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Holdfast: At Home in the Natural World

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  150 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Riveting, finely crafted essays about family and the natural world, and winner of the 2000 Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award.
Hardcover, 184 pages
Published June 1st 1999 by Lyons Press
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Robert Ryan
Nov 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Several essays really stood out which is what I'm looking for in reading a book like this(something relatable to my experiences). The essay "the song of the canyon wren" described something I've known my entire life, even as a child, but have never shared nor even knew how to put it into words! Moore says it perfectly for me... Finding the (Real Church) in "Incoming Tide" is momentous and something I've known for quite awhile and am always trying to share with others through my art and ...more
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is my second time reading this fine essays by one of my favorite local authors. Favorite quote: "When people lock themselves in their houses at night and seal the windows shut to keep out storms, it is possible to forget, sometimes for years and years, that human beings are part of the natural world.'
Sylvia Walker
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, nature
It's taken an unusually long time for me to finish this book, but it's a book to read slowly, and savor. The essay on the song of the canyon wren just struck me as so true and lovely. As the essays progress, the author's children grow up and leave home, and the sadness and wonder of that rang true as well. Not at all sentimental, just very thoughtful.
Sarah Boon
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of KDM's better books of essays, largely because they are tethered in the human world, and link to everyday human concerns. They're not abstract works about the beauty or wonder of nature in and of itself - this is nature as filtered by human experience.
Josephine Ensign
Apr 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is written as a series of very short personal essays. Several of them are powerful but very abbreviated—as if she cuts off mid-sentence, mid-thought just as it is getting interesting (to the reader).
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature-writing
Holdfast opens with a call to pay attention to and honor connections, a call that seems all the more urgent as division, disruption, and separation seem to rule the day. In a series of essays, Moore offers insightful explorations of connections in ecosystems, in human-nature interactions, and in human relationships and how all of these dimensions reflect on each other. Most of the essays start with a personal experience, usually in a lake, forest, or other natural setting. That experience ...more
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this collection of nature essays by Kathleen Dean Moore, but I was a bit jealous, too. I wish I had written them. Then again, would you ever find me kayaking in the open ocean? Camping in the deep woods on the edge of a river? Watching an sea storm at dawn? No, you would not. On the other hand, I might go to an event where I could hear wolves howl or volunteer to teach in "the only place like this." In her last essay, she compares the nature essayist to an osprey, who might catch hold ...more
Her writing reminds me somewhat of that of Loren Eiseley. Very open-ended; she doesn't necessarily give answers to the questions she raises, but uses life experiences to further explore them. The chapters are organized into 3 sections: Connection, Separation, then Connection again.

I loved her description of the song of a canyon wren: "The song of the canyon wren is the sound of falling water. Its bright tones drop off the canyon rim and fall from ledge to ledge a step at a time, sliding down a
Alex Lockwood
Okay but not a patch on Ellen Meloy. There is great passion here and subtle writing in much of the book, but... Just a bit too breathless, and again like most nature writers totally myopic when it comes to the hypocrisies involved in crying over dying starfish suffering as climate change warms their sea home, and then taking the family home to cook a roast beef dinner, not making the connection with how that dinner via animal agriculture is the main cause of climate change. I can’t properly ...more
Wendy Feltham
May 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Kathleen Dean Moore writes beautifully, and her love of the outdoors resonates with me. I liked the influence of philosophy in her writing, as she is a professor of philosophy. However the influence of Dylan Thomas was at times too much, it sounded just like him. This is the second book we've read in my natural history book club. Everyone loved the book. Although I enjoyed it, one or two of the essays would have been enough for me. I guess it was just too much of the same.
Sep 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book about 10 years ago and read 3/4 of it. For some reason, I wasn't engaged and set it aside. Starting over from the beginning, this time the book spoke to me. I admire Moore's ability to articulate her personal relationship to landscape, people, and the process of life. Where I tend to report what I see, Moore interpretes how she feels about what she sees, a far more interesting dynamic.
May 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
There are some beautiful essays in this book, and some just seem like random thoughts. Still, she writes poignantly about nature. Her most recent book, Great Tide Rising, is a far more cohesive, powerful book. I highly recommend her as a writer.
Apr 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Essays on nature, life and motherhood and how they all are intertwined. I loved it. The author is a philosophy at OSU.
Porter Sprigg
I didn't read the whole thing but what I did read was pretty boring. That doesn't necessarily mean it's bad writing. It's just not my taste.
Elizabeth Solet
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Essays that explore relationships of all kinds--with the natural world, the people we love, the people we lose. Weaves together natural history, personal reflection, humor.
Kendal Hansen
Feb 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous book on appreciating the natural world and all it holds for us and future generations.
Jul 12, 2011 added it
I really enjoyed the Prometheus Moth excerpt from the text. It was very relatable and I would like to read the entire book at some point.
Aug 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I love these essays. So thoughtful and true. Had to re-read during this stressful scientific reading part of my life as an escape. Nice.
Eva Thompson
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Second only to Riverwalking, another gem by my one of my favorite writers.
Oct 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A philosophic naturalists view of the world, and what makes us feel safe and at home. A book filled with wonder and comfort.
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
A nice set of essays that combine philosophy and nature. A book for thoughtful reading.
Ellen Behrens
Apr 19, 2019 rated it liked it

Holdfasts are real things: "structures that attach seaweed to rocks with a grip strong enough to withstand winter gales" (according to the back cover blurb). I just wish I could have held fast to this particular collection of essays. Maybe if I'd looked at the biography of the author a little more carefully I would have thought twice: a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy....

To Kathleen Dean Moore's credit, she doesn't debate "shall" versus "will," or "should" versus "ought" as my freshman
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A lovely if somewhat uneven collection of nature writing. I appreciated Moore's philosophical bent. Her writing was sometimes luminous and brilliant (The Song of the Canyon Wren in particular, but also Field Notes for an Aesthetic of Storms), and other articles I found a bit dry. All are quite readable. The good pieces are quite remarkable, more than worth the effort of the whole book.
Dec 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature-writing
Love this book! Takes me to places I can't go in winter!
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Christine Kuhn
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Barbara Prince
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Jan 30, 2018
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Environmental philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore writes about moral, spiritual, and cultural relationships to the natural world. In 2000 she founded the Spring Creek Project at Oregon State, which brings together the practical wisdom of the environmental sciences, the clarity of philosophy, and the emotive power of the written word to re-imagine humankind’s relation to the natural world. In addition ...more