Cover image for Holdfast : at home in the natural world
Holdfast : at home in the natural world
Moore, Kathleen Dean.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Lyons Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
176 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Subject Term:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QH81 .M853 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Elegant yet playful essays on connection, memory, family, & place by the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award-winner.

Author Notes

Kathleen Dean Moore is the distinguished professor of philosophy at Oregon State University, and the founding director of OSU's Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

A holdfast, explains Moore in one of many evocations of the beauty of the Oregon coast, is "a fist of knobby fingers" that anchors bullwhip kelp to the ocean floor. Scientists don't fully understand how the powerful adhesive that enables each plant to resist the tug of tides works, leaving naturalist-philosopher Moore free to contemplate the wonder of it and to note that our species needs to create holdfasts of its own. She explores both our gift for connection and propensity for separation in a series of brief, finely crafted essays that link personal experience with expert observations. There is, she asserts, "a kind of rootedness" in the practice of being aware of life and of cherishing memories. Animals appear often in her essays, as do family members, conspicuous weather, glorious celestial moments, and the shock of a forest clear-cut. Because a deep attentiveness to life brings both joy and sorrow, the meaning of our existence, Moore suggests, is to love the world in all its vagaries. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Reminiscent of the work of Annie Dillard and others who have combined their observations of the natural world with philosophical reflections, this collection of 21 lyrical essays by the author of Riverwalking intently probes the ways we are bound to our planet and to one another. Moore's governing metaphor is the "holdfast," a mysterious structure that glues algae to the ocean floor. In "Howling with Strangers," she describes an evening when she and six other people gathered in the Minnesota woods to listen to wolves howling and to howl in return, an exercise that left Moore with a feeling of joyful connection to the universe. In an effort to conjure the details of the boathouse on the island in Ontario where her husband's family summered, Moore calls her husband's parents in "Memory (the Boathouse)" and finds comfort as they grope together for memories (of "new pine boards and gasoline" and the beaver who lived in a corner under a pile of sticks) like "children holding hands in the dark." Although, as a philosopher, Moore does not assign special meaning to life, she takes great pleasure in the "preening, threatening, posturing" birds and the raucous chorus of frogs she observes during a visit to a marshland because "life directs all its power to one end, and that is to continue to be." (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 13
Acknowledgmentsp. 15
The Testimony of the Marshp. 19
Holdfastp. 25
Howling with Strangersp. 33
A Field Guide to Western Birdsp. 39
The Thing About Dogsp. 49
Field Notes for an Aesthetic of Stormsp. 53
The Western Singing Fishp. 65
The Song of the Canyon Wrenp. 75
The Prometheus Mothp. 81
Traveling the Logging Road, Coast Rangep. 89
Cast Your Frog on the Waterp. 97
Memory (The Boathouse)p. 103
Baking Bread with My Daughterp. 113
Pale Morning Dun (Ephemerella infrequens)p. 117
On Being Afraid of Bearsp. 125
Notes from the Pig-Barn Pathp. 135
The Man with a Stump Where His Head Should Bep. 143
The Only Place Like Thisp. 149
Canoeing on the Line of a Songp. 157
Incoming Tidep. 161
Dead Reckoningp. 167