Several years ago a friend suggested I write a book of stories and essays centered around wildlife. The slow pace of life during the last year allowed me time to consider which stories I wanted to flush out and include, as well as the theme of the book. The final product is my new book Shadow Landscape: Stories from the Field.
All the stories are personal experiences, a few from my time living in the Bay Area, some from travels in the Southwest, with the bulk of the tales coming from my home around Yellowstone.
The shadow in Shadow Landscape refers to the life around us that we normally are not tuned into and have little to no integral part of—that is of course, the dance of wildlife. Here is an excerpt from the Preface describing what you can expect when you buy the book.
Working for many years with plants and animals, I now consider the animal world like a troupe of jazz dancers. Wildlife sway and move to each other. They anticipate their partner’s next maneuver; they are creative in their calculations and read with expertise every gesture, smell, and sign on the land. Meanwhile, we humans sit on the dance-floor bench with only the two-step under our belt. We are bumbling and awkward in our participation. Loud, fast, self-absorbed. Possibly the connection between all these tales is my own clumsy attempt to touch nature’s heart, to understand the ineffable, to reach beyond my grasp and feel like I too am learning to jazz dance.
Two of the stories in the first section, Gil and the Bees and The World of Fungi, come from my time living in the Bay Area. Of course, we can connect with the beauty and wonder around us even in our backyards. As a child, my love of nature began by wandering my Los Angeles backyard counting bird nests every spring and admiring the differences in their eggs. Most of the other essays take place from my home in Wyoming, where some of the last large animals in North America have room to roam.
End of the Wild, section two, concentrates on human interference and our bumbling, as opposed to our wonder. Each story, from Wolves in the Crosshairs to Killing Coyotes to Grow Deer tells a personal experience of human intrusion into the natural daily lives of wild animals. Every incident directly and personally educated me as to how far humans are willing to go to dominant the landscape. Bighorn’s Gordian Knot centers around a thorny issue I became aware of when writing Ghostwalker. Mountain lions, particularly in the southwest United States, were being cleared off mountain ranges in order to reintroduce bighorn sheep. The issue is complicated since bighorn sheep were on the brink of winking out. In this essay, I delve deeply into the bighorn’s multitude of issues, why mountain lions are not a major factor, and what a step forward might be.
In Part II I ask the questions: how will we protect our wildlife into the future? What is our relationship to wildness? What are we losing when we lose wild nature and what do wildlife need to go about their business sans our awkward dance?
Shadow Landscape contains six stories in Part I—The Shadow Landscape, and four stories in Part II—End of the Wild.
I expect the book to be released within the next few months. I will have more information for you soon, including price, page length, and I’ll share the table of contents with some excerpts. Book price has not been set, but I am planning on a deep discount when you buy a copy directly through my website. Buying through my website entitles you to a signed copy. Books will also be available through Amazon and your local bookstore.
Humans are story-driven. We are visual creatures and imagination drives us to act. For those reasons, I feel we need new and better stories that press on us to conserve wilderness and wildlife for future generations. That is my hope in writing Shadow Landscape.
Thanks all for reading.