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Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Nature of This Place captures beauty of Sierra Nevada foothills

The Yuba Watershed Institute, a group that seeks to protect natural resources and biological diversity, recently published a new book entitled The Nature of This Place. In it, over 65 contributors illustrate the Sierra Nevada surroundings through art, essays, stories and other literary works.

The book was co-edited by former UC Davis staff member Liese Greensfelder, who has written for the UC Davis New Service, while the foreword was written by UC Davis English professor Gary Snyder.

Dave Comstock, the publisher of the book, spoke highly of Snyder’s skills.

“Gary is a significant leader in various activities,” Comstock said.

Greensfelder said that Snyder has been her friend since childhood.

“He has a vast reservoir of knowledge and he’s a fascinating person to talk with,” Greensfelder said. “He is about consensus and is a man of excellent words and language.”

Many of the book’s contributions come from the Yuba Watershed Institute’s journal, Tree Rings, and its past 22 editions. Greensfelder, who is a science writer and editor, said that the book allowed her to see her community with fresh eyes.

“It’s a joy hearing people’s responses,” Greensfelder said. “It’s amazing looking at nature around you.”

David Lukas, a fellow contributor to the journal and the book, said the Tree Rings journal explores every aspect of the Yuba Watershed.

“It’s a record of a community learning about its place, and grappling with thoughts, ideas and impressions on how to best manage that place,” Lukas said.

“One of the hardest aspects of the whole project was getting contributors to respond to e-mails in a timely fashion,” Lukas said, reflecting on his experience with the editorial team. “I had enough contact with the editorial team to realize how hard their work was.”

Greensfelder had to contact all the contributors of the book, re-edit everything and had to check all of the facts before the book could go up for purchase.

“The book is a labor of love,” Greensfelder said. “It’s a beautiful volume that people are going crazy over.”

The Sierra Nevada foothills community is deeply concerned with taking care of their home. This anthology serves as not only an artistic, literary outlet about the beauty of nature, but it also functions as an educational and highly inquisitive book of reasons why it is essential to care about one’s natural living environment – and beyond.

“These are goals worth achieving and so I applaud and encourage the work,” Comstock said. “None of us will live long enough to objectively measure the longtime value of what we do – but that is the Nature of this Place.”

Works of art, photographs, poems, short stories, essays and articles from 22 editions from a naturalist journal have weaved together to inspire, inform and captivate. Lukas said that his career and personal beliefs focus on learning from the natural world while helping the larger society understand how important the natural world is to our well being.

“I have never had a more rewarding experience than working with a local place-based community where folks have dug their heels in and taken a stand in defense of their local landscape,” Lukas said. “Yes, there is so much to learn and to understand about the natural world, but these things mean little until local communities begin the harder task of learning how to work with each other, then rolling up their sleeves, not being afraid to make lots of mistakes and figuring out how to take care of their place.”

Greensfelder said that she is deeply concerned about the environment since it seems as though humankind is doing its best to destroy natural resources like oceans.

“Nevada County is trying to hold the front lines and redefine the area like the San Juan Ridge. We have powerful forces of development,” Greensfelder said. “I live on 120 acres. If I can preserve that, I’ll feel like I’ve done something.”

As for the book’s impact, those involved have very positive outlooks on adults, whether young or a little more seasoned, and their perceptions on the anthology they helped to construct.

“When you sit with this collection for a while you begin to realize that this is a living record of a profoundly transformative revolution unfolding at this very moment in scattered communities all across the nation,” Lukas said. “Any student who gets this will never look at the world with the same eyes again.”

Greensfelder hopes other people will realize that if the writers and artists who contributed to the book spoke out, readers will be inspired enough to speak out as well.

“Anyone from age 10 to 90 can pick this book up, leaf through it and find something that I hope will be inspirational for them,” Greensfelder said. “It has a mix of sciences. There are some pieces from people who have never published anything, so it shows how you can do something from every different angle and write and think about it.”

LEA MURILLO can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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