Friday, June 18, 2010

Birds and Stones and Lyric Essays

I just discovered Anthony Doerr's writings through a curious set of circumstances and connections. I really enjoy writing of this type, and his is particularly powerful and evocative.

"To know what is still here is difficult enough. To know what was once here is basically impossible. Who is left who can envision the United States with its original populations of bison, salmon, and whales? Who can imagine the Atlantic with the great auk, or the South with the ivory-billed woodpecker, or the Midwest with its billions of passenger pigeons? How many oysters filtered the waters of preindustrial New York Harbor? How many beavers stitched together the ancient wetlands of Connecticut?"

- excerpt from Phantoms and Prey
OnEarth Magazine

"The lesson of rocks, of course, is not a lesson in permanence but rather the opposite. Change, that’s the only music a pebble (or person) can count on, and in the lifetimes of stones change comes in relentless concatenation on scales so large our brains aren’t quite evolved to understand them.
If these kitchen-counter pebbles had memories, if they could unpack their lithic histories and unroll them across the floor like scrolls, they’d show us flashes of heat in the crucible of the Earth, epochs of darkness, the heavens spitting snow, then rain, then light. On those scrolls would be wildernesses of silence so vast that to dwell within them for a fraction of their length would make us insane with terror and loneliness."

- excerpts from Cloudy Is the Stuff of Stones
Orion Magazine

The illustration above is of a pair of now-extinct Passenger Pigeons by John James Audubon.