Holdfast: At Home in the Natural World

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With the finely honed skills of an essayist, the heightened sensibility of a naturalist, and the carefully reasoned mind of a philosopher, Kathleen Dean Moore examines our connections to what we hold most dear. In a quest for the metaphorical holdfast - the structure at the end of seaweed strands that attach to rocks with a grip that even ocean gales cannot rend - Moore seeks to understand that which affixes her firmly to family and place. The natural world is fertile ground to explore these vital elements and ...

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Overview

With the finely honed skills of an essayist, the heightened sensibility of a naturalist, and the carefully reasoned mind of a philosopher, Kathleen Dean Moore examines our connections to what we hold most dear. In a quest for the metaphorical holdfast - the structure at the end of seaweed strands that attach to rocks with a grip that even ocean gales cannot rend - Moore seeks to understand that which affixes her firmly to family and place. The natural world is fertile ground to explore these vital elements and the importance of living 'thickly,' as she writes, plumbing the rich depths of each movement. In twenty elegant, probing essays she meditates on connection and separation: the sense of brotherhood fostered by communal howling; the inevitability of losing our children to their own lives. She is joyous, playful, and mournful as she ponders the sublimity of life and longing in the creatures of the sea; the pleasures of taking candy from her unwitting students on Halloween; facing the decision to end her father's life. She is curious and wise as she celebrates otters and chickadees, clams and kelp, and the relationship between place and memory. From the Oregon coast she calls home to Alaskan shores, Moore travels geographically and philosophically, leaving no doubt of her virtuosity and range. (6 1/4 X 9 1/4, 180 pages)

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Reminiscent of the work of Annie Dillard and others who have combined their observations of the natural world with philosophical reflections, this collection of 21 lyrical essays by the author of Riverwalking intently probes the ways we are bound to our planet and to one another. Moore's governing metaphor is the "holdfast," a mysterious structure that glues algae to the ocean floor. In "Howling with Strangers," she describes an evening when she and six other people gathered in the Minnesota woods to listen to wolves howling and to howl in return, an exercise that left Moore with a feeling of joyful connection to the universe. In an effort to conjure the details of the boathouse on the island in Ontario where her husband's family summered, Moore calls her husband's parents in "Memory (the Boathouse)" and finds comfort as they grope together for memories (of "new pine boards and gasoline" and the beaver who lived in a corner under a pile of sticks) like "children holding hands in the dark." Although, as a philosopher, Moore does not assign special meaning to life, she takes great pleasure in the "preening, threatening, posturing" birds and the raucous chorus of frogs she observes during a visit to a marshland because "life directs all its power to one end, and that is to continue to be." (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Moore, chair of the department of philosophy at Oregon State University and author of the award-winning , examines our connections to what we hold most dear, employing the skills of an essayist, the sensibility of a naturalist, and the reasoning of a philosopher. In 20 elegant essays she meditates on connection and separation, the sense of brotherhood fostered by communal howling, and the inevitability of losing our children to their own lives. Lacks a subject index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Hungry Mind Review
A gifted essayist . . . Moore’s prose is elegant and poetic.
Kirkus Reviews
Graceful meditations on nature, mostly set in the Pacific Northwest. Moore, a philosopher at Oregon State University and the author of the well-liked essay collection RiverwalkingÊ(1995), has an endearing interest in oddments of nature that most other writers overlook—oddments that inspire useful metaphors. The "holdfast" of her title, for example, is not an imperative verb, but "a fist of knobby fingers" by which bullwhip kelp clings to the rocks of the Oregon coast, aided by "a glue the plant makes from sunshine and salt water, an invisible bond strong enough to hold against all but the worst winter gales." Kelp have holdfast, she continues; but humans today have little that binds them to place, and as Moore notes, everywhere you go you find people not from there, but on the run. Sometimes that metaphor extends to the far reaches of reason (would anyone want to trade wanderlust, which seems innate to the human species, for the fixity of a starfish?), but Moore keeps the notion of finding and staying home as a binding leitmotif, and it usually works. Studding her narrative with quotations from the likes of Zeno, St. Augustine, Plotinus, and other ancient philosophers, Moore turns from one essay to another to the power of landscape in the formation of the emotions, the awe- (and fear-) inspiring abilities of bears, and the advantages of being human, divorced though we may be from nature: "So far as I can tell, water falling through sunshine doesn't feel itself falling, doesn't rejoice at the brightness of light, doesn't know joy or sorrow. If that's true, then to be one with nature would be a pleasure unfelt, which wouldn't be much of a pleasure at all." (Bravely, Moorealso writes about why she doesn't like dogs, giving reasons that even a dog lover might appreciate.) An altogether satisfying collection by a gifted interpreter of the natural world.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558217805
  • Publisher: Lyons Press, The
  • Publication date: 6/28/1999
  • Edition description: First
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

KATHLEEN DEAN MOORE is the Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Oregon State University, and the founding director of OSU's Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word. She is the author of Riverwalking, which won the 1996 Pacific Northwest Booksellers' Award, and was a finalist for an Oregon Book Award. Moore lives in Corvallis, Oregon.

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