The author of Meeting the Tree of Life (1997) finds nature in urban Ohio and, in this educative voyage of discovery, suggests it is not such a miracle after all.
“I never wanted to live in Cincinnati,” Tallmadge lets readers know from the start. He had just lost his teaching job in Minnesota, a place that had fed his desire for wilderness, and now he was heading for a Rust Belt dung hole of ratty rivers and industrial despair, as well as moving into university administration, a decided step south from his urge to teach. “As downtown approached, the world seemed to fade into gray,” he writes, dismayed by this urban time/space so uprooted, fragmented, and abstract, deaf to the music of the spheres. But Tallmadge is a thinking man (and not an inelegant writer); he knew there were experiences to be had and learning to get on with. Did Cincinnati truly condemn him to the pauperization of his soul, so attached to wild places? Or was he simply narrow-minded, blinkered to the possibilities? There is wilderness at hand even in his quarter-acre lot and its environs, he realizes: “enshrining wilderness in distant places allows us to justify our abuse, neglect and exploitation of local nature.” Wild edges and corridors, still rich, still pervasive of nature and landscape and home patch, can coexist with human use of the earth. Wishful thinking? Hardly. Taking cues from Gary Snyder, Aldo Leopold, and Henry Thoreau, Tallmadge hunkers down to get to know just where he is. “How, then, does one become native to a place? It requires time and attention . . . on the ground beneath our feet, which is the only ground we know.” As a character here says, “It all depends on what you listen for.”
Provocative and surprisingly persuasive.