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Nature, essays merge in Moore’s ‘Riverwalking’

Some of us walk outdoors and see nature in all its splendor.

Others do so and think of books we could write.

Kathleen Dean Moore, a Corvallis, Ore.-based writer and self-described “environmental philosopher,” does both.

A perfect example is the book we’ve chosen as the August read for The Spokesman-Review Book Club: “Riverwalking: Reflections on Moving Water” (Harvest Books, 224 pages, $13 paper).

If you go to Moore’s Web site ( www.riverwalking.com/ index.html), you’ll find her academic resume described this way: “Moore is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and University Writer Laureate at Oregon State University in Corvallis, where she teaches environmental ethics, Native American philosophy and a field course on the philosophy of nature.”

That’s a mouthful. What it means is that Moore is one of those fortunate people who has managed to blend her career with her various avocations – appreciating nature, meditating about her place in the cosmos and writing down her thoughts for the rest of us to share.

As she told the OSU student body during her 2006 commencement benediction, “May you take comfort in the constancy of the earth, daylight and moonlight, meadow and forest, the healing water, the reliable return of frogsong and soft rain. May you be forever surprised by its mystery and grace.”

“Riverwalking,” which was published originally in 1996, is a collection of 20 essays. The array of artfully written observations reflects the range of Moore’s loves: river rafting, hiking and camping, or merely walking along waterways while observing nature – and the nature of her own life – as she passes by.

Consider this excerpt from her piece “The Willamette,” in which she contrasts the human homing instinct with that of annual animal migrations:

“Scientists know so much about homing in animals: Bees orient to polarized light. Salamanders steer by lines of geomagnetic force. Garter snakes follow scent. Pigeons use the position of the sun. Songbirds follow the stars. They are all drawn to a place proved to be safe by hard, undeniable fact of their own existence.

“But who has studied the essential issue: What will draw your own children back home?”

The asking of such questions, culturally referential but personally expressed, has won Moore a number of fans.

“Riverwalking” is a book that Terry Tempest Williams (“Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place”) blurbs as “a smart, compassionate and wise meditation on living in place”

And the literary-review journal Kirkus Reviews says that “Moore’s collection sparkles as brightly as one of her sun-dappled streams.”

It’s August, the month in which we have to consider the reality of summer’s coming end. While ruminating on that eventuality, there are few things more worth doing than reading about “sun-dappled streams.”

Dan Webster can be reached at (509) 459-5483 or by e-mail at danw@spokesman.com.
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