– The wind in fall. I love the sense that when the wind blows in the fall, a dark cloud or rain cannot be far behind. It is a wind that is bound to bring something with it besides the mere moving around of air.
– On specificity. All the great nature writing I love is specific. Thoreau is at Walden Pond. Annie Dillard is at Tinker Creek. Aldo Leopold is in Wisconsin. It matters to say where you are. It matters to be bound by a particular geography.
– On generality. Every time I walk Hatcher Hill, I think of Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken. I stop to take a breath, and there in front of me is the path bending in the undergrowth. I cannot see what’s around the bend. We don’t know where the “yellow wood” is, but wouldn’t you like to? Wouldn’t you like to be able to walk down it? But maybe the “yellow wood” is not one particular wood Frost traveled. Maybe it is many and so there’s something to be said for being general.
– The tight cage of discipline. Sometimes I see a student in class and I want to grab her and say, come with me and let me show you how you might live. Not how you might do sociology, which is a whole other thing. But how you might live. It is what we should be teaching them, I think, and yet it takes courage to do. You must sometimes step outside the boundaries of your discipline and tell them things about living.
– A confused fall. I don’t read up on the predictions about what the fall leaves will look like, but it seems to me this year that the trees are confused. Some of them have dropped their leaves all at once. Others are still green on the branches. A few are trying their best to give us a show. I’ll take it.
– Killing Maddie. When I wrote my first novel, I tucked my characters away into their beds safe and sound at the end of every scene. Nothing very scary happened to any of them, and this meant nothing much happened to them at all. I think in the novel I’m working on now, someone is going to die. Not in too dramatic a fashion, but nonetheless, death is coming.
– The caterpillar. I saw this caterpillar on my walk today, and the bands mean something, but I can’t remember what.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.