole Week (introduction and events listings here), a celebration of "Britain's coppiced woodlands, the animals and plants that live in them, the coppice workers who look after them and the beanpoles and other coppice wood products they produce." 25 April - 3 May were the dates. Something to look out for next year.

Guilt Edges

Yesterday's Guardian prints a response from Trudie Styler (here) to accusations made by Marina Hyde (here) regarding the sincerity of her environmental campaign work. Hyde had wondered whether environmental credentials really could accrue to someone who flew to meetings and campaign events, at times by private jet. (The private jet stories have been reported extensively in the tabloids - the red tops may not be very green, but they are sniffer dogs for celebrity insincerity). Gut instinct draws me towards the thoughtful and acerbic Hyde, and away from Trudie "Seven Homes" Styler. The headline used for the latter's Guardian response is "It is not hypocritical to fly if I'm campaigning for the environment" - too glib by half at first reading. But Styler points us toward interesting questions about the ethics of travel-as-awareness-raising, particularly when that awareness typically involves recognition of plane travel's contribution to anthropogenic climate change.

Last year, Timothy Morton used videoconferencing to "appear" at an ASLE conference here at Edinburgh University (he discusses this decision here). Next week, the Ashden Trust will use similar methods to contribute to the Earth Matters on Stage Festival and Symposium in Oregon (as Robert Butler mentions in his excellent blog here). And poet and author Kathleen Jamie claims to have turned down a BBC invitation to visit the Arctic because she felt that it could not be justified as essential travel (see interview here). What questions might this raise in the minds of those artists and writers who have travelled in the region, for example with Cape Farewell? Ian McEwan's much-anticipated new novel (which will apparently feature a "background hum" of a climate change theme, as reported in The New Yorker here) was partly inspired by his Cape Farewell expedition. Richard Mabey states that in Findings (a collection of prose pieces) Jamie "has written far and away the best book in my field" (see Ashden Directory article here). What might Jamie have achieved if she had made her own journey to a polar region?

These issues must surely strike all of us who travel in order to undertake what we can loosely describe as environmental work. Can I justify my own flights to the Peruvian Amazon this summer, since the expedition I will be helping to lead (BSES Amazon 09) actively seeks to create scientists and environmental campaigners from among its young participants? Shouldn't an environmental awareness leader (my role) simply stay at home? Whatever our intentions to assist in the creation of a new mindset regarding our treatment of the environment, we must look rigorously at our own behaviour first. It seems many attempts to be green are guilt-edged.

Dead, Mad or a Poet

The storyteller Eric Maddern has just completed the second leg of a story tour entitled "What the Bees Know" (of which he has much experience, as a bee keeper at his Cae Mabon retreat). Throughout the tour he has used bees as a "metaphor for what we're doing to the planet," he tells the BBC here. (This may be a case of synecdochic thinking, but as Maddern is an Honorary Chief Bard of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, we will presume a more holistic approach). In the course of his interview with the BBC he reminds us of the legend of Cadair Idris, one of the mountains of his neighbouring Snowdonia range. The story goes that anyone spending the night in the "Devil's chair," the hollow or seat of the mountain, wakes up dead, mad or a poet. This was a tale we were told growing up in Shropshire - what a great testament, I now think, to the power of landscape. The Victorian poet Felicia Hemans, according to her poem "The Rock of Cader Idris," teetered on the brink of outcomes one and two, before happily settling on number three:

I lay there in silence-a spirit came o'er me;
Man's tongue hath no language to speak what I saw:
Things glorious, unearthly, pass'd floating before me,
And my heart almost fainted with rapture and awe.
I view'd the dread beings around us that hover,
Though veil'd by the mists of mortality's breath;
And I call'd upon darkness the vision to cover,
For a strife was within me of madness and death.
I saw what man looks on and dies-but my spirit
Was strong, and triumphantly lived through that hour;
And, as from the grave, I awoke to inherit
A flame all immortal, a voice, and a power!
Day burst on that rock with the purple cloud crested,
And high Cader Idris rejoiced in the sun;-
But O! what new glory all nature invested,
When the sense that gives soul to her beauty was won!

Synecdochic Thinking

The release of Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche New York (US 2008; UK 2009) has brought the word “synecdoche” to a new, wider audience. So under-used is the term that the press pack contains a page-long pronunciation and definition brief (as reports here). Reviews, struggling to explain the film itself, have also struggled with defining the term (The Sun has an unsuccessful stab here; the OED clears things up here). I say that the word is “under-used” as we live in synecdochic times, and a more liberal use of the term might help us to identify and analyse that circumstance.

Synecdoches beset attempts to describe and convey the calamity of anthropogenic climate change. The capacity to create fundamental changes in human behaviour is weakened by this reliance on the part-for-the-whole. The melting arctic becomes a fight for the polar bear (described as the “poster boy” of climate change by Saffron O-Neill). The plastic bag becomes the symbol of our disrespect for our natural environment, diverting human energy towards a relatively easy-to-fix problem, and away from greater challenges (George Monbiot elaborates here). Climate change synecdoches stand in for, rather than truly calling attention to, wider environmental problems with more complex solutions. Solve the polar bear problem, or the plastic bag problem, and we can comfort ourselves that steps have been taken, but the underlying issues remain unchanged. This is a great challenge for those seeking to draw attention to environmental issues – how do we use the strategies of advertising to make memorable statements using evocative symbols, without allowing synecdochic thinking to occur, where the solution attempts to address the part and not the whole for which it stands?

The Coldest Tourist Hotspot

Parties to the Antarctic Treaty have now provisionally agreed restrictions on cruise ship size and tourist numbers in Antarctica (BBC report here; thanks Ewan Laurie). These limits will not become binding until ratified by all 28 nations of the Treaty. Over 45,000 tourists visited Antarctica last season. The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition called for such restrictions as early as 2005 (Observer article here), when the latest set of data (from 2004) gave the number of visitors as 28,000. iexplore offer an "Explore Antarctica 2009" cruise promising "Immense wilderness in a fabulous and virtually pristine paradise" (details here). How long before Trading Standards have a few things to say about that description?

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Nature Writing Manifesto Draft 1

"If it was really Shelley who stood and listened to the skylark, it was not Shelley in any important sense; he did not mean for me, reading the poem, to be thinking about him listening to the bird; he was entirely willing to vanish, and to let me become the 'I'.” Mary Oliver, Blue Pastures. Listed among “John Burnside’s Favourite Poetry Sayings” at Poetry Archive (link here).


This expedition into the blogosphere sets out just as two very interesting, very different, but very much interrelated expeditions return to the UK. Dan Box, a Shropshire-based journalist, received funding from the Royal Geographical Society to spend time with the people of the Carteret Islands, Papua New Guinea. He describes the islanders as “the world’s first climate change refugees” as the island community faces a phased relocation in the coming years due to rising sea levels. Dan has been there as the first main phase of the relocations occur. (Dan’s blog here).

There are questions to be asked about that “world’s first” claim, though. We like the term “first” when we talk about travel, expeditioning or competitive adventure challenges. It gives the impression of striking out into the uknown, of pushing the limits of human endurance and ingenuity. It brings in the funding. But here it’s a contentious, perhaps even dangerous claim (to Dan’s credit, he discusses his own confusion about the issue here). People displaced by dramatic changes in climate, and unprecedented weather events caused by those changes, are unfortunately numerous. It is only the problem of quantifying the specific contribution of the changing climate, in complex situations involving issues with resources, political and social challenges etc., that prevents their precise labelling as “climate refugees.” The Cultures of Climate Change group at CRASSH, Cambridge University hosted a talk on these matters by Norman Myers (Oxford) in April 2008 (more details here). We hope Dan might be able to tell us more if he visits us in Cambridge later in the year.

And then there’s the Catlin Artic Survey (blog archive and fascinating photos by Martin Hartley here), now back on terra firma after just over 73 days on the shifting ice of the Arctic Ocean. The results of their ice thickness survey are currently being analysed. With any luck the final report will help us to understand the impact of climate change on the melting patterns of the ice cap – providing another piece of the jigsaw puzzle in understanding the predicament in which the people of the Carteret Islands find themselves.

From Coppice to Pollard

The coppice is not to be confused with the pollard – the latter term’s link to woodland labour means that it too is a noun and a verb, but “pollard” refers to the tree itself, while the woodland treated in this way is “pollarded” woodland. While the coppicer cuts juvenile trees almost to the ground, the pollarder cuts the branches to encourage lateral growth. The uses of pollarded limbs are numerous.

Laura Beatty’s recently published novel Pollard (Chatto &Windus 2008, details here) brings together notions of living with nature, the working natural space and the harsh realities of a life spent outdoors. Beatty skilfully mixes the story of an outsider, who on a personal level fits oddly with the rest of the world, with fascinating details of camp craft as she makes a dwelling in the woods near her family home. The changing fate of the wood as housing developments encroach and the place becomes regulated, signposted, paved and protected for public use is woven into this tale. Beatty’s skill is in centring her narrative upon the imaginative world of Anne, the central protagonist, so that we see the wood through her eyes. This means that the story does not descend into a hymn to the British countryside – Anne does not even know the names of many of the creatures she sees, until a new friend enlightens her, and her life over the first couple of winters is almost unbearably hard. Changes to the wood are observed only as they relate to Anne’s own changing circumstances. The wood itself is far from a pastoral idyll – it is a heavily used recreational space, home to glue-sniffing youths from the local housing estate, bordered by a stinking chicken farm, near an abattoir, featuring a car park full of doggers. It is a strange triumph, for which I cannot think of parallel examples, to offer an ancient story of how much a wood means, even though it is a resolutely modern, dirty and over-used space.

Spring Coppice

I grew up in a house not far from Spring Coppice, Lyth Hill, Shropshire. By my day the 1970s sprawl of Bayston Hill village had spoilt the surrounding area, but Lyth Hill always had something special about it, no matter how beset with Sunday walkers and misbehaving dogs. Relatively few walkers go all the way to the coppice, but the rewards are many – Bluebells, Snowdrops, just enough trees to get lost in. It was interesting, too, as a place where work had been done. Any small wood kept for the purpose of periodical cutting to near ground level may be considered a coppice. That “periodical” is crucial; coppicers must know just how much timber to take from the trees, and when, to allow them to continue to flourish. The trees return this care with further growth. It’s a labour of the hand and the head that enforces a symbiotic relationship between man (usually man) and tree. The term “coppice” is both a noun and a verb – reflecting the doing that goes into using and maintaining such a woodland.

In Tennyson’s The Princess there’s a lovely use of this evocative word: “Said Ida; ‘let us down and rest;’ and we / Down from the lean and wrinkled precipices, / By every coppice-feathered chasm and cleft, / Dropt through the ambrosial gloom to where below / No bigger than a glow-worm shone the tent / Lamp-lit from the inner.” It’s a feeling that every wild camper knows (although not necessarily with princess in tow).

But it wasn’t Tennyson who was the presiding literary spirit of our Shropshire coppice, but Mary Webb. Living in nearby Spring Cottage from 1917-1927, the author famously gained inspiration from the Shropshire landscape. Webb’s literary reputation has waxed and waned over the years – following her early death, then Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was fulsome in his praise, but later readers (including, famously, Stella Gibbons) were less impressed. Whatever we might think of her novels, I’ve always found Webb’s “Spring of Joy” nature journals thoughtful and instructive – albeit unfashionably religious and somewhat over-written for contemporary tastes. Perhaps we might do better to understand Webb as primarily a nature writer, and not as a kind of non-modernist novelist of the modernist era. With the current resurgence of interest in all things “green,” Webb is worth further consideration. In naming this blog I invoke Webb’s attentive and wondering attitude towards the natural world – whether on her doorstep or beyond.