What does it mean to know a place? What might we learn about the world by returning to the same place year after year, say for a hundred years? What would a long-term record of such visits tell us about change and permanence and our place in the natural world?
These are some of the questions explored by the essays and poems collected in Reading Shaver's Creek: Ecological Reflections from an Appalachian Forest, edited by Ian Marshall, professor of English and environmental studies at Penn State Altoona. The book offers a "best of" collection from the first decade of the "Long-Term Ecological Reflections Project" at Shaver's Creek Environmental Center and Stone Valley Experimental Forest.
The idea of the project is that for the next 100 years, visiting nature writers will trek to eight designated sites in Stone Valley, recording at each site what they see, experience, and think about, with their observations informed by their academic background or unique creative approach. A mammalogist, then, might evaluate the site as habitat, while a poet may write a haiku.
Reading Shaver's Creek, the new collection from the first 10 years of the project, was published this month by Penn State University Press. Hailed by environmental philosopher and writer Kathleen Dean Moore for providing "testimony to the power of creative attention to a special place, and a rollicking good read," the collection features nationally known nature writers and poets like Scott Weidensaul, David Gessner, John Lane, Marcia Bonta, and David Taylor. Also included are writings by Penn State Altoona faculty members Carolyn Mahan, Todd Davis, and Marshall himself.