Patrick McEvoy-Halston ENG 5893H Mark Levene 19 April 2006 Man over Nature: Empowered Man as a Counter

to, and Distraction from, Maternal Nature “It is between mothers and their offspring that these feeding have truly macabre overtones” (Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 182) Can wilderness, Nature, be strongly identified as a place in which individuals disappear, die within, and yet remain, somehow, somewhat impotent? If we look to texts such as Margaret Atwood’s “Death by Landscape” and Surfacing, Andrea Barrett’s Servants of the Map, and Julia Leigh’s The Hunter—all texts in which individuals disappear and die within an ostensibly dangerous wilderness—the answer would look to be, yes. For, owing to the fact that we cannot but compare it to aggressive human beings, their culture/civilization, that is, to the truly


empowered, in each of these texts Nature is made to seem relatively powerless. Though in none of these texts is aggressive human culture overtly, unambiguously praised, there is a sense in each of them that it works to facilitate the empowerment of their main protagonists. And, given what we see happening to Annie Dillard as she deals with a truly empowered and brutal Nature in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, it may be that empowering Man in these narratives is something most writers are want to do, for fear of what they might otherwise be involving themselves in an encounter with a power they dare not confront—uninhibited maternal power. In Atwood’s “Death by Landscape” the wilderness is at first made to seem eerie and powerful. Lois looks at pictures of the Canadian wilderness and “find[s] them [not] peaceful in the least” (100). They are not tame, landscape paintings. Instead, we are told, these paintings depict a wilderness in which “you can become lost almost as soon as you step off the path. There are no backgrounds in any of these paintings, no vistas; only a great deal of foreground

2 that goes back and back, endlessly, involving you in its twists and turns of tree and branch and rock” (118). They depict a wilderness in which her childhood friend, Lucy, vanished. One might say that Nature took her, made claim to her, but given how Lucy is portrayed, this particular way of articulating Lucy’s relationship to Nature would have to be deemed dangerously misleading— false, for nowhere in the text is there a sense of Lucy as someone wilderness could readily make claim to. She is introduced as someone whose kind tames Nature. She is from America, the land of conquistatorial popular culture. She belongs to a social circle which readily domesticates lakes and grassy fields in pursuit of prestige. Her kind goes to camp, but camp isn’t serious to them— it is something they do when young, before they move on to golf courses and the adult routine. Her kind comes close to being better than camp; and Lucy clearly is superior to the particular camp, Camp Manitou, and knows as much: We are told “she cast a look of minor scorn around the cabin, diminishing it” (104). The camp is akin to one someone of her social status would involve herself with—it is still one which tends to the children of the fairly well off, but she, someone whose parents are affluent enough to have a maid who daily ensures their property is well kept, that it never runs down, does not really belong at a camp which, with its “battered” “furniture,” its “peel[ed]” “trims,” its “lead[y] roofs,” was “not entirely shipshape” (102). She is better than the camp, and the camp seems to know as much. She uses the camp in her preferred manner, without negative consequences. She couldn’t care less that she doesn’t know the French words to campfire songs. She is made to seem indifferent to exacting camp rules, such as punctuality—“Lucy is careless of time” (111). She indeed seems to be all about willful transgression, effective willful transgression, for we are told “[t]hey did not get caught, but then they rarely got caught at any of the camp transgressions. Lucy had such large eyes, and

3 was such an accomplished liar” (106). Camp might annoy, but not truly trouble: her troubles arise from her life at home. And the camp, the wilderness, proves means by which she can address them. Lucy kills herself in the wilderness, but her troubles do not make her seem, prey. They make her seem exciting, enfranchised, and she knows as much. After she listens to Lois’ relatively inconsequent troubles, we are told she says, “‘You’re so lucky,’ [. . .] a little smugly” (106). The moment of her death seems associated, too, with her ability to readily handle her inconsequent surroundings, and to distinguish herself from her inadequate friend. She moves closer to the cliff edge, and bates Lois into thinking she might just jump off it into the lake. It is possible that had we not had some sense from the way the text began that Lucy perishes, we might have suspected her capable of surviving the dive. For Lois “knew that Lucy was an exception, to a good many rules” (104), and the text shows as much. Her troubles concern her home life, her home—the one which borders a lake. However she in fact died, we are keyed to strongly consider it as resulting from a dive into the lake. By making it echo and address her home environment, her suicide is made to seem as if it involves a proprietorial use of the wilderness. The person whom we likely sense could have been appropriated by the wilderness, who could find herself scared, lost and alone amongst a network of trees, is Lois. Immediately after Lucy’s disappearance we are told “that panic was rising in her [Lois], the panic of a small child who does not know where the bigger ones are hidden” (113). Before she met Lucy, she is presented as someone who kowtows to the authority of adults, of larger entities. Though “she hated the necessity of having to write dutiful letters to her parents claiming she was having fun,” she wrote them anyway, and did “not complain” (103). After she befriends Lucy, she is made to seem more rebellious; but in comparison to her bold

4 friend, she still seems inconsequent. Though Lucy didn’t care if she knew the French words to songs, Lois very much did care. Whereas Lucy “always had a surprise or two, something to show, some marvel to reveal” (105), Lois felt her own life was “placid and satisfactory [read: boring]” (106) in comparison. Lucy makes use of her surroundings; Lois is someone who can be readily manipulated by others. The counselor bates her into making it seem as if she pushed Lucy off the cliff. However, this development might actually have served to empower Lois, for it makes her seem someone capable of the kind of dramatic, empowered action, of the kind of shocking surprise, Lucy was capable of—it helps make her seem akin to her. When Lois first intuited Lucy’s greatness, she “felt proprietorial” (104) towards her. She wanted to make claim to her. This was the first time in the text where she seemed her presumptuous friend’s equal. The second time is when we are drawn to consider the possibility that she might have pushed her off the cliff. The text works to make us consider the possibility, for again and again it has informed us of how Lucy taunts and belittles her, that is, it works to make thoughts of vengeance, retribution, something Lois might just at level entertain. Just before Lucy’s disappearance, the text delineates how Lucy taunt/mocked Lois—this time, just after making clear that Lois felt especially primed for some sort of sudden momentous retaliatory gesture. After climbing the inclined path, we are told of how Lois “fe[lt] strong,” that “[t]here are all kinds of things she [was] [. . .] capable of doing” (112). Pushing her off the cliff would have her seem empowered, dangerous, not a victim; it would have been a just (or at least, apt) reply, one she might just at that moment have been capable of. And it may be that because her last memories of Lucy were always to be associated with the thought in others’ minds, in, perhaps, her own mind [we are told she felt “guilty” (113) afterwards], of her killing her, when she looks at the wilderness paintings and sees Lucy she may to some extent see herself—that is,

5 someone who for a moment at least, a moment which could readily made to determine her selfconception thereafter, could not readily be claimed by the wilderness which surrounds her. Linking herself to, making herself momentarily equivalent to, the empowered American for whom Canadian camps, the Canadian wilderness, then, might have made her feel secure to a threat she otherwise would have feared. In Atwood’s Surfacing once again the wilderness is presented as something which might ostensibly claim someone’s life. But once again in this text the principle protagonist, the narrator, is made to seem someone who would not readily be made its prey. She is set apart from her companions, all of whom are made to seem inadequate, all of whom are made to seem as if they could be preyed upon—not so much by the forest, but by Americans. David argues that the Americans are concerned to take over Canada’s resources, to take them over, and the narrator makes it clear, they’d be pushovers. She writes, “if the Movement guerillas were anything like David and Joe they would never make it through the winters. They couldn’t get help from the cities, they would be too far, and the people there would be apathetic, they wouldn’t mind another change of the flag. [. . .] The Americans wouldn’t even have to defoliate the trees, the guerillas would die of starvation and exposure anyway” (97). The Americans are made to seem those who would easily violate Nature [the narrator just assumes that Americans are those who killed the loom], and make claim to it (they would have Canada’s water). And in this they are made to seem akin to the narrator, as she surfaces near the end of the text. For just before she leaves them behind her, she destroys something her friends value—the film they were making, and uses her boyfriend to obtain something she will keep all to herself—a baby [she claims not water, but sperm, from her hapless “friend”]. And in her departure from them, she is the recipient of something else the Americans receive much of from

6 her hapless Canadian friends, their anger, their hatred, and maybe also their fear. But there was something very American about her from the start, for Americans are not just those who successfully aggress, they are those who successfully repel, and she belonged to a family that could ably both advance upon and repel others. She remembers her mother confronting a bear and scaring it away. Her father was someone who moved his family far away from a city he had come to hate, far from anyone else, and thrived. She fears that he might have lost his mind in the wilderness, but he didn’t, and neither does she went she secludes herself in the wild. We are told that she becomes one with Nature, become a part of the landscape, but we shouldn’t be readily persuaded that she well characterizes herself here; for at the end of the text she is too much the individual to seem someone we could readily imagine be a part of anyone or anything. She is her like her father, libertarian (Emersonian), alone, aloof, apart from all others. She writes that the wilderness might make claim to her mind, but “the land and the animals” are things which can be owned and “sold” (132) in this text: they are things which can be possessed. She writes, “[t]hat is the real danger now, the hospital or the zoo, where we are put, species and individual, when we can no longer cope” (190). Nature is still in the unfortunate state she was once in— though it asks nothing, it requires defense and rescue; but, unlike her, cannot manage such by “Herself.” Nature isn’t made to seem vulnerable, in need of protection, in Barrett’s Servants of the Map, but it’s power to threatened and harm ultimately proves inconsequent compared to that the capacity of humans to do the same. Though the text begins with the great danger being the death the harsh mountainous environment could possibly offer Max, this threat diminishes as the text advances. That is, after he survives one of the physical dangers he most feared—a fall, he quickly is made to seem someone capable of managing most threats his new surround might

7 offer him. His mind in fact moves away from the consideration of wilderness’ threats. His major concern becomes the possibility that the mapping he is engaged in, an effort which is succeeding in demarking the Kashmir terrain, might in fact work toward villainous ends—toward facilitating and thereby encouraging, war between nations. And Nature isn’t much of a power in Leigh’s The Hunter, either. It would be, of course, if when M turns into a natural predator and hunts and kills the thylocene, he seemed as if he’d become one or part of Nature. But is this what in fact happened? When he switches into hunting mode, he switches away from someone who was enwrapped in domestic concerns, who is free from Dillard’s “emotional stew,” but he may strike us as having simply switched into a “business” mind set. As a hunter, he is efficient, methodical —he gets the job done. He is metonymically linked to the corporation that preys upon natural resources assuredly, remorselessly, and effectively. That is, if anything, in that his switching seems a movement away from sentimentality and domesticity, it makes him seem as much more the man’s man than it does Nature’s. Given what some psychologists say is true concerning the consequences of experiencing maternal sadism, if the authors of these texts imagined Nature to some extent as the maternal, we might understand why they did as Freud did and made masculine power, civilization, seem more sinister and more potent than maternal power and Nature. Freud made the father the sadistic force. Fear of him forces the child away from the mother, into the cultural realm. Some see the reason Freud’s theory became so popular (especially in the 20s) as arising from the fact that his theories helped people who feared Matriarchal dominion convince themselves that the maternal was in fact relatively benign and weak (see Mary Douglas’ Terrible Honesty). But some psychologists argue that we never are affected by nor fear anything more than we do maternal sadism, vengeance. Joseph Rheingold, for one, argues that unloved mothers end up needing their

8 children more than they love them. They have children so as to satisfy their own unmet needs. When children attempt to individuate, when they attend to their own needs, they quickly learn that this action arouses threats of abandonment, of mutilation, of retribution, from their mothers. Experience of such, according to Rheingold, thereafter becomes the source of the fear of Death. I have suggested that it in each of the previously discussed texts, Nature is made to seem relatively unimportant when compared to human aggression, aggrandizement. At times, this same development occurs in Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. But this text is more one in which Nature’s power is realized; it seems much more one in which Nature’s power to horrify and oppress is akin to that an abandoned mother possesses, as she is understood by psychologists such as Rheingold. When at the end of the text Dillard returns to the giant water bug which sucked the frog, when she says that this encounter with the spider is one which inspired years of nightmares, it likely comes as no surprise to us: the way in which reacted to remembering the incident at the beginning of the text suggests just how affecting, horrifying this initial remembrance was to her. She first conflates the bug amongst all those “carnivorous animals [which] devour their prey alive” (9). She then attends to the beautiful in Nature, switches to thinking of the flight (or dive) of birds, and has us take a “wider view” (11) (and thereby takes her and us away from the disturbing close-up encounter with the water bug). Then she works, seemingly, to rehabilitate the scene she had just recounted for us by delineating for herself a scene in which life force is drained, but which arouses awe rather than horror. She describes the disappearance of the light, as day becomes night, and credits the disappearance to the efforts of some kind of a magician. We are told that “[e]verything is drained of its light as if sucked” (12), that “the sycamore arms snuff out” (13), that “[n]othing is left but an unreal blue and a few banked clouds low in the

9 north” (13), and we might think of how similar this description is to the description of the disappearance of life force from the frog, to this: He didn’t jump; I crept closer. At last I knelt on the island’s winter killed grass, lost, dumbstruck, staring at the frog in the creek just four feet away. He was a very small frog with wide, dull eyes. And just as I looked at him, he slowly crumpled and began to sag. The spirit vanished from his eyes as if snuffed. His skin emptied and dropped; his very skull seemed to collapse and settle like a kicked tent. He was shrinking before my eyes like a deflating football. I watched the taut, glistening skin on his shoulders ruck, and rumple, and fall. Soon, part of his skin, formless as a pricked balloon, lay in floating folds like bright scum on the top of the water: it was a monstrous and terrifying thing. 78 But with the disappearance of the light, we note, it is a magician—a master male orchestrator— not a spider, which is credited with the feat. That the water bug should be understood as the maternal, that her draining of life force is akin to the catastrophic death children fear their mothers might inflict upon them, that the movement from the water bug to the magician is therefore a movement away from maternal to masculine empowerment, is not yet clearly evident in the text. However, her subsequent lambasting of pride, her praise of Nature’s strength and beauty and human kind’s weakness and cruelty, and her depiction of herself as weak and unimportant, is certainly the sort of reaction we would expect from someone who at some level understood the water bug’s attack as akin to that a mother might deliver upon a child who dared individuate from her and make claim to life all her own. She immediately becomes critical of pride, of human pride. She speaks of pride as if it was our original and forever damning sin. She says that “[s]ome unwonted, taught pride diverts

10 us from our original intent, which is to explore the neighborhood” (14). Pride amounts to leaving the neighborhood behind you; it amounts, not to exploring others’ works, but to looking after one’s own. It amounts to leaving the maternal environment, maternal reach, maternal needs. Those who have been subject to maternal sadism will intuit their own self-growth, attendance to their own needs, as the source of their mother’s anger, and will seek to shut down their growth, inhibit it as much as possible, in order to avoid reprisals (the superego’s primary job). They would speak as she does, that is, of our need to cultivate “a healthy poverty and simplicity” (17). They would identify themselves, attach themselves to, the maternal; they would praise her, and lambaste others. They would do as she does when she insists that “[w]e are played on like a pipe” (15), when she insists that we are all “fearful aliens” (22) who “stumble in darkness and hunger” (27), who need to be “taught how dull is our own vision” (31), whose proper reaction to Nature should be one of “gratification and astonishment” (31). They would be like she is when she talks about how she “cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam” (35), when she discusses her “useless interior babble” (35), when she discusses human cruelty—“I’m getting used to this curious human culture which is as cheerfully enthusiastic as it is cheerfully cruel” (43), that is, they would behave exactly as she behaves and thinks in the text until she retreats to her home and deals with Nature, therein. There are psychic benefits to lambasting pride and human arrogance. It can help one feel more worthy of attracting the praise of the maternal, of being attended to (one has demonstrated oneself to be a good boy or girl, one who will not abandon his or her mother, one worthy of receiving praise). But there is a downside: it amounts to foregoing, to some extent, one’s own needs, to making for oneself one’s own “world.” It means to some extent to forgo living. I do not believe that Dillard’s principle concern is to praise Nature, but rather to seriously engage

11 with it so as to engage and fight the Maternal. She may be working her way to turning her back to it—a dangerous feat, for, as the text evidences, and as will be discussed, turning one’s back in this text seems to make on, quarry. Like the others texts considered in this essay, she works to not just derogate human culture and civilization, but to buttress a sense of it as strong. Beginning at the end of section two of “winter,” human civilization begins to seem empowered. In her home, she firmly declares that “things are well in their place” (53), and seems to mean by this that while in her place, her home, Nature, will abide by her rules. She “allows spiders the run of the house” (52). But she will not allow them to spawn all over her there the way she will later gauge it only appropriate—in an act of disturbing act of masochistic surrender—that a host of locusts nibble and rummage all over her. At this point of the text Nature is in fact made to seem something which can be contained, domesticated. She unfolds for us experiences in which various different insects are trapped in mason jars. Nature becomes something vulnerable, something which can be rooted out, and which must be rooted for. That is, Nature’s constituents to some extent become the “fearful aliens” (22) who “stumble in darkness and hunger” (27). Humans, on the other hand, do the caging. Dillard does as much, too. For in her home she keeps a goldfish, contained in a bowl. She even briefly imagines caging the sort of water bug which sucked the frog, so that she might study it. Her thoughts turn to the pleasure she takes in, not being a proper receptacle to onrushing Nature, but in petting a puppy, away from the creek. Whereas at the beginning of the text she was repelled by domesticated fields of cattle, she now takes pleasure in domesticated animals. Her thoughts turn to the city, and we note, she makes the city seem to be all about galleries and libraries: she makes it seem structured, substantial, sturdy. She makes it seem a place so empowered and certain that trees are praised for their ability to pester it.

12 She returns to attending to life on the creek, and says that she prefers the pleasures it offers her to those presented by petting puppies. But she allows into the text some evidence this return may evidence not so much what is right with her, but rather something which might be disturbingly wrong with her. In a section in which she writes of children leaving the creek to go elsewhere, she attends to a pond that is being smothered, clogged by a cover of algae. It seems clear that thinking of the children moving on, has her think of the fate of those left behind, of those who cannot mimic their efforts, and move away from creek life. Surely this is the source of her laughter and glee, when she witnesses a frog finally managing to free itself from the algae and reach the surface. She asks herself if she is “really moving,” and considers the possibility that she is merely “milling about” (123). She has a nightmare in which punishment, blame, and horror arise for her inability to turn her eyes away, to stop herself from obsessively seeing Nature —from not being able to turn her back to it. In this text, however, turning one’s back to something, carries real risks. She imagines God turning her back on his creation at the beginning of the text, and will later direct our attention to how he famously presented His backside to Moses, but everything other than God seems to pay much for attempting such—they become vulnerable to Nature, for she “seems to catch you by the tail,” to “snatch [one] [. . .] from behind” (239). It would require courage to attempt such, then, and we note that when she compares man with God, when she articulates what she might have made of creation, one of the qualities she says she lacks is courage. But it is bold for her to have compared God to man, to have articulated both as capable of fabricating a universe. And given how she presents herself in the text, it is probably right to say that it is not just atypical but bold of her to imagine herself as a maker of a univerrse—even as a clumsy, unimaginative, meek one—because for the most part in the text, she does not identify herself as

13 such; and when she does, it leads to ridicule and humiliation (when she draws a horse, she is laughed at for her poor effort, and made to feel “meek” [20]). Instead, she most often presents herself as someone who receives, whose duty and privilege is to receive Nature, be as open to it as possible. She does characterize herself as a stalker; but we note that when she does so she is ostensibly thinking of herself as an agent of the hunt, as an agent of Nature, as something which serves Nature’s designs rather than those of her own. Makers are altogether different from receivers and stalkers, for making is not just about the attendance of other things, rather, it is about turning one’s back to them: they are not of important: what is made of them is of import. Making is not so much about the attendance of others as it is about attending to oneself. It is the sort of activity that can be inhibited if one’s own self-growth self development as a child was associated with maternal reprisal. (Making—a substantive, active involvement with the world associated with transforming it—is an activity she really does seem concerned to not associate herself with in this text. Even her stay in the city seems to be all about reception: she attends to paintings in galleries, to the scientific work of others.) She admits that man could have made a more benign universe, but she insists their production would have to have amounted to a compromised effort, and is not all that interested in making man’s ability to create seem superior to God’s. But she does strongly criticize God’s efforts. She accuses him of having created a universe which lacks heart, which is unnecessarily cruel. She does not call God cruel, but certainly comes close to such. She works her way to imagining herself berating him for his poor efforts, to literally launching at him, a magnificent, heartfelt, “j’accuse.” If she imagined God as the maternal, this feat would be deemed epic, transformative, by those psychologists who believe that the primary function of the super-ego is to ensure we do nothing we might at some level understand to be overtly critical of the mother.

14 But clearly she imagines God as masculine here, and seems to follow the easier, Freudian way of directing one’s anger. This said, in my judgment she comes fairly close to identifying him with the Maternal. We note that at this point in the text we are not really sure how God is to be distinguished from Nature. God creates Nature. Yes. But Nature creates man: she makes turning her back to the world an effort which would involve turning her back to “[t]he universe which suckled us” (179), it would involve deeming “this world, [her] [. . .] mother, [. . .] a monster” (179). When she describes God as someone who plays upon those who “loved their life” (270), she immediately brings to mind a powerful image of a mother who would play but instead preys upon her child. She refers to an Eskimo story in which a girl is called to her mother’s side. The mother says she will braid her daughter’s hair, but, in an effort to make claim to her daughter’s prize—a young man who is attracted to her daughter—she slits her daughter’s throat. The girl suffers for answering her mother’s call, for trusting her mother, for too willing assuming her mother is well intentioned and benign. She suffers for trusting her mother. She suffers for reaching for something her mother wants: the young man. She suffers, perhaps, for her “pride” (271). The story can be read as dramatizing the reason why children abandon their efforts to be make much of their lives, to not settle for the “ten percents” (274), and perhaps why Dillard, who as a child was told “she reached for the moon” (32), has come to feel that with adulthood she has lost much of her childhood innocence and vitality. It may suggest why she returns again and again to the creek—and the clear depiction here of maternal sadism associated with childhood ambition and pride, may be an effort of hers to deem turning her back to Nature, to memories of maternal vengeance and cruelty, toward an active, more participatory, engagement with the world. We should note that this is not the only time in the text a prideful girl who, with her back turned, is

15 preyed upon by the maternal. Earlier in the text a preying mantis was likened to a mother, and considering the similarity of the descriptions, we may call it back to mind when we hear of how the Eskimo mother slew her daughter. We were told that the preying mantis “looked like a hideous, harried mother slicking up a fat daughter for a beauty pageant, touching her up, slobbering over her, patting and hemming and brushing and stroking” (58). The mantis, we note, is associated with the giant water bug which sucked the frog. They are often referenced together. Indeed, the mantis is the first preying insect she well attends to after the giant water bug. I am suggesting that she might have displaced a more overt comparison of the water bug—the source of all her nightmares, of her lasting trauma—to the maternal onto the mantis, so as to avoid overtly associating the thing which paralyzed her with fear, with the maternal, with her mother. The text does not end with her at war with Nature. It ends instead with dance and praise. But the text might have served to help Dillard work her way to turning her back to Nature. Though with her concluding references to the old tom which once played upon her, to the old water bug, to dance and celebration, we are directed to the beginning of the text, she does not seem to us (or at least to me) the same person at its conclusion as she did at its beginning. Her imagined confrontation with God was nervy. The direction of the text was clearly away from absolving God, absolving Nature. We note how before she imagines unveiling Nature and seeing finding her in fact to be a horrific, and horrifyingly ugly hag, we were told: “I can, however, affirm that corruption is not beauty’s very heart” (245). That is, we note how she turned her back on her previous declaration to once again consider the possibility that Nature’s ostensible beauty, that is, its aspect which redeems all the horrors it otherwise possesses, “is an intricately fashioned lure” (270), a veil behind which one will find at its source, absolute horror.

16 That is, at the end of the text she seems to some extent akin to someone who so stood out at the beginning of the text—namely, Van Gogh. While at the beginning she was so very concerned to make mankind seem pathetic and meek, she also referred to Van Gogh, someone she later describes as having “found nerve to call this world ‘a study that didn’t come off’” (70). He found the nerve to do so, and I believe that particular Nature of the end of the text, with her attendance to all of Nature’s waste and apparent cruelty, shows that by text’s terminus, she has come pretty close to finding such for herself as well. We note that Van Gogh is never made to seem one we could readily imagine as one who is just a “fellow survivor” (243), who “huddles on flotsam” (177), as someone so bestial and pathetic he would “snap at anything that moves” (242) as if he felt caged and helpless in a Mason jar. He is never made to seem someone who, like Dillard, “ambl[es]” (58), “bumbl[es]” (230), and stumbles about, decrying his inability to do this or that. Instead, he, like many of the literate men she turns to in the text for quotes, seems enfranchised and empowered. They seem to know much, and are not cowed by their surroundings. When she writes “that even a hardened entomologist like J. Henri Fabre confessed to being startled witless everytime” (56), it is Fabre who helps making the preying mantis seem significant, not vice-versa. Mantises, after all, can be described as “straggl[ing] about prettily” (57), and again, it is hard to imagine Fabre straggling about anywhere. He indeed is one who, like Van Gogh, is shown to think himself to some extent, Nature’s superior. She writes that Fabre calls the behaviour of certain insects, “imbecile[e]” (67). She places quotation marks around the word, so as to highlight it. Like Van Gogh’s nerviness, it is Fabre’s arrogance which clearly fascinates her. She writes that “it is hard to believe that Nature is partial to such dim-wittedness” (66), but is clearly fascinated by those men who, apparently, with

17 confident, easeful nonchalance are able to cast a belittling eye toward something she is prone to see with such reverence. But she can be arrogant herself. Though at times the ambler, the person who “couldn’t do much of anything useful” (20), who would readily, masochistically, subserviently, imagine herself Nature’s serf (“serf of the meadow” [212), or (just as disturbingly) Nature’s sacrifice, she is also someone who would stand her ground against Nature (255), who would shoot, kick, kill that what she at times reverently attends to. She is someone who at the end, in a nutshell, declares that she will resist the temptation “to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for its-bitsy years on end” (274). She certainly doesn’t seem monkish. She is not the person who advised us to “cultivate a simple poverty and simplicity” (17), to not be counted amongst those for whom pennies have little interest. She most certainly seems different from the person who, after having her drawing of a horse ridiculed by her relatives, meekly drew away and in her solitude, settled for drawing goldfishes. She seems closer to the kind of person who, after aggressively chastising those who veil themselves from Nature, who would look downstream rather than upstream, could move toward turning away from it. She certainly comes to seem emboldened and aggressive, and it may be by text’s end she strikes us as somewhat manly. If she is bold enough to turn her back to Nature, if she feels empowered, nervy enough, to attempt an arrogant and dismissive stand toward it, we intuit that she will use culture and the intellectual work of men (most of those she quotes are men), to support her efforts. For she depicts culture as empowered: it, as much as trees, can protect her from vengeance. In that she comes to conclude that she must bring culture with her when she goes creekside so as to save herself from the brutality she experiences there, she knows it would be a turn toward something kind. I feel it would be a move toward a more participatory

18 relationship to the world around her, and hope willed her way to abandoning a world wholly unworthy of her.

19 Works Cited Atwood, Margaret. Surfacing. Markham: PaperJacks, 1978. ---. “Death by Landscape.” Wilderness Tips. Toronto: Doubleday, 1991. Barrett, Andrea. “Servants of the Map.” Servants of the Map. New York: Norton, 2002. Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York: HarperPerennial, 1998. Rheingold, Joseph. Mother Anxiety and Death: The Catastrophic Death Complex. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1967.

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