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36 Views of Moscow Mountain: Teaching Travel Writing and Mindfulness in the Tradition of Hokusai and Thoreau

Scott Slovic
p. 41-54

Abstract

L'auteur américain Henry David Thoreau est un écrivain du voyage qui a rarement quitté sa ville natale de Concorde, Massachusetts, où il a vécu de 1817 à 1862. Son approche du "voyage" consiste à accorder une profonde attention à son environnement ordinaire et à voir le monde à partir de perspectives multiples, comme il l'explique avec subtilité dans Walden (1854). Inspiré par Thoreau et par la célèbre série de gravures du peintre d'estampes japonais Katsushika Hokusai, intitulée 36 vues du Mt. Fuji (1830-32), j'ai fait un cours sur "L'écriture thoreauvienne du voyage" à l'Université de l'Idaho, que j'appelle 36 vues des montagnes de Moscow: ou, Faire un grand voyage — l'esprit et le carnet ouvert — dans un petit lieu. Cet article explore la philosophie et les stratégies pédagogiques de ce cours, qui tente de partager avec les étudiants les vertus d'un regard neuf sur le monde, avec les yeux vraiment ouverts, avec le regard d'un voyageur, en "faisant un grand voyage" à Moscow, Idaho. Les étudiants affinent aussi leurs compétences d'écriture et apprennent les traditions littéraires et artistiques associées au voyage et au sens du lieu.

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Designing a Writing Class to Foster Engagement

1The signs at the edge of town say, "Entering Moscow, Idaho. Population 25,060." This is a small hamlet in the midst of a sea of rolling hills, where farmers grow varieties of wheat, lentils, peas, and garbanzo beans, irrigated by natural rainfall. Although the town of Moscow has a somewhat cosmopolitan feel because of the presence of the University of Idaho (with its 13,000 students and a few thousand faculty and staff members), elegant restaurants, several bookstores and music stores, and a patchwork of artsy coffee shops on Main Street, the entire mini-metropolis has only about a dozen traffic lights and a single high school. As a professor of creative writing and the environmental humanities at the university, I have long been interested in finding ways to give special focuses to my writing and literature classes that will help my students think about the circumstances of their own lives and find not only academic meaning but personal significance in our subjects. I have recently taught graduate writing workshops on such themes as "The Body" and "Crisis," but when I was given the opportunity recently to teach an undergraduate writing class on Personal and Exploratory Writing, I decided to choose a focus that would bring me—and my students—back to one of the writers who has long been of central interest to me: Henry David Thoreau.

2One of the courses I have routinely taught during the past six years is Environmental Writing, an undergraduate class that I offer as part of the university's Semester in the Wild Program, a unique undergraduate opportunity that sends a small group of students to study five courses (Ecology, Environmental History, Environmental Writing, Outdoor Leadership and Wilderness Survival, and Wilderness Management and Policy) at a remote research station located in the middle of the largest wilderness area (the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness) in the United States south of Alaska. In "Teaching with Wolves," a recent article about the Semester in the Wild Program, I explained that my goal in the Environmental Writing class is to help the students "synthesize their experience in the wilderness with the content of the various classes" and "to think ahead to their professional lives and their lives as engaged citizens, for which critical thinking and communication skills are so important" (325). A foundational text for the Environmental Writing class is a selection from Thoreau's personal journal, specifically the entries he made October 1-20, 1853, which I collected in the 1993 writing textbook Being in the World: An Environmental Reader for Writers. I ask the students in the Semester in the Wild Program to deeply immerse themselves in Thoreau's precise and colorful descriptions of the physical world that is immediately present to him and, in turn, to engage with their immediate encounters with the world in their wilderness location. Thoreau's entries read like this:

Oct. 4. The maples are reddening, and birches yellowing. The mouse-ear in the shade in the middle of the day, so hoary, looks as if the frost still lay on it. Well it wears the frost. Bumblebees are on the Aster undulates, and gnats are dancing in the air.
Oct. 5. The howling of the wind about the house just before a storm to-night sounds extremely like a loon on the pond. How fit!
Oct. 6 and 7. Windy. Elms bare. (372)

3In thinking ahead to my class on Personal and Exploratory Writing, which would be offered on the main campus of the University of Idaho in the fall semester of 2018, I wanted to find a topic that would instill in my students the Thoreauvian spirit of visceral engagement with the world, engagement on the physical, emotional, and philosophical levels, while still allowing my students to remain in the city and live their regular lives as students. It occurred to me that part of what makes Thoreau's journal, which he maintained almost daily from 1837 (when he was twenty years old) to 1861 (just a year before his death), such a rich and elegant work is his sense of being a traveler, even when not traveling geographically.

Traveling a Good Deal in Moscow

I have traveled a good deal in Concord….
--Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854; 4)

4For Thoreau, one did not need to travel a substantial physical distance in order to be a traveler, in order to bring a traveler's frame of mind to daily experience. His most famous book, Walden, is well known as an account of the author's ideas and daily experiments in simple living during the two years, two months, and two days (July 4, 1845, to September 6, 1847) he spent inhabiting a simple wooden house that he built on the shore of Walden Pond, a small lake to the west of Boston, Massachusetts. Walden Pond is not a remote location—it is not out in the wilderness. It is on the edge of a small village, much like Moscow, Idaho. The concept of "traveling a good deal in Concord" is a kind of philosophical and psychological riddle. What does it mean to travel extensively in such a small place? The answer to this question is meaningful not only to teachers hoping to design writing classes in the spirit of Thoreau but to all who are interested in travel as an experience and in the literary genre of travel writing.

5Much of Walden is an exercise in deftly establishing a playful and intellectually challenging system of synonyms, an array of words—"economy," "deliberateness," "simplicity," "dawn," "awakening," "higher laws," etc.—that all add up to powerful probing of what it means to live a mindful and attentive life in the world. "Travel" serves as a key, if subtle, metaphor for the mindful life—it is a metaphor and also, in a sense, a clue: if we can achieve the traveler's perspective without going far afield, then we might accomplish a kind of enlightenment. Thoreau's interest in mindfulness becomes clear in chapter two of Walden, "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For," in which he writes, "Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?" The latter question implies the author's feeling that he is himself merely evolving as an awakened individual, not yet fully awake, or mindful, in his efforts to live "a poetic or divine life" (90). Thoreau proceeds to assert that "We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn…. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor" (90). Just what this endeavor might be is not immediately spelled out in the text, but the author does quickly point out the value of focusing on only a few activities or ideas at a time, so as not to let our lives be "frittered away by detail." He writes: "Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; … and keep your accounts on your thumb nail" (91). The strong emphasis in the crucial second chapter of Walden is on the importance of waking up and living deliberately through a conscious effort to engage in particular activities that support such awakening. It occurs to me that "travel," or simply making one's way through town with the mindset of a traveler, could be one of these activities.

6It is in the final chapter of the book, titled "Conclusion," that Thoreau makes clear the relationship between travel and living an attentive life. He begins the chapter by cataloguing the various physical locales throughout North America or around the world to which one might travel—Canada, Ohio, Colorado, and even Tierra del Fuego. But Thoreau states: "Our voyaging is only great-circle sailing, and the doctors prescribe for diseases of the skin merely. One hastens to Southern Africa to chase the giraffe; but surely that is not the game he would be after." What comes next is brief quotation from the seventeenth-century English poet William Habbington (but presented anonymously in Thoreau's text), which might be one of the most significant passages in the entire book:

Direct your eye sight inward, and you'll find
A thousand regions in your mind
Yet undiscovered. Travel them, and be
Expert in home-cosmography. (320)

7This admonition to travel the mysterious territory of one's own mind and master the strange cosmos of the self is actually a challenge to the reader—and probably to the author himself—to focus on self-reflection and small-scale, local movement as if such activities were akin to exploration on a grand, planetary scale. What is really at issue here is not the physical distance of one's journey, but the mental flexibility of one's approach to the world, one's ability to look at the world with a fresh, estranged point of view. Soon after his discussion of the virtues of interior travel, Thoreau explains why he left his simple home at Walden Pond after a few years of experimental living there, writing, "It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves" (323). In other words, no matter what we're doing in life, we can fall into a "beaten track" if we're not careful, thus failing to stay "awake."

8As I thought about my writing class at the University of Idaho, I wondered how I might design a series of readings and writing exercises for university students that would somehow emulate the Thoreauvian objective of achieving ultra-mindfulness in a local environment. One of the greatest challenges in designing such a class is the fact that it took Thoreau himself many years to develop an attentiveness to his environment and his own emotional rhythms and an efficiency of expression that would enable him to describe such travel-without-travel, and I would have only sixteen weeks to achieve this with my own students. The first task, I decided, was to invite my students into the essential philosophical stance of the class, and I did this by asking my students to read the opening chapter of Walden ("Economy") in which he talks about traveling "a good deal" in his small New England village as well as the second chapter and the conclusion, which reveal the author's enthusiasm (some might even say obsession) for trying to achieve an awakened condition and which, in the end, suggest that waking up to the meaning of one's life in the world might be best accomplished by attempting the paradoxical feat of becoming "expert in home-cosmography." As I stated it among the objectives for my course titled 36 Views of Moscow Mountain: Or, Traveling a Good Deal—with Open Minds and Notebooks—in a Small Place, one of our goals together (along with practicing nonfiction writing skills and learning about the genre of travel writing) would be to "Cultivate a ‘Thoreauvian' way of appreciating the subtleties of the ordinary world."

Windy. Elms Bare.

9For me, the elegance and heightened sensitivity of Thoreau's engagement with place is most movingly exemplified in his journal, especially in the 1850s after he's mastered the art of observation and nuanced, efficient description of specific natural phenomena and environmental conditions. His early entries in the journal are abstract mini-essays on such topics as truth, beauty, and "The Poet," but over time the journal notations become so immersed in the direct experience of the more-than-human world, in daily sensory experiences, that the pronoun "I" even drops out of many of these records. Lawrence Buell aptly describes this Thoreauvian mode of expression as "self-relinquishment" (156) in his 1995 book The Environmental Imagination, suggesting such writing "question[s] the authority of the superintending consciousness. As such, it opens up the prospect of a thoroughgoing perceptual breakthrough, suggesting the possibility of a more ecocentric state of being than most of us have dreamed of" (144-45). By the time Thoreau wrote "Windy. Elms bare" (372) as his single entry for October 6 and 7, 1853, he had entered what we might call an "ecocentric zone of consciousness" in his work, attaining the ability to channel his complex perceptions of season change (including meteorology and botany and even his own emotional state) into brief, evocative prose.

10I certainly do not expect my students to be able to do such writing after only a brief introduction to the course and to Thoreau's own methods of journal writing, but after laying the foundation of the Thoreauvian philosophy of nearby travel and explaining to my students what I call the "building blocks of the personal essay" (description, narration, and exposition), I ask them to engage in a preliminary journal-writing exercise that involves preparing five journal entries, each "a paragraph or two in length," that offer detailed physical descriptions of ordinary phenomena from their lives (plants, birds, buildings, street signs, people, food, etc.), emphasizing shape, color, movement or change, shadow, and sometimes sound, smell, taste, and/or touch. The goal of the journal entries, I tell the students, is to begin to get them thinking about close observation, vivid descriptive language, and the potential to give their later essays in the class an effective texture by balancing more abstract information and ideas with evocative descriptive passages and storytelling.

11I am currently teaching this class, and I am writing this article in early September, as we are entering the fourth week of the semester. The students have just completed the journal-writing exercise and are now preparing to write the first of five brief essays on different aspects of Moscow that will eventually be braided together, as discrete sections of the longer piece, into a full-scale literary essay about Moscow, Idaho, from the perspective of a traveler. For the journal exercise, my students wrote some rather remarkable descriptive statements, which I think bodes well for their upcoming work. One student, Elizabeth Isakson, wrote stunning journal descriptions of a cup of coffee, her own feet, a lemon, a basil leaf, and a patch of grass. For instance, she wrote:

Steaming hot liquid poured into a mug. No cream, just black. Yet it appears the same brown as excretion. The texture tells another story with meniscus that fades from clear to gold and again brown. The smell is intoxicating for those who are addicted. Sweetness fills the nostrils; bitterness rushes over the tongue. The contrast somehow complements itself. Earthy undertones flower up, yet this beverage is much more satisfying than dirt. When the mug runs dry, specks of dark grounds remain swimming in the sunken meniscus. Steam no longer rises because energy has found a new home.

12For the grassy lawn, she wrote:

Calico with shades of green, the grass is yellowing. Once vibrant, it's now speckled with straw. Sticking out are tall, seeding dandelions. Still some dips in the ground have maintained thick, soft patches of green. The light dances along falling down from the trees above, creating a stained-glass appearance made from various green shades. The individual blades are stiff enough to stand erect, but they will yield to even slight forces of wind or pressure. Made from several long strands seemingly fused together, some blades fray at the end, appearing brittle. But they do not simply break off; they hold fast to the blade to which they belong.

13The point of this journal writing is for the students to look closely enough at ordinary reality to feel estranged from it, as if they have never before encountered (or attempted to describe) a cup of coffee or a field of grass—or a lemon or a basil leaf or their own body. Thus, the Thoreauvian objective of practicing home-cosmography begins to take shape. The familiar becomes exotic, note-worthy, and strangely beautiful, just as it often does for the geographical travel writer, whose adventures occur far away from where she or he normally lives. Travel, in a sense, is an antidote to complacency, to over-familiarity. But the premise of my class in Thoreauvian travel writing is that a slight shift of perspective can overcome the complacency we might naturally feel in our home surroundings. To accomplish this we need a certain degree of disorientation. This is the next challenge for our class.

The Blessing of Being Lost

14Most of us take great pains to "get oriented" and "know where we're going," whether this is while running our daily errands or when thinking about the essential trajectories of our lives. We're often instructed by anxious parents to develop a sense of purpose and a sense of direction, if only for the sake of basic safety. But the traveler operates according to a somewhat different set of priorities, perhaps, elevating adventure and insight above basic comfort and security, at least to some degree. This certainly seems to be the case for the Thoreauvian traveler, or for Thoreau himself. In Walden, he writes:

…not until we are completely lost, or turned round,--for a man needs only be turned round once with his eyes shut in this world to be lost,--do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of Nature. Every man has to learn the points of compass again as often as he awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations. (171)

15I could explicate this passage at length, but that's not really my purpose here. I read this as a celebration of salutary disorientation, of the potential to be lost in such a way as to deepen one's ability to pay attention to oneself and one's surroundings, natural and otherwise. If travel is to a great degree an experience uniquely capable of triggering attentiveness to our own physical and psychological condition, to other cultures and the minds and needs of other people, and to a million small details of our environment that we might take for granted at home but that accrue special significance when we're away, I would argue that much of this attentiveness is owed to the sense of being lost, even the fear of being lost, that often happens when we leave our normal habitat.

16So in my class I try to help my students "get lost" in a positive way. Here in Moscow, the major local landmark is a place called Moscow Mountain, a forested ridge of land just north of town, running approximately twenty kilometers to the east of the city. Moscow "Mountain" does not really have a single, distinctive peak like a typical mountain—it is, as I say, more of a ridge than a pinnacle. When I began contemplating this class on Thoreauvian travel writing, the central concepts I had in mind were Thoreau's notion of traveling a good deal in Concord and also the idea of looking at a specific place from many different angles. The latter idea is not only Thoreauvian, but perhaps well captured in the eighteen-century Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai's series of woodblock prints known as 36 Views of Mt. Fuji, which offers an array of different angles on the mountain itself and on other landscape features (lakes, the sea, forests, clouds, trees, wind) and human behavior which is represented in many of the prints, often with Mt. Fuji in the distant background or off to the side. In fact, I imagine Hokusai's approach to representing Mt. Fuji as so important to the concept of this travel writing class that I call the class "36 Views of Moscow Mountain," symbolizing the multiple approaches I'll be asking my students to take in contemplating and describing not only Moscow Mountain itself, but the culture and landscape and the essential experience of Moscow the town. The idea of using Hokusai's series of prints as a focal point of this class came to me, in part, from reading American studies scholar Cathy Davidson's 36 Views of Mount Fuji: On Finding Myself in Japan, a memoir that offers sixteen short essays about different facets of her life as a visiting professor in that island nation.

17The first of five brief essays my students will prepare for the class is what I'm calling a "Moscow Mountain descriptive essay," building upon the small descriptive journal entries they've written recently. In this case, though, I am asking the students to describe the shapes and colors of the Moscow Mountain ridge, while also telling a brief story or two about their observations of the mountain, either by visiting the mountain itself to take a walk or a bike ride or by explaining how they glimpse portions of the darkly forested ridge in the distance while walking around the University of Idaho campus or doing things in town. In preparation for the Moscow Mountain essays, we read several essays or book chapters that emphasize "organizing principles" in writing, often the use of particular landscape features, such as trees or mountains, as a literary focal point. For instance, in David Gessner's "Soaring with Castro," from his 2007 book Soaring with Fidel: An Osprey Odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba and Beyond, he not only refers to La Gran Piedra (a small mountain in southeastern Cuba) as a narrative focal point, but to the osprey, or fish eagle, itself and its migratory journey as an organizing principle for his literary project (203). Likewise, in his essay "I Climb a Tree and Become Dissatisfied with My Lot," Chicago author Leonard Dubkin writes about his decision, as a newly fired journalist, to climb up a tree in Chicago's Lincoln Park to observe and listen to the birds that gather in the green branches in the evening, despite the fact that most adults would consider this a strange and inappropriate activity. We also looked at several of Hokusai's woodblock prints and analyzed these together in class, trying to determine how the mountain served as an organizing principle for each print or whether there were other key features of the prints—clouds, ocean waves, hats and pieces of paper floating in the wind, humans bent over in labor—that dominate the images, with Fuji looking on in the distance.

18I asked my students to think of Hokusai's representations of Mt. Fuji as aesthetic models, or metaphors, for what they might try to do in their brief (2-3 pages) literary essays about Moscow Mountain. What I soon discovered was that many of my students, even students who have spent their entire lives in Moscow, either were not aware of Moscow Mountain at all or had never actually set foot on the mountain. So we spent half an hour during one class session, walking to a vantage point on the university campus, where I could point out where the mountain is and we could discuss how one might begin to write about such a landscape feature in a literary essay. Although I had thought of the essay describing the mountain as a way of encouraging the students to think about a familiar landscape as an orienting device, I quickly learned that this will be a rather challenging exercise for many of the students, as it will force them to think about an object or a place that is easily visible during their ordinary lives, but that they typically ignore. Paying attention to the mountain, the ridge, will compel them to reorient themselves in this city and think about a background landscape feature that they've been taking for granted until now. I think of this as an act of disorientation or being lost—a process of rethinking their own presence in this town that has a nearby mountain that most of them seldom think about. I believe Thoreau would consider this a good, healthy experience, a way of being present anew in a familiar place.

36 Views—Or, When You Invert Your Head

19Another key aspect of Hokusai's visual project and Thoreau's literary project is the idea of changing perspective. One can view Mt. Fuji from 36 different points of views, or from thousands of different perspectives, and it is never quite the same place—every perspective is original, fresh, mind-expanding. The impulse to shift perspective in pursuit of mindfulness is also ever-present in Thoreau's work, particularly in his personal journal and in Walden. This idea is particularly evident, to me, in the chapter of Walden titled "The Ponds," where he writes:

Standing on the smooth sandy beach at the east end of the pond, in a calm September afternoon, when a slight haze makes the opposite shore line indistinct, I have seen whence came the expression, "the glassy surface of a lake." When you invert your head, it looks like a thread of finest gossamer stretched across the valley, and gleaming against the distinct pine woods, separating one stratum of the atmosphere from another. (186)

20Elsewhere in the chapter, Thoreau describes the view of the pond from the top of nearby hills and the shapes and colors of pebbles in the water when viewed from close up. He chances physical perspective again and again throughout the chapter, but it is in the act of looking upside down, actually suggesting that one might invert one's head, that he most vividly conveys the idea of looking at the world in different ways in order to be lost and awakened, just as the traveler to a distant land might feel lost and invigorated by such exposure to an unknown place.

21After asking students to write their first essay about Moscow Mountain, I give them four additional short essays to write, each two to four pages long. We read short examples of place-based essays, some of them explicitly related to travel, and then the students work on their own essays on similar topics. The second short essay is about food—I call this the "Moscow Meal" essay. We read the final chapter of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (2006), "The Perfect Meal," and Anthony Bourdain's chapter "Where Cooks Come From" in the book A Cook's Tour (2001) are two of the works we study in preparation for the food essay. The three remaining short essays including a "Moscow People" essay (exploring local characters are important facets of the place), a more philosophical essay about "the concept of Moscow," and a final "Moscow Encounter" essay that tells the story of a dramatic moment of interaction with a person, an animal, a memorable thing to eat or drink, a sunset, or something else. Along the way, we read the work of Wendell Berry, Joan Didion, Barbara Kingsolver, Kim Stafford, Paul Theroux, and other authors. Before each small essay is due, we spend a class session holding small-group workshops, allowing the students to discuss their essays-in-progress with each other and share portions of their manuscripts. The idea is that they will learn about writing even by talking with each other about their essays. In addition to writing about Moscow from various angles, they will learn about additional points of view by considering the angles of insight developed by their fellow students. All of this is the writerly equivalent of "inverting [their] heads."

Beneath the Smooth Skin of Place

22Aside from Thoreau's writing and Hokusai's images, perhaps the most important writer to provide inspiration for this class is Indiana-based essayist Scott Russell Sanders. Shortly after introducing the students to Thoreau's key ideas in Walden and to the richness of his descriptive writing in the journal, I ask them to read his essay "Buckeye," which first appeared in Sanders's Writing from the Center (1995). "Buckeye" demonstrates the elegant braiding together of descriptive, narrative, and expository/reflective prose, and it also offers a strong argument about the importance of creating literature and art about place—what he refers to as "shared lore" (5)—as a way of articulating the meaning of a place and potentially saving places that would otherwise be exploited for resources, flooded behind dams, or otherwise neglected or damaged. The essay uses many of the essential literary devices, ranging from dialogue to narrative scenes, that I hope my students will practice in their own essays, while also offering a vivid argument in support of the kind of place-based writing the students are working on.

23Another vital aspect of our work together in this class is the effort to capture the wonderful idiosyncrasies of this place, akin to the idiosyncrasies of any place that we examine closely enough to reveal its unique personality. Sanders's essay "Beneath the Smooth Skin of America," which we study together in Week 9 of the course, addresses this topic poignantly. The author challenges readers to learn the "durable realities" of the places where they live, the details of "watershed, biome, habitat, food-chain, climate, topography, ecosystem and the areas defined by these natural features they call bioregions" (17). "The earth," he writes, "needs fewer tourists and more inhabitants" (16). By Week 9 of the semester, the students have written about Moscow Mountain, about local food, and about local characters, and they are ready at this point to reflect on some of the more philosophical dimensions of living in a small academic village surrounded by farmland and beyond that surrounded by the Cascade mountain range to the West and the Rockies to the East. "We need a richer vocabulary of place" (18), urges Sanders. By this point in the semester, by reading various examples of place-based writing and by practicing their own powers of observation and expression, my students will, I hope, have developed a somewhat richer vocabulary to describe their own experiences in this specific place, a place they've been trying to explore with "open minds and notebooks." Sanders argues that

if we pay attention, we begin to notice patterns in the local landscape. Perceiving those patterns, acquiring names and theories and stories for them, we cease to be tourists and become inhabitants. The bioregional consciousness I am talking about means bearing your place in mind, keeping track of its condition and needs, committing yourself to its care. (18)

24Many of my students will spend only four or five years in Moscow, long enough to earn a degree before moving back to their hometowns or journeying out into the world in pursuit of jobs or further education. Moscow will be a waystation for some of these student writers, not a permanent home. Yet I am hoping that this semester-long experiment in Thoreauvian attentiveness and place-based writing will infect these young people with both the bioregional consciousness Sanders describes and a broader fascination with place, including the cultural (yes, the human) dimensions of this and any other place. I feel such a mindfulness will enrich the lives of my students, whether they remain here or move to any other location on the planet or many such locations in succession.

25Toward the end of "Beneath the Smooth Skin of America," Sanders tells the story of encountering a father with two young daughters near a city park in Bloomington, Indiana, where he lives. Sanders is "grazing" on wild mulberries from a neighborhood tree, and the girls are keen to join him in savoring the local fruit. But their father pulls them away, stating, "Thank you very much, but we never eat anything that grows wild. Never ever." To this Sanders responds: "If you hold by that rule, you will not get sick from eating poison berries, but neither will you be nourished from eating sweet ones. Why not learn to distinguish one from the other? Why feed belly and mind only from packages?" (19-20). By looking at Moscow Mountain—and at Moscow, Idaho, more broadly—from numerous points of view, my students, I hope, will nourish their own bellies and minds with the wild fruit and ideas of this place. I say this while chewing a tart, juicy, and, yes, slightly sweet plum that I pulled from a feral tree in my own Moscow neighborhood yesterday, an emblem of engagement, of being here.

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Bibliography

BUELL, Lawrence, The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture, Harvard University Press, 1995.

DAVIDSON, Cathy, 36 Views of Mount Fuji: On Finding Myself in Japan, Duke University Press, 2006.

DUBKIN, Leonard, "I Climb a Tree and Become Dissatisfied with My Lot." Enchanted Streets: The Unlikely Adventures of an Urban Nature Lover, Little, Brown and Company, 1947, 34-42.

GESSNER, David, Soaring with Fidel: An Osprey Odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba and Beyond, Beacon, 2007.

ISAKSON, Elizabeth, "Journals." Assignment for 36 Views of Moscow Mountain (English 208), University of Idaho, Fall 2018.

SANDERS, Scott Russell, "Buckeye" and "Beneath the Smooth Skin of America." Writing from the Center, Indiana University Press, 1995, pp. 1-8, 9-21.

SLOVIC, Scott, "Teaching with Wolves", Western American Literature 52.3 (Fall 2017): 323-31.

THOREAU, Henry David, "October 1-20, 1853", Being in the World: An Environmental Reader for Writers, edited by Scott H. Slovic and Terrell F. Dixon, Macmillan, 1993, 371-75.

THOREAU, Henry David, Walden. 1854. Princeton University Press, 1971.

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References

Bibliographical reference

Scott Slovic, « 36 Views of Moscow Mountain: Teaching Travel Writing and Mindfulness in the Tradition of Hokusai and Thoreau », Caliban, 59 | 2018, 41-54.

Electronic reference

Scott Slovic, « 36 Views of Moscow Mountain: Teaching Travel Writing and Mindfulness in the Tradition of Hokusai and Thoreau », Caliban [Online], 59 | 2018, Online since 01 June 2018, connection on 01 March 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/caliban/3688 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/caliban.3688

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About the author

Scott Slovic

University of Idaho
Scott Slovic is University Distinguished Professor of Environmental Humanities at the University of Idaho, USA. The author and editor of many books and articles, he edited the journal ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment from 1995 to 2020. His latest coedited book is The Routledge Handbook of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication (2019).

By this author

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Copyright

Licence Creative Commons
Caliban – French Journal of English Studies est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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