Friday, January 11, 2013

Nature Descriptive essay # 1. Nature! You gotta love it!

One of the problems I'm having with this first assignment is with the word 'nature'--and, uh, also with the word 'descriptive.'

Here is nature descriptive done all wrong because the word 'descriptive' is being abused:

As I rode around the field on my tractor pulling a bushhog, I saw acres of grass--green, smelling fresh, full of weeds and last year's dead grass. I saw trampled-down nests where does and fauns have been bedding down at night. I saw St. John's wort, buttercups, indian paint brush, bedstraw, and dozens of other kinds of flowers...."

Actually, that didn't turn out quite as badly as I thought it was going to. I could make it worse by piling up heaps of adjectives. But if it continues this way--I saw this, I saw that--it's going to get old pretty fast.

What it's missing is a narrator's presence, human interest. You don't care about a faun's nest. You might care more if I told you about the time I nearly ran over a faun who was convinced that her hiding place could not be found by a tractor. You don't care about bedstraw, but you might care if I told you about my fight to the death with the stuff (and how it's winning.)

In other words, simple description isn't enough. We need the writer too, as the samples below will demonstrate.

And then comes the question about 'nature.' How can writing about a tractor be writing about nature? Well, that's a question, isn't it? But it's up to the writer to define and limit or expand the term.

Is it nature writing to write about a falcon in Acadia National Park? Sounds likely. But what about a falcon in Central Park in NYC whose diet consists of city pigeons? Is that nature? Is it nature writing to write about a domesticated animal--a dog or cat? Is it nature writing to write about gardens instead of wild woods?

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