Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Jim Harrison and Gary Snyder are old friends and especially good ruminators. The bit of rumination below is taken from the transcript of an outstanding documentary film, The Practice of the Wild: A Conversation with Gary Snyder and Jim Harrison (San Simeon Films 2010). The DVD is included in the companion book, The Etiquette of Freedom (Counterpoint 2010).

I found it especially delightful to watch Jim Harrison in motion. He is an intellectual force of nature. Watching and listening to him was like encountering a loquacious forest creature. Here's a snippet of their conversation about nature, the wild, and wilderness that resonated with me today.

GARY SNYDER: You know, to go back a bit for a second to The Practice of the Wild, I find that it's hard to--people, including environmentalists, have not taken well to the distinctions I tried to make there between nature, the wild, and wilderness. You know, I want to say again, the way I want to use the word "nature" would mean the whole physical universe.


GARY SNYDER: Like in physics.

JIM HARRISON: Yeah, right, exactly.

GARY SNYDER: So not the outdoors.

JIM HARRISON: No. That's a false dichotomy--


JIM HARRISON: --or a dualism.

GARY SNYDER: Yeah. Nature is what we're in. If you want to try to figure out what's supernatural, you can do that, too.


GARY SNYDER: But you don't have to. And then the wild really simply refers to process, a process that's been going on. And wilderness is simply topos--it's areas where the process is dominant.