John Elder lives with his family in Vermont where he has been teaching at Middlebury College for 27 years. He has left his mark upon the growing genre of nature writing, as Scott Slovic charts in the second half of this paperback with a biographical profile of Elder and a complete bibliography of his published works.
In one of the three fascinating essays here, Elder’s recalls how Scott Russell Sanders, a friend, once asked him if there was any system to the jumbled bookshelves in his office. The library, he explains, reveals various impulses, not a design. Elder, an English professor, loves the nature writing of Sanders, Wendell Berry, Rick Bass, and Terry Tempest Williams. He is also a great fan of the poetry of Gary Snyder, A. R. Ammons, and Mary Oliver. And his latest reading interest, spurred by a sabbatical in Japan, is the haiku tradition of Basho.
Elder’s religious quest is also eclectic. He was raised in a Southern Baptist family, went on to participate in the Quaker tradition, and has gotten involved in Buddhist practice. He now humorously refers to himself as a Zen Baptist.
Elder rejoices in his home state of Vermont where wilderness is recovering. One percent of the land there has federal protection. In the closing essay, the author writes about his family’s adventure in building a sugarhouse on their property near Bristol.