Monday, July 05, 2010

Wild Comfort: A Book Review

I am going to be traveling a lot over the next two weeks. I should be able to post and get around to reading folks blogs the first part of this week, but next week, I will have limited (at best) internet access. But hopefully, I'll have some stories to tell from my travels.

Additional Note: I'm not sure what's happening to your comments--I'm getting them via email, but they are not showing up here... I'm stopping for lunch, maybe tonight I can figure out what's happening. Tuesday at 12:15 EDT.

Kathleen Dean Moore, Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature (Boston: Trumpeter, 2010), 195 pages.

Two weeks ago, when on the Au Sable River, I began reading this book. I’d kept it for just such an occasion and read about two-thirds of it while on the river. It’s the perfect book to read next to flowing water. This is my second book I’ve read by Moore. The first was Riverwalking, which were essays all centered around walks along the banks of rivers. Her voice is calming and you can hear the rippling of the water and the singing of the birds and insects as you imagine the fog rise or an encounter with wildlife. In her newest collection of essays, she often goes out onto the water, encountering whales off Oregon, bears in Alaska, and gulls along the Mexican coast. Along the way Moore, who is a philosophy professor at Oregon State University, reflects not only on the natural world, but on the philosophical. Quotes and thoughts from Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Hobbes and Camus pop up in her essays.

Moore is a master essayist. She has the ability to weave together various and diverse themes. In one essay, she writes about finding pottery shards along the Green River in Utah and her desire to put the pieces back together again. She reflects on a woman’s need to mend, on our need to mend our lives and on her son-in-law who an archeologist in Arizona specializes in mending ancient pots. (121-129) In another essay, she weaves her thoughts around the Christmas Carol, “Joy to the World.” Playing with the line, “While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat the sounding joy,” she explores each place and event. Toward the end of the essay, she comes back to the repeating of the sounding joy and notes that “the more hollow a heart, the more resonant it can become” which she concludes brings “compassion for all the world.” (139)

I met Dr. Moore at Calvin College this past spring and in the two lectures I attended, I was amazed that her presentation is every bit as gentle and insightful as her writing. I recommend this book. In it, through her encounter with nature, Moore ponders the loss of good friends and family members over the past few years. But this is not a sad book, but a joyous one in which she finds solace in natural world.

Let me leave you with two quotes:

To be worthy of the astonishing world, a sense of wonder will be a way of life, in every place and time, no matter how familiar: to listen in the dark of every night, to praise the mystery of every returning day, to be astonished again and again, to be grateful with an intensity that cannot be distinguished from joy. (36)

When you live, make it all. Don't wait for the rain to stop. Climb out of your tent with your mind engaged and your senses ablazed and let rain pour into you. Remember: you are not who you think you are. You are what you do. Be the kindness of soft rain. Be the beauty of light behind a tall fir. Be gratitude. Be gladness." (168)

I have also recently done a book reivew of Charles Partee's The Theology of John Calvin. As it is primarily an academic book, I decided not to post the review here, but if you are interested, you can click on the title and drop over to Shelfari and read my reivew there.


  1. Love those excerpts. I enjoy the whole sort of subgenre of nonfiction called nature writing. I'll check around for this book.

  2. I've been looking for a good book of essays which I can pick up ad hoc for reflection. Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. Wild Comfort sounds perfectly delightful. I like her thought that you are what you do. I agree with that completely. This will definitely go on my reading list - it sounds like good reading for mountain visits especially.

    I will have a look at your John Calvin review, too. I have a special interest since I am of a reformed faith. I think we talked about being fellow Presbyterians once.

  4. I love those quotes, and the book sounds wonderful too. Thanks... next on my list. Have a safe trip!

  5. Did my comment disappear... new format? But the books sounds wonderful. Next on my list... I love those quotes too. Have a safe trip!

  6. Growing up in the area, Calvinism is well known...

  7. Nicely written. At one time, I read books like this, but I get no closer these days than the reviews. They are enough to trigger wonder. Thanks.

  8. I'm all over that second quote-- Good Good stuff man!


  9. Sage,

    The problem with your comments is a massive technical failure in Blogger. Most of my blogfriends have had it too. This happened yesterday afternoon (Central European Time) and is slowly being fixed, but not completely solved yet.

    I've checked the Blogger forum and there's a spreadsheet that you can fill to report about your problem and a thread where you can provide them the information about your blog and tell them about your issues.

    I'll post the links later (I'm now at work and don't have the codes here to do it), just in case someone who has experienced the same problem needs help.

    I know a lot about problems with Blogger, LOL.

    Will be back later too to read your post more carefully (boss may come in...)

  10. Okay, I'm hooked ... but before I purchase one of her books, is there an order to reading them I should consider?? Thanks again Sage.

  11. Sage,

    Here's the Blogger forum question on missing comments:

    and the link to the issue spreadsheet, which is sent to Blogger:

    I'm dead tired now, Spain won the match against Germany at the WC and people are getting bananas here.

  12. I loved the final quotes, Sage. It's such a positive way of looking at life! I loved the one about letting the rain fall on you... it makes you feel alive I guess (huge storm threatening the skies over here now, btw).

    How's the comments issue going?

    I hear from my blogfriends that it's slowly getting solved (it was a huge fire at Blogger, but they're managing to fix it. If you experience problems, I recommend you have a look at the Blogger forum if you can and send them the information they request. The spreadsheet is also recommended.)

    My disappeared comments are not back, though; this and lack of information made me move to Wordpress. :(


  13. these are fabulous quotes...i need to check this book out...looks like someone informed you on the blogger issue...hope your travels are well...

  14. Love the review and those quotes are priceless...a wonderful post to read before bedtime. Thx! :)