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Wild Spectacle: Seeking Wonders in a World beyond Humans

Wild Spectacle: Seeking Wonders in a World beyond Humans

by Janisse Ray
Wild Spectacle: Seeking Wonders in a World beyond Humans

Wild Spectacle: Seeking Wonders in a World beyond Humans

by Janisse Ray


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Looking for adventure and continuing a process of self-discovery, Janisse Ray has repeatedly set out to immerse herself in wildness, to be wild, and to learn what wildness can teach us. From overwintering with monarch butterflies in Mexico to counting birds in Belize, the stories in Wild Spectacle capture her luckiest moments—ones of heart-pounding amazement, discovery of romance, and moving toward living more wisely. In Ray’s worst moments she crosses boundaries to encounter danger and embrace sadness.

Anchored firmly in two places Ray has called home—Montana and southern Georgia—the sixteen essays here span a landscape from Alaska to Central America, connecting common elements in the ecosystems of people and place. One of her abiding griefs is that she has missed the sights of explorers like Bartram, Sacagawea, and Carver: flocks of passenger pigeons, routes of wolves, herds of bison. She craves a wilder world and documents encounters that are rare in a time of disappearing habitat, declining biodiversity, and a world too slowly coming to terms with climate change.

In an age of increasingly virtual, urban life, Ray embraces the intentionality of trying to be a better person balanced with seeking out natural spectacle, abundance, and less trammeled environments. She questions what it means to travel into the wild as a woman, speculates on the impacts of ecotourism and travel in general, questions assumptions about eating from the land, and appeals to future generations to make substantive change.

Wild Spectacle explores our first home, the wild earth, and invites us to question its known and unknown beauties and curiosities.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595349576
Publisher: Trinity University Press
Publication date: 10/26/2021
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 663,143
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Janisse Ray is a naturalist and activist, and the author of seven books of nonfiction and poetry, including The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food, Drifting into Darien: A Personal and Natural History of the Altamaha River, and Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, which won the American Book Award. Her work has appeared widely in magazines and journals, and she is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, the Nautilus Book Award, and numerous other honors. Ray lives on an organic farm near Savannah, Georgia.

Read an Excerpt

Preface: Out beyond houses and mailboxes, roads and bridges, a person can see a realm that exists alongside this world in which we humans live. I say again, another world flanks the constructed world. Often the view from ours is skewed, as through fractile glass, limited by narrow apertures of scope and crack, the view fleeting. We can’t see it on demand. In the wild world, relationship is evolutionary, time is geologic, beauty is intelligent. There we find ourselves under a powerful spell. Although I was reared on a junkyard by parents who did not waste time hiking or camping, I knew pine trees and pitcher plants, bobcats and brown thrashers, as my people. I understood wild things as beings with intentions, foremost a searing desire to live pleasant, fulfilling lives. Once the storyteller Joseph Bruchac told me about people to whom animals were attracted, to whom animals listened. Later I met such a person, an Abenaki man named O’annes. He visited environmental studies classes at a university where I briefly taught, and my colleagues described to me an odd thing that often occurred during O’annes’s visits. Sitting outside with students, on the green or by the lake, animals would ease up to listen to him. It might be a heron or a squirrel, alligator or turtle. When O’annes visited my own class, I saw this phenomenon. A black racer came sliding along with its head out of the mown grass, circling behind O’annes before hunkering down, as if to listen. The essays in this book are about the desire to immerse myself in the varied wild, to survey the territory of wildness, to be wild, and, perhaps, to become the kind of person who listened to animals and to whom animals listened. I explore places of natural spectacle and abundance, the less mitigated and trammeled the better. Because I was born in the twentieth century, I have missed many wonders that mavericks like Bartram, Carver, Crazy Horse, Muir, Sacajawea, and Tubman (indeed, anyone able to notice such things) saw—flocks of passenger pigeons, routes of red wolves, sloths of bears. I mourn that loss. On the other hand, I have seen wonders that others will be unable to see. I have, in my luckiest moments, lived heart-pounding flashes of natural spectacle. learners, and especially as passers-through, because in the grandest scheme we are all visitors, just visiting this planet, death the trackless wilderness to be explored. Here is what I found, what I saw, what I heard, what I thought, and what I learned when I sojourned in the wild.

Table of Contents

Preface Meridian Exaltation of Elk Montana Opening the Big W One Meal In the Elkhorn Migration The Duende of Cabo Blanco Bird-men of Belize Snapshots of a Dark Angel Las Monarcas The Dinner Party Magnitude Manatee Night Life A Terrible and Beautiful Scar Forms of Rarity Spiderwomen I Have Seen the Warrior

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