Category Archives: Writing

45th Featured Thinker: Ann Lawlor

Monettia Bog, Ballinvalley, Killeigh, Co Offaly Image: Ann Lawlor

Monettia Bog, Ballinvalley, Killeigh, Co Offaly Image: Ann Lawlor

This week our featured Wilderness Thinker is Ann Lawlor a curator, programmer and producer of art projects. Ann is a walker of boglands. It is in her coding, peat horizons meeting rain bladdered clouds, turf burning of damp heat, astringent smoked eyes, the spongy terrain that keeps secrets and embalms truths.

There are a number of strands that are prodded at, as Ann meanders from wilderness as a social construct, rebranded and packaged for human consumption, to the mythology of ‘bogs’ and how their membrane is both natural and cultural. Biomimicry, botany and plant mechanisms are considered to the impact of bogs on climate change and how the positive and negative are part of the bog’s living legacy. 

The bog is her anthropomorphic deity, she is grafting technical and scientific language to expand the potential of the bog’s narrative. The style of the first person narrator externalises a silent monologue – dramatic, unreliable and imagined. Ann’s appropriation of this type of language (that has been constructed through observing the natural world) is being used very loosely and often times incorrectly – its reapplication is more in sentiment than meaning… Read More

42nd Featured Thinker: Todd Wynward

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Seventh Graders Trekking in the Pecos Wilderness, Roots & Wings Community School, Image: Todd Wynward

This week our featured Wilderness Thinker is Todd Wynward an author, public school founder, small-scale farmer, and wilderness educator who has spent more than a thousand nights outdoors. Todd’s insightful essay offers an introduction to ‘rewilding’ Christianity, drawing religious teachings back to the earth through a spiritual, passionate, at times challenging yet  intimate relationship with wilderness.  Todd’s writing is within the wilderness tradition of those such as John the Baptist or Celtic Christianity, where the presence of God was intimately felt in the natural world. Wilderness features in the bible both as a metaphor and a physical environment of transformation and drawing on the philosophy of  Kurt Hahn, Todd offers an opportunity to discover the potential of who we can become.   Read more…

39th Featured Thinker: Jim O’Donnell

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This week our featured Wilderness Thinker is Jim O’Donnell. Jim is an award-winning author and photographer and currently the Jack Williamson Endowed Chair for Literature at Eastern New Mexico University. Jim’s travels have taken him to over 40 countries and this week his feature presents his travels from the heart of European Wilderness, the Tatra Mountains, the natural border between Slovakia and Poland.

Jim reflects on the concept of American wilderness and its nascent European counterpart and the challenges it faces.   Jim’s stunning photography and thoughtful text  are reminders that for many the physical world is viewed simply as a resource with destruction never far away.  In the face of such challenges, people like Vlado and Gudrun are part of the international commitment to sensitive conservation. Read More….

38th Featured Thinker: Jeff Baldwin

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This week’s featured wilderness thinker is Jeff Baldwin, Associate Professor of Geography at Sonoma State University. Jeff’s paper reminds us that non-human actors have shaped wilderness for millennia and that we should consider them as important partners in the ecosystem we share. Jeff proposes a thought experiment; to reflect and reconsider our position and move away from an anthropocentric perspective reminding us of the potential of the constant “processes of organization, self-organization, and decay in hybrid human-nature combinations” (Radkau, 1978: 308-325)

The article is in part a response to recent calls in the environmental history literature both to engage more fully with social theory and to re-invigorate an examination of human-environment dialectics. Through a re-visitation of Marx’s work on material historicity in light of recent research on animal behavior, the article provides a theoretical framework through which non-human beings can be understood as historic actors, in and of themselves. That argument provides a theoretical framework to support practical projects which seek to ‘partner’ with non-human actors in efforts to modify and/or restore landscapes and ecosystem services.  Read More….

37th Featured Thinker: Zoé Strecker

Digital image still from featured video work, Down, Up, Down: Pine Mountain Breathing (2014)

Digital image still from featured video work, Down, Up, Down: Pine Mountain Breathing (2014)

This week’s featured wilderness thinker is Zoé Strecker, artist, writer and art professorZoé’s ‘multi-modal thinking’ is consolidated through her durational exploration of  Pine Mountain, a ridge in the Appalachian Mountains that runs through Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. Pine Mountain represents the last great contiguous stretch of unfragmented forest in Kentucky, breached only by six roads in 110 miles and  is also a significant unprotected wilderness area.

Zoé’s engagement develops a  mindful ecology around Pine Mountain extending her wilderness thinking into other communities through the students and volunteers with whom she works and collaborates, which includes SITE, an arts-led interdisciplinary educational collaboration with philosopher, Prof. Peter S. Fosl at Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky. This exploration of Pine Mountain generates creative and scholarly responses along with Zoé’s personal arts practice, which celebrates the exceptional biodiversity of Pine Mountain in southeastern Kentucky.  Read More….

36th Featured Thinker: Marybeth Holleman

sundews, prince william sound. by marybeth holleman

Sundews, Prince William Sound. Image: Marybeth Holleman

This weeks featured thinker, writer and teacher Marybeth Holleman grew up in North Carolina’s Appalachian mountains and transplanted to Alaska’s Chugach mountains after falling head over heels for Prince William Sound.  “As a writer,” she says, “I owe it all to natural places.” It’s there that we meet the real world unmediated by daily distractions, and rediscover our proper scale in the greater scheme of life. Art, in all its forms, can help lead the way, and wilderness, as this week’s featured thinker reminds us, is an inspiration. Read more….

33rd Featured Thinker: Nan Shepherd

View over Northern part of the Lairig Ghru. Image: Nigel Brown, 1996 Geograph.org.uk

View over Northern part of the Lairig Ghru. Image: Nigel Brown, 1996 Geograph.org.uk

This week’s feature takes a slightly different format as we wanted to introduce you to a wilderness thinker we have selected in memoriam, Nan Shepherd (1893 – 1981). We introduce her work, The Living Mountain, through a re-reading and link to a radio broadcast by Robert Macfarlane, an english scholar who writes about landscape, place, travel and nature. The broadcast  includes extracts from Shepherd’s work alongside Robert Macfarlane’s narration of his ‘poetic pilgrimage’ to her beloved Cairngorms. Read more……