Essay 1 - philosophia

ESSAY #1 – On Cultivating Attention through Nature Writing
Overview: The first third of this course is on the theme of attention. Attention is a fundamental
human virtue (excellence) through which we become open to, honest with, and
knowledgeable about the world. Attention is a first hand experience of you being present to
something or someone in a manner that allows that which is outside of you present itself to you.
To write, speak or reflect upon your direct experience is to introduce language into the
experience. This may always seem foreign to the experience. As we learned from Gary Snyder,
however, language is always tied to human experience. Language does not simply impose
order onto a chaotic world, but has its own wildness that works with the order of the world we
are trying to live in. Thus, writing and experience go hand in hand when learning how to be
The genre of “Nature Writing” is thus a way to make available an experience of the natural
world, in all its wildness, available for others through the limits of language.
This writing assignment will help you learn and practice three essential skills to good writing:
1) Descriptive writing: Whether you’re telling a story, giving an account of a scientific
phenomena, or diagnosing a disease, learning how to be descriptive in your speech and
writing is essential to many situations. At its root, descriptive writing allows others to
experience something close to what you experience. It is necessary whether you’re
selling the next big idea to the company you work for, or telling those you care for about
some important experience you underwent.
2) Summary/Paraphrasing: Learning to write concise and effective summaries of complex
texts is a useful skill in any field or job. It can be quite difficult to remain faithful to the
original text’s meaning or intention when one has to summarize in two pages what a 20
page article says. One has to balance the need to be brief and to be comprehensive.
This essay is designed to help you do just that.
3) Integrating your experience with concepts: A key to keeping college and future learning
interesting and relevant to you, is by drawing connections between the ideas of people
you read and your own experience. This assignment, like much of nature writing, brings
descriptive writing and summary/paraphrasing together into one essay.
Write a 800-900 word essay that accomplishes the following:
1) Describes a landscape, object, or natural event that you experienced directly at
North Park Nature Center – (at least 500 words)
2) Connects the description to the ideas of ONE of the readings from the following
authors: Dillard, Edmundson, Pfau or Weil. (at least 200 words) that connects directly
to your description. This must be accomplished by using two techniques: summary of
the article/chapter and paraphrase of a few select sentences of the article.
3) Integrates seamlessly the description of your experience with the ideas from the
author to produce an “Nature Essay” from a distinct point of view or to advance one
key idea.
The final draft of the essays must be:
• Typed, double spaced, with 1 inch margins all around.
• Printed and brought to class on the due date.
• Include your name and date at the top.
• Include a title (of your own choosing) and then includes the author’s
• At the end of the essay, there should be a one line, properly formatted, endnote of the
text that was summarized.
The final grade of the paper will be reduced by half if either of the two requirements are not met.
• All papers must be reviewed by a writing advisor assigned to our class.
• All papers must be free of fragments, run-on sentences, and comma splices. You may
use fragment if you identify them as such immediately following: E.g. “Gently, I cross
the patch of maple leaves. Leaves speckled with spores. (FRAGMENT)”
Due Dates
September 24
October 1
Rough Draft A full 3-4 pages must be brought to class.
Final Draft
Printed and turned in before class via Turn-it-In.
Below are writing aids on descriptive writing and summaries/paraphrasing.
Read through sections of Annie Dillard’s writings as good examples of the kind of writing
project we are going for. She moves between highly descriptive accounts of her own
and summaries of the ideas and research of other authors and scientists.