Barbara Hurd’s essays have appeared in Best American Essays, The Yale Review, and Orion. The recipient of a 2002 NEA Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction, winner of the Sierra Club’s National Nature Writing Award and Pushcart Prizes in 2004 and 2007, Barbara Hurd teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
LISTENING TO THE SAVAGE: RIVER NOTES AND HALF-HEARD MELODIES
“As with few other nature writers—a small handful of the singing poets, like Mary Oliver and W.S. Merwin—one enters the brilliant desert, blue mountain, what-have-you—with verve and hunger, when Barbara Hurd is the guide.”
A mesmerizing meditation on sound, silence and listening, written by “a consummate naturalist…with the grace and precision of a Peter Matthiessen or an Annie Dillard” (Los Angeles Times), award-winning author Barbara Hurd has made an art of calling our attention to the finest details of the world around us.
In LISTENING TO THE SAVAGE, Hurd explores the intricacies of our senses while lying amid ferns on a forest floor with her granddaughter, wading through the gurgling Savage River, or striking a tonic chord at the piano. Reflecting also on the varied meanings of silence in nature, Hurd grounds the text in evolutionary wonders such as the prey that stops its heartbeat for acoustic invisibility, or the spadefoot toad that hibernates underground until it hears rain.
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WALKING THE WRACK LINE: ON TIDAL SHIFTS AND WHAT REMAINS
“Barbara Hurd writes about people with the canny poise of Cheever, and about nature with the loving exactitude of Thoreau. And everywhere in her work is a speculative energy and elegance that make her essays a rare achievement.”
Barbara Hurd’s graceful essays flow from musings on objects she finds at the beach’s “wrack lines.” As she brings light to often-overlooked and mysterious aspects of the natural world, she grapples with life’s most difficult lessons, such as brokenness, aging and loss. Writing from beaches as far-flung as Morocco, St. Croix, or Alaska, and as familiar as California and Cape Cod, she helps us see beauty in the gruesome feeding process of the moon snail. She holds up an encrusted, still-sealed message bottle to make tangible the emotional divide between mother and daughter. The book began on a beach, Hurd says, “with the realization that a lot of what I care about survives in spite of—perhaps because of—having been broken or lost for a while in backward drift. Picking up egg cases, stones, shells, I kept turning them over—in my hands and in my mind.”
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ENTERING THE STONE: ON CAVES AND FEELING THROUGH THE DARK
“Reading ENTERING THE STONE is not unlike exploring a cave system. The layout may be unclear... But then, unexpectedly, a seemingly unconnected chamber will converge with other passages and you find yourself in an expansive space and feel you've encountered something enlightening.”
—New York Times Book Review
*A Library Journal Best Natural History Book of the Year*
In this exhilarating work, Barbara Hurd explores some of the most extraordinary places on earth, from sacred caves in India to secret caves in Arizona. With passionately informed prose, Hurd makes these strange dark spaces come to light, illuminating the natural history and spiritual territory of caves as powerfully as Kathleen Norris portrayed the Dakotas. ENTERING THE STONE provides an awe-inducing tour through a fragile and beautiful subterranean world.
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STIRRING THE MUD: ON SWAMPS, BOGS AND HUMAN IMAGINATION
“Hurd is a consummate naturalist, writing with the grace and precision of a Peter Matthiessen or an Annie Dillard.”
—Los Angeles Times
*A Los Angeles Times Book of the Year, 2001*
In these nine evocative essays, Barbara Hurd explores the seductive allure of bogs, swamps, and wetlands. Hurd’s forays into the land of carnivorous plants, swamp gas, and bog men provide fertile ground for rich thoughts about mythology, literature, Eastern spirituality, and human longing. In her observations of these muddy environments, she finds ample metaphor for human creativity, imagination, and fear.