NWORA Remembrance Vol.4 - NE99

NE99

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Forget-me-not 86 "His mind was starting to work. He knew that he could choke it because he was tired enough." Ernest Hemingway: "Big Two-hearted River." M ost critics of Ernest Hemingway's short fiction have pointed out that his main character is usually a "shell-shocked" veteran of the First World War. In the larger fictions the protagonist has usually suffered an unseen physical wound of some sort, the lingering effects of which are both actual and emotional impotence. The main character, often named Nick Adams - thus marking him as a universal archetype – a kind of Everyman whose salvation, if not his destiny, like the original Adam's, is to be found in the "garden," amongst the flora and fauna of several continents. In "Big Two-hearted River," the means of maintaining mental equilib- rium is by trout-fishing "up in Michigan," and by engaging and overcoming natural features and obstacles in the terrain, managing to suppress importunate ghosts and demons. But Hemingway was by no means the first writer to dwell upon the beneficial effects that close contact with nature can have upon the troubled human soul. And the salubrious experience of communing with the natural world has been long understood. The Roman poet Virgil (70-19) BC is justly famous for his masterpiece, The Aeneid, a fabulous account of the founding of Rome by homeless Greek veterans of the Trojan War led by the hero Aeneas. But it was with his Eclogues that Virgil established his reputation as a major poet, and with the Georgics, based on the Greek word for "earth," he created a new masterpiece that drew upon the long-established tradition of Greek pastoral poetry, impressing it into an Italian mould and creating the matrix within which a rich Europe-wide tradition grew and developed into a genre. The Eclogues, also known as the Bucolics after the Greek word for "cow," unfolds under less-than-tranquil circumstances. Its shepherds tend their flocks amid both the yearnings of unrequited love but also the pressures of the civil war that followed upon the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. Forced from their homes the dispossessed shepherds voice their heart-felt longing for peace. A celebration of Italy and the country's natural beauty, the work rejoices in the values of rustic piety, the pleasures of family life and the vitality of the Italian people: "Oh! All too happy tillers of the soil, could they but know their blessedness, for whom, far from the clash of arms all-equal earth pours from the ground herself their easy fare." Stephanie Westlund's research for her PhD has confirmed what writers such as Virgil and Hemingway seem to have learned by intuition. She writes: "Researchers studying stress recovery propose that the importance of nature in human life stems from the fact that the human brain co-evolved with other creatures and with rivers, oceans, rocks, deserts, winds, skies, trees and plants. While over the years humanity has experienced high rates of cultural and technological change, the rate of biological evolution has been quite slow, which means that human nervous systems today are virtually the same as those of our long-ago ancestors. Indeed, the ONLY NATURAL A Review Essay by Terence Cottrell BA(Hons), MA, JD. Book review Remembrance Vol.4 Field Exercises: How Veterans are Healing Themselves through Farming and Outdoor Activities, By Stephanie Westlund, 2014, New Society Publishers, PO Box 189 Gabriola Island, BC V0R 1X0, Paper, 229 pp. with illustrations, $17:95.

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