On Nature and Words
Of course there are experiences of landscape that will always resist articulation, and of which words offer only a remote echo—or to which silence is by far the best response. Nature does not name itself. Granite does not self-identify as igneous. Light has no grammar. Language is always late for its subject. Sometimes on the top of a mountain I just say, “Wow.”
Robert Macfarlane lives in Cambridge and is author of The Wild Places and The Old Ways. The text that appears here is adapted from his book Landmarks, forthcoming from Trafalgar in June.
I found this today, in an essay by Sean Michael Morris. It’s worth the long read but the piece that really resonates for me is this:
But maybe instead we should tip large. And give A’s. Believe reasons for missing a deadline. Refuse to get to know students through the window of a rubric. We are not dealing with students, but people with dreams, people who will fail and people who will succeed, people who may end up alone and people whose high point of the day may be a conversation with us. Being kind may seem counterintuitive to the academic ethos—especially when being kind can sometimes mean being wrong—but we owe it to ourselves to think outside our setting, to see past the artificial boundaries of generation, expertise, and authority. And while we’re at it: race, gender, sexuality, religion.
These images are from the collection of Edward Curtis photos from his original 20 volume set. Some of these are over one hundred years old, too. I read a great book about Edward Curtis and his work as a photographer a couple of years ago by Timothy Egan called, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis. This review on Crosscut.com covers it nicely and I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s an easy read too, but one that will keep you reading from the moment you begin.
The University of Oregon came by this set via his mistress who offered a trade – the set she owned (which was Curtis’s and she got after he died) for the one that the university had purchased at an earlier time. These images are only taken out a few times a year so it was truly a special treat for me to get a chance to see them.