In his books on butterflies and the natural history of the Rockies and Pacific Northwest, Robert Michael Pyle has combined rigorous science with graceful expression--a blessing for his readers, and a model for other interpreters of nature.
In Walking the High Ridge, Pyle describes his development as a writer and lepidopterist ("my most important classes in school," he writes, "were typing and plant pathology"), helped along by mentors and "sacred texts" like The Origin of Species and A Field Guide to the Butterflies of North America. Readers familiar with Pyle's work will appreciate his account of how several recurrent themes in his work came into being, among them what he calls "the extinction of experience," which is given book-length voice in The Thunder Tree.
Students of nature writing will appreciate, too, his views on the craft. One, gently stated, is a devotion to appropriate technology (meaning pencils, paper, and binoculars). Another is a concern for natural literacy and for finding one's place in the world. "I tell students," he writes in his amiable memoir, "that a nature writer can be thought of as an amanuensis to the land: the land speaks, we take dictation, and by dint of great attentiveness, care, love, and luck, we might get some of the words right." --Gregory McNamee
For Robert Michael Pyle, "walking the high ridge" is a way of life both figuratively and literally. In his latest book he describes in compelling detail his efforts to live and work in that special natural space Nabokov described as "a high ridge where the mountainside of scientific knowledge joins the opposite slope of artistic imagination."
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