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Dog-ear: Countdown, The Urban Bestiary, Hear Where We Are

April 14, 2014, by Orion staff



Since 2007, Orion has given an annual award to a book that deepens our connection to the natural world, presents new ideas about the relationship between people and nature, and achieves excellence in writing. What follows are short reports from Orion staff on some of their favorite Orion Book Award contenders. In April, five books published in 2013 will be chosen as finalists for the 2014 Orion Book Award; one will win.

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filed under: Dog-ear



Peter Matthiessen, 1927 - 2014

April 10, 2014, by H. Emerson Blake

When we received word that Peter Matthiessen, a longtime friend and advisor to Orion, died on Saturday, I was reminded of a night in March 1999, when Peter was presented with the John Hay Award (an annual award that Orion once presented to writers). The award ceremony took place in Easthampton, New York, and was attended by writers, conservationists, Peter’s family and friends, and Orion staff members. As part of the award there was a colloquium devoted to discussing Peter’s work, then a dinner, and then an after-dinner reception.

It was also the day of the first fight between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, which another Orion staff member and I wanted to watch. Halfway through the after-dinner reception, Robert and I disappeared quietly through a side door of the reception hall and decamped to a sports bar across the street where we found the fight being broadcast. We knew it did not reflect terrifically on us that we were choosing to watch a boxing match over being in the same room with Peter Matthiessen, but we really wanted to see the fight. And we were sure no one would notice.

The fight was entering the tenth round when a tall man materialized next to us and took his place in front of the television. Robert and I looked over. It was Peter. Peter looked over and saw us. We all blinked. In having abandoned the reception, it was unclear who was more in the wrong: the people who were supposed to be celebrating another person, or the person who himself was being celebrated. After a moment, Peter, in his utterly distinctive voice, said, “I really wanted to see the fight.” Robert said, “So did we.” With that we turned our attention back to the television and watched the rest of the fight, which some readers will remember was awarded by decision, pointlessly, to Holyfield. When the fight was over we all walked back to the reception hall.

Peter Matthiessen was the kind of person who could equally enjoy boxing and birdwatching. As a writer, he was able to seamlessly knit environment, Native Americans, sailing, human rights, and fishermen into narratives that engaged vastly disparate readerships. For me, Peter’s book The Snow Leopard, and its fusion of adventure, science, and spiritual quest, changed what I expected for myself and from my life. Mostly, Peter was just a hell of a writer whose skill and versatility were matched by few modern writers. We will do well to remember his appetite for life, his hunger for justice, and his vision for a wilder world.

H. Emerson Blake is the editor-in-chief of Orion.

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filed under: Orion Noteworthy



New Books: Farmacology

April 09, 2014, by Daphne Miller, M.D.

Author and family physician Dr. Daphne Miller has long suspected that human health and agriculture are connected—but most modern medical practices seem blind to their linkage. Her new book, Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, explores how that connection works. Here’s Daphne on how thinking more holistically about planetary and bodily ecosystems can change the way we understand both medicine and agriculture.

***

“I think we can blame our record-breaking drought,” I said to my patient S. She shot me a quizzical look, the kind you give when someone answers your question with a total non sequitur. Here she was, worried about her all-time worst eczema flare, and all I could offer her was a weather report? And yet S., who has suffered from eczema her entire life, has often told me that her condition is exacerbated by parched skin. So why would my comment about our parched landscape seem irrelevant?

I thought about this after S. had left my office, armed with prescriptions for a strong emollient and a steroid cream (to use sparingly on the worst spots) and a recommendation to exempt herself from water rationing and take long, hydrating baths while she prayed for rain.

Like S., most of us can easily see how environmental conditions might impact our lives in the form of relatively minor inconveniences (foiled travel plans) as well as catastrophes (destroyed homes and neighborhoods). But understanding how the ecology that surrounds us can directly affect the ecology within us is harder to grasp. We tend to think of our own cells as a closed system, impervious to everything that occurs outside, and science reinforces this notion since relatively little research is dedicated to bridging the two worlds.

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filed under: Authors on Books



Concrete Progress: Gliding Through Anchorage

April 06, 2014, by Peter Brewitt

Concrete Progress is an ongoing series of columns by Peter Brewitt devoted to exploring America’s infrastructure. It is part of Orion’s Reimagining Infrastructure project.


It’s five p.m. on a Tuesday, Alaska Standard Time, and all across Anchorage businesses are closing up for the end of the workday. Outside, the thermometer reads eight degrees above zero. Night fell just after lunch. Nonetheless, the people of Anchorage shut down their computers, put on their jackets, lace up their ski boots, click into their bindings, step on to the trail, and start home, their breaths frosty in the subarctic air.

There are four hundred miles of trails in Anchorage, radiating out through the city like blood vessels and reaching beyond it to surrounding communities far away from the urban core. Every day of the year, lawyers and consultants and clerks ski, bike, and run back and forth between their homes and offices. (I wish I could tell you that they mushed dogs on the commute, but this would not be true—only a few of Anchorage’s trails are open to sled dogs.) The trails are broad and well maintained, many of them paved, many of them lit for the dark of the northern winter. And many miles are separate from the road, running through tunnels when obliged to cross a highway, so that a ski commuter may only meet traffic at the very beginning and very end of the route.

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filed under: Concrete Progress



Dog-ear: Happy City, Sightlines, The Science Delusion

April 02, 2014, by Orion staff



Since 2007, Orion has given an annual award to a book that deepens our connection to the natural world, presents new ideas about the relationship between people and nature, and achieves excellence in writing. What follows are short reports from Orion staff on some of their favorite Orion Book Award contenders. In April, five books published in 2013 will be chosen as finalists for the 2014 Orion Book Award; one will win.

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filed under: Dog-ear



On the Land, in the Wind: A Conversation with James Galvin

March 31, 2014, by Chris Dombrowski

Last year marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of poet James Galvin’s Elements, one of the most durable and essential poetry collections of its era. Born in Chicago and raised in northern Colorado, Galvin is the author of several celebrated collections of poetry, including, most recently As Is; a novel, Fencing the Sky; and a book of prose, The Meadow, which has been called “one of the best books ever written about the American West.”

The conversation that follows was conducted over the course of several weeks; due to spotty internet at his cabin near Tie Siding, Wyoming, Galvin drove into town so he could respond to questions from the Spic and Span Wireless Laundromat. The poems included below appeared originally in Elements, and can be found now in Resurrection Update: Collected Poems, 1975-1997, published by Copper Canyon Press. —Chris Dombrowski

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filed under: Chris Dombrowski on Poetry



Dog-ear: Telling Our Way to the Sea, Pests in the City, Maddaddam

March 24, 2014, by Orion staff

Since 2007, Orion has given an annual award to a book that deepens our connection to the natural world, presents new ideas about the relationship between people and nature, and achieves excellence in writing. What follows are short reports from Orion staff on some of their favorite Orion Book Award contenders. In April, five books published in 2013 will be chosen as finalists for the 2014 Orion Book Award; one will win.

read more →

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filed under: Dog-ear



Make Way for Monarchs

March 21, 2014, by Gary Paul Nabhan

For much of the last two centuries, America’s farmers passionately pursued and diligently documented the variety of butterflies in their agricultural landscapes. They were also excellent stewards of monarchs and other butterfly species, some of which are now suffering dramatic declines. According to author and historian William Leach, many farmers even made room for them in their orchards, fields, pastures, and hedges:

Family farms…did perhaps more than any other landscape to convert Americans into butterfly lovers. Farms were distributed throughout the country, and while they sacrificed virgin forests and ecosystems in the short term, they contributed over the longer term to nature’s vitality. Their distinguishing features were not just plowed fields or barns or silos but also ponds, woodlots, hedgerows, stone walls, open fields along roadsides, and meadows by streams or riverbeds for grazing cattle, all created for human purposes but also serving as likely habitats and hideouts for animals.

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filed under: Letters from the Field



A Match Made in the Garden

March 19, 2014, by Emily Glaser

If you enjoyed “Letters from Two Gardens,” Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s and Ross Gay’s poetry collaboration in Orion’s January/February issue, we’ve got a great opportunity for you.

To celebrate National Poetry Month in April (just a few days away!), we’re announcing the inaugural Orion Poetry Exchange, open to all readers and friends of Orion. The theme for 2014 is “The Growing Season.”

How does it work?

If you can commit to writing three poetry exchanges between now and April 30, send an e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with:

Your name
Your location
Whether you prefer to collaborate via snail mail or digitally

Orion will pair you up and introduce you and your Poetry Exchange partner via e-mail. Please note that by signing up to participate, you give Orion permission to share your e-mail address with another reader (we promise not to give it to anyone else).

If you’d like your work to be featured on Orion’s blog and Facebook page, please send us a physical or digital copy of the poems by April 30, and we’ll post them online. After that, you’re free to continue collaborating.

To get matched up with a fellow poet, or if you have questions, please e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) by Friday, March 28. To get inspired, hear Aimee and Ross discuss their project and read the poems in “Letters from Two Gardens.”

Image via Flickr.com/TM Weddle.

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filed under: Orion Noteworthy



Concrete Progress: Invasive Infrastructure

March 17, 2014, by Peter Brewitt

Concrete Progress is an ongoing series of columns by Peter Brewitt devoted to exploring America’s infrastructure. It is part of Orion’s two-year Reimagining Infrastructure project.


The Pacific Ocean was violent this morning. Out across the bluffs from my house, the wind whipped in off Monterey Bay, and I saw a guy surfing waves taller than himself, in places I’ve never even seen waves big enough to ride. Down on the beach, even the gulls were cowed into silence. But the bluffs held firm, knitted together by mats of shiny green succulents. Iceplant, or Carpobrotus edulis, blankets beaches and roadsides up and down the entire California coast, from San Diego to Del Norte County. Now a standard part of life on the West Coast, not many know that these plants are, in fact, part of a long-ago plan for the state’s infrastructure, brought from overseas to protect against the wind and the weather, but now thoroughly out of control.

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filed under: Concrete Progress



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