In Our Nature: Stories of Wildness
Selected and Introduced by Donna Seaman
Foreward by Diane Ackerman
(Dorling Kindersley, NY: 2000)

Fourteen tales, written by such short story luminaries as Margaret Atwood, Barry Lopez, E.L. Doctrow, and Lorrie Moore, make up this volume of human interaction with the natural world. Only a few in this group of scribblers are particularly known for their concern for the environment, but they are all writers concerned with the human spirit, and Seaman’s premise is that wildness is an essential, and inescapable, elemental part of us all.

Here are some brief excerpts from Seaman’s introduction and a few of the stories, to give you a taste of the pleasures to be found within:

"Seekers and praisers of beauty, we find as much cause for rejoicing as for sorrow as we walk the line between what remains of wilderness and our rabidly consumptive civilization. Pattern-focused and word-struck, we love stories – the wild fruits of our imagination – not because they offer solutions to problems, but because they illuminate our place in the shimmering universe and open our hearts to the music in our blood – a song beyond measure written in the stars, spun in the seas, and rooted deeply in the teeming earth. Our nature is all nature – wild, mysterious, and full of grace."

‘Swamp Boy’, by Rick Bass
The story of a man, looking back over his memory of being one of a gang of teenage boys, obsessed with harassing what turns out to be a rather compelling nature geek:

"A ripple blew across the water – a slight mystery in the wind or a subtle swamp movement just beneath the surface. I could feel some essence, a truth, down in the soil beneath my feet – but I’d catch myself before saying to the other boys, "Let’s go." Instead of jumping into the water, or giving myself up to the search for whatever that living essence was beneath me, I watched."

‘My Life as a Bat’, by Margaret Atwood
The narrator, recalling an earlier incarnation as a bat:

"Perhaps it isn’t my life as a bat that was the interlude. Perhaps it is this life. Perhaps I have been sent into human form as if on a dangerous mission, to save and redeem my own folk. When I have gained a small success, or died in the attempt – for failure, in such a task and against such odds, is more likely – I will be born again, back into that other form, that other world where I truly belong.

More and more, I think of this event with longing. The quickness of heartbeat, the vivid plunge into the nectars of crepuscular flowers, hovering in the infrared of night; the dank lazy half-sleep of daytime, with bodies rounded and soft as furred plums clustering around me, the mothers licking the tiny amazed faces of the newborn; the swift love of what will come next, the anticipation of the tongue and of the unfurled, corrugated and scrolled nose, nose like a dead leaf, nose like a radiator grille, nose of a denizen of Pluto."

‘The Open Lot’ by Barry Lopez
The different paths Jane Weddell takes on her route to work each day help chart her path through hidden treacheries and opportunities:

"The patterns of her traverses from one day to the next gave her a sense of the vastness in which she lived; she was aware not only of the surface of each street but, simultaneously, of the tunneling below, which carried water mains and tree roots, like the meandering chambers of gophers. And ranging above, she knew without having to look, were tiers upon tiers of human life, the joy and anger and curiosity of creatures like herself."