At Home in the Natural World

holdfastWith the finely honed skills of an essayist, the heightened sensibility of a naturalist, and the carefully reasoned mind of a philosopher, Kathleen Dean Moore examines our connections to what we most deeply value. In a quest for the metaphorical holdfast—the structure at the end of seaweed strands that attach to rocks with a grip that even ocean gales cannot rend—Moore seeks to understand what holds her firmly to family and place.

In twenty elegant, probing essays, she meditates on connection and separation: the sense of brotherhood fostered by communal wolf howls; the inevitability of losing our children to their own lives; her own mischievousness as she takes candy from her unwitting students on Halloween; the sublimity of life and longing in the creatures of the sea; her agonizing decision when facing her father’s death. She is joyous, playful, and mournful. From the Oregon coast she calls home to Alaskan shores, Moore travels geographically and philosophically, leaving no doubt of her virtuosity and range. (Publisher’s description)

“We must love life, as Dostoyevsky told us. We must love life, and some meaning may grow from that love. But ‘if love of life disappears, no meaning can console us.’

“What is it all for, this magnifying-glass-in-the-sun focus on being, this marshland, this wetness, this stewpot, this great splashing and thrusting, this determination among the willows, the colors, the plumage, the effort, the noise, the complexity that leaves no note.

“Nothing, I think, except to continue.

“This is the testimony of the marsh: Life directs all its power to one end, and that is to continue to be. A marsh at nightfall is life loving itself. Nothing more. But nothing less, either, and we should not be fooled into thinking this is a small thing.”

Listen to the audio here.



Gary Snyder, author of Turtle Island

"The natural world is not just rocks and bears, it is close and familiar. I am stoked by how Holdfast makes that familiarity fresh and exciting. Kathleen Dean Moore's book negotiates between the energies of both critters and people -- coots, kelp, otters, daughters, and more. Her clean, intimate prose shows how learning to howl like a wolf is also learning to howl like a human." -- Gary Snyder, author of Turtle Island

Publishers Weekly

“Reminiscent of the work of Annie Dillard...This collection of twenty-one lyrical essays intently probes the way we are bound to our planet and to one another.” -- Publisher’s Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

“Careful meditations on nature . . . an altogether satisfying collection by a gifted interpreter of the natural world.” – Kirkus Reviews

The Sun

“Kathleen Dean Moore is that rarest of creatures, a grounded philosopher; a philosopher who makes sense; a philosopher who works with the material of real life.” – The Sun