Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On Earth and Sky

Loren Eiseley

The early nineties (which was so last century) found me working in a large, independent bookstore. It was my ideal job. I had no desk, no deadlines, and no day planner.

I showed up. I waited on customers - face-to-face or on the phone. I worked the checkout counter. I shelved books. At the end of my day, I grabbed my purse and walked out the door.

What wasn't there to like?

I was responsible for the upkeep of four different sections in the store: 

Romance - this was the least interesting to me but was a very popular section. All those sagas by Danielle Steel and LaVyrle Spencer.

Animals - books on different dog and cat breeds, dog training, pet birds, reptiles.

Gardening - how to design gardens and fill them with flowers, trees, and shrubs.

Nature and Science - everything from the musings of Thoreau to the lectures of physicist Richard Feynman.

Which brings me in a roundabout way to Loren Eiseley whose writings were the subject in today's entry in Darwin's Orchestra by Michael Sims, an almanac of short essays on 'Nature and History in the Arts' which I am enjoying reading each morning.

I remember Mr. Eisley's name from my Nature and Science section although I never did read any of his writings. He has many: fifteen books, two memoirs, and three books of poetry.

Mr. Eiseley (1907-1977) was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. He graduated from the University of Nebraska and received a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania where he taught for three decades. He wrote essays about the earth and the cosmos. He was a naturalist and a philosopher and a poet. A lovely combination. 

So now my interest is piqued. I enjoy reading about the natural world from a literary point of view. I am thinking here of Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire. Perhaps, now, I can add Mr. Eiseley to my list. It looks as if The Immense Journey (1957) or The Unexpected Universe (1969) might be a good starting point.

What say you? Are you familiar with Loren Eiseley and his thoughts on earth and sky? 


  1. No, I am not familiar with books by Loren Eiseley but he went on my TBR list as have others you've mentioned on your blog. As always, so many books, so little time. Maybe when I retire, though I've heard tell it doesn't work out that way. Late nights reading turn to snoozing after a couple pages...

    Joyce in KS

    1. Well, Joyce, we will have to discover Mr. Eiseley together.

      I am not sure retirement solves the 'so many books' dilemma. Then it becomes 'so many places to see, so many interests to explore.'

  2. I am not familiar with Mr. Eiseley, Belle. It sounds like he is a writer I might enjoy, so, he is now on my TBR list.

    1. Upon further investigation, Penny, I discovered that Mr. Eiseley wrote the story about the man on the beach throwing stranded starfish back into the ocean. It ends:

      "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

      To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

      Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!

      "At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
      "It made a difference for that one.”

  3. Belle, how great that you used to work in an independent bookstore! That would be my dream, I think, if I could find one. Not here, alas.

    I'm sure you learned a lot by stocking those four sections.

    The name Eiseley is vaguely familiar, but I've never read him. I do like Nebraska writers, though, so I'll have to look him up. Many of my favorites, Willa Cather, Bess Streeter Aldrich, were Nebraskans!

    1. Alas, the bookstore is no more. It was bought by Borders which sealed its fate.

      I loved those sections. I also stocked Antiques and Collectibles. I was a busy book shelver. And my feet hurt all the time. Sometimes I just wanted to get home and soak them in ice cream!

      I know you have written about Cather and Aldrich. I thought maybe you would be familiar with Mr. Eiseley. Now we can all see what we think of him and his Universe.