A self-proclaimed contrarian and octogenarian cancer survivor finds renewal in the prospect of death while raising issues that challenge science and religion alike.
Though Logsdon (A Sanctuary of Trees, 2012) loves nature as much as the next writer and more than most, he refuses to indulge in the usual sentimentality and poetics of nature writing in this series of interconnected essays that combine plainspoken prose, cleareyed observation and provocative thought. There is plenty here to annoy environmental alarmists, Christians, Republicans, agribusiness, vegetarians (or anyone else bothered by the detailed, don’t-read-before-dinner description of killing and butchering) and others who subscribe to various forms of conventional wisdom. “I write this book believing that the human race, including myself, is irrational,” he says. “But being irrational is not all bad….Nevertheless, totally contradicting everything I have written above (another mark of human insanity), I really do intend this book to be a comfort and a solace for those people facing death. And that means all of us.” The author maintains that despite “much hand-wringing over diseases that are attacking oak trees…as long as climate dictates trees, trees in one form or another will be here.” The perceptual problem, says the writer who once studied to be a priest, is that “the human mind sees cycles because we think in terms of beginnings and endings, of causes and effects, of time passing. But the forest acts only in the everlasting NOW.” And that “everlasting NOW” provides perspective and comfort throughout these meditations on mortality and renewal, particularly after the author’s cancer diagnosis. He experienced an epiphany during the final spring he thought he might not experience: “I wanted May to last forever. But now I understood that it was only because nature changed every month, every day, every moment, that it could come again. Only through change is permanence achieved….To understand immortality, embrace mortality.”
Wisdom and experience permeate this perceptive and understatedly well-written meditation.