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Let’s have a conversation. Come join me.  We don’t have to be physically present to have this talk.  Mike Bunn and Sue Walker might be standing inside “The Hiding Tree” in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, and discussing what Wildness means.  And we can converse with those who are Faraway.

We are having a conversation with Robert Hass and Edward O. Wilson, who grew up in Mobile, Alabama and calls the Delta, “a 300 square mile sanctuary.”  He says it’s a meeting place for science and the humanities,” a place to explore and dream. 

But . . . you may ask, how can we have a conversation when Wilson, might be at home in Lexington, Massachusetts and Robert Hass might be teaching in a classroom at the University of California in Berkeley?  Well, I have before me a little book of 95 pages: The Poetic Species: A Conversation With Edward O. Wilson And Robert Hass.  I call this February 2020 blog “The Faraway Nearby. The title’s borrowed from the poet, essayist, Rebecca Solnit, who said: “We make our lives out of stories and how we are connected by empathy, by narrative, by imagination.” 

Sue Walker:  Shhh. Listen.  Wilson is talking.

Ed Wilson:  Poetry and science enhance each other. 

Mike Bunn:  This is a shimmering conversation.

Wilson:  Let me introduce Robert Hass.  Folks around here know me.   Robert is an American poet. He served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997. He won the 2007 National Book Award and shared the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for his book, Time and Materials: Poems 1997–2005. He is the co-founder of River of Words, an environmental education for children. We’ve now come up to the borders of the humanities.

Robert Haas:  I teach with a friend who’s a geochemist and a hydrologist.  We teach an environmental studies class for large groups of Berkeley freshmen.  I tell them about John Muir who climbed the highest lodgepole pine he could find and strapped himself to the trunk so he could enjoy the storm and sway back and forth, like conducting a Beethoven symphony.

Bunn:  Here in the Delta, he could stand inside a tree and observe a hurricane from the inside out. 

Wilson:  Education shouldn’t be a matter of saying: Kids, listen up! Here’s what you’ve got to know about elementary biology.  It’s got to be made into a story. I don’t know exactly how to do that, but maybe the humanities can can have a powerful role. I’ve often referred to science and art having the same creative wellspring. The ideal scientist thinks like a poet and works like a bookkeeper. 

Bunn:  We have to go. A boat trip’s leaving in just a few minutes.  John Sledge will talk about the river. Right John?

John Sledge:  Few Alabamians know the actual body of water that surrounds the Bankhead and Wallace Tunnels. It’s the Mobile River. Come aboard.  We can converse on the Delta Explorer and speak of how words matter.

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