Our newest correspondent is Megan Mayhew Bergman, who will be writing about naturalism. For her first piece she considers the writer Alan Watts and the “age of environmental anxiety.”
For the others, like me, there is only the flash
Of negative knowledge, the night when, drunk, one
Staggers to the bathroom and stares in the glass
To meet one’s madness
—W. H. Auden, “The Age of Anxiety”
Living in rural Vermont, I enjoy proximity to wilderness, though I observe its sickness at close range. In spring, my family marks the return of swallows and red-winged blackbirds on the barn door. But the migrations are off, and the frosts are late, the harvests erratic, and the thaws early. Though the landscape looks bucolic, and the foliage bright, industrial perfluorooctanioic acid poisons our wells and the herons in town fish from polluted ponds. This year, the maple season started three weeks earlier than ever recorded, and some ski resorts saw only a few days of snow.
In the last decade, as I’ve followed the harrowing environmental data, I’ve experienced sharp pangs of human guilt and fear of the future. Fortunately, I’m able to turn to books like medicine in times of crisis. Recently, on an eighty-five degree October day, my crimson dahlias unusually fat and healthy outside, I felt my anxiety bloom and looked to Alan Watts’s The Wisdom of Insecurity, A Message for an Age of Anxiety. Read More