GROW OLD AND DIE YOUNG: A NATURALIST IN LIFE’S THEATER
A unique form of memoir by Wallace Kaufman
PRAISE FROM READERS:
“I have been fortunate to know someone whose greatest love is the natural world. He writes with the insight of a Thoreau and the passionate poetry of Omar Kayam. Fortunately for the rest of the world, he has left a written record. Read and savor Grow Old and Die Young by Wallace Kaufman. Years from now, you will remember when you read it.” David Deamer, Astrobiologist, Biomolecular Engineer, and author of First Life and Assembling Life.
“I have just finished reading this book/memoir/poetic contemplation on mortality/ and photo essay. The interplay between the very relaxed and open prose and the highly structured poem-captions is wonderful, especially since the prose is a fairly straight forward linear narrative: this is what happened; and the poems are so personal and, at times….for me, painful. And then this apparent dichotomy is smoothed over by the wonderfully Romantic photographs……….all is resolved by and in Nature.” Dr. Michael Paul, Dean at City University of New York, emeritus.
“In his considerable body of work, Wallace Kaufman teaches things I ought to know and, more importantly, need to know. He asks pertinent questions and offers useful answers grounded in his abundant reading, wide-ranging experience, and unflagging curiosity.” Dr. Wm Price, former Director of Archives and History in North Carolina
” Looking at ocean waves breaking on the beach, sending spray into the sunlight, it hits you: this is beautiful, but for you, it will not last forever. Life expectancy shortens with each low tide. Then you see Wallace Kaufman’s book on the table: “Grow Old and Die Young.” In each short chapter you find nature beautifully photographed; verse to complement the photo; and then the reflection of a unique and lively mind, still firing its neurons, over a heart still beating in a body weathered by the years. And you realize in all that there is youth, energy, wisdom, and a rare intelligence. That makes it a book to come back to again and again, for a conversation with life itself.”
G. Melton Mobley
Attorney and Mediator
Lokey, Mobley and Doyle, LLP
Wallace Kaufman is the rare writer whose intellectual proclivities are accompanied by a pragmatic understanding of the world, nature, and human nature. His work experience in Europe, Central Asia, Siberia, and throughout the US informs his penetrating observations on the environment, the cosmos, and our purpose and place on the earth. He came to the tidal waters of Poole Sough and its forests and marshes “to find something important,” and in sharing those findings in Grow Old and Die Young, offers readers like me, who find a spiritual presence in nature, the gifts of perspective, wonder, and meaning.
Betsy VanDenBerghe, writer and editor, Salt Lake City, Utah
“There’s almost a sacred feel about it which I can’t quite explain.” Lincoln City, OR reader.
“Grow Old And Die Young is a love story of the ever changing light, moods, faces, textures, sounds and residents of Poole Slough and the Yaquina estuary. The Wetlands Conservancy could not ask for a better natural historian, poet, photographer, steward and neighbor of our beloved Lower Yaquina Preserve. Wallace Kaufman’s photos and words remind us of the life lessons the mysteries and surprises that daily tidal cycles teach us about life.” Esther Lev, former director of The Wetlands Conservancy
“This is an incredible book. It has such vulnerability, honesty, and love for the world. I took my time reading a couple of pages each morning for the past couple of weeks. What a Joy!” Irina Panyushkina, Ph.D., forest ecologist, University of Arizona
WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT:
You know the deep-rooted adage that two people fall in love and become as one. Each individual mirrors the passion of the other. We feel the truth of this oneness when we lose a loved one and we feel a piece of us is gone. So, how can we say we love nature when nature shows no love for us, does not acknowledge either our cruelty or our kindness? The answer is a paradox. We are one of millions of forms life takes. We are made of the same molecules and atoms as lifeless mountains, clouds, and oceans, stars and comets. Yet we are uniquely different because we are conscious, because we can remember the past and imagine the future, and because we can love. And only when we can fall in love with the world that does not love us back, the world that will ultimately consume us, only then do we fully realize our most positive human power.
On a practical level, the book fits in the wetlands preservation effort anywhere wetlands exist. Thousands of scientific and media articles and books have explained the importance of wetlands in economic and environmental terms. Ultimately, we will pay attention to these reasoned facts and act on them for one reason only—because we care. We’ll care because we come to recognize these places offer more than biology; more than costs and benefits. We want to preserve what we love. Grow Old And Die Young is that necessary love story. Through the story of a man who has traveled much of the world and seen its achievements and tragedies, this story connects the soggy, muddy, salty, marshy, mosquito clouded, and subtly beautiful world of coastal wetlands to every human heart.
This book speaks to three audiences. They overlap, of course. For people who love wetlands, wildlife, and wilderness, I offer this for their celebration. Second, the pictures and captions and observations thoughts and stories for people who find in nature a spiritual presence, something higher and purer than humankind. Maybe the largest audience is all of us who wonder what the meaning of life is, how to grow old—or not to, how to accept that life means death.
I came to the tidal waters of Poole Slough and to the forest and marshes around it to find something important. I brought with me my experience in many professions, my education, my wide travels in wild places, and what I have learned over many years as a science writer. Here I watch the drama of tides and weather, sun and fog life and death the way anyone watches a play by Shakespeare, Ibsen, or Chekhov. In this drama I’ve found the answers I need to understand nature, our place in it, and why I exist. I invite the reader to join me. That’s why the prologue is “You Come Too.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Wallace Kaufman’s writing in many forms is enriched by the variety of his work in the US, Europe, Central Asia and Siberia. After graduate work as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, he taught at major universities, created numerous homestead communities with unique environmental covenants, served in Kazakhstan as resident adviser on housing and land reform, and continues to work as a conflict mediator. He lives on Oregon’s central coast in a house he built at the edge of a forest overlooking a deep water slough and its broad marshes.
His book publication began with The Beaches Are Moving, a natural and human history of America’s beaches that has had an important impact on coastal planning. Coming out of the Woods (Perseus Publishing, 2001) is the narrative of his efforts to combine homestead development with environmental conservation as he brings up his daughter and builds his own home in the forest. The Hunt for FOXP5 (Springer 2016) explores through science fiction the ethical issues gene editing. Kaufman co-authored the novel with David Deamer, astrobiologist and co-inventor of the nanopore genome sequencing process. With his daughter, Dr. Sylvan Kaufman, he is co-author of Invasive Plants. (Stackpole, 2nd edition 2012) In addition to other books, Kaufman has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines that include Audubon, National Wildlife, Omni, Orion, American Forests, and American Health. He has also been a Science Writing Fellow at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.
Reviewers and Readers on Previous Books by Wallace Kaufman
“Here is a book that never becomes outdated.” Reviewer Don Cates on The Beaches Are Moving.
“An absorbing, unflinching, and surprisingly comic account of how one man—a devoted father-withdrew from the world and gradually returned. It’s as wise and instructive as it is compelling.” Novelist Reynolds Price on Coming Out of the Woods.
“Unlike most environmental books being written today, Coming Out Of The Woods doesn’t try to scare the hell out of anybody, or smother with weighty facts, figures and insights. Instead, Kaufman entertains by telling a tale full of self-deprecating humor and common-sense insight.” Matt Bennet in Hardwood Matters.
“We did not come from Eden, but we can go there, wrote Kaufman. With humility, optimism and restraint, we can devise a world in which humans and the wild achieve some sort of accommodation. Science and technology will be part of the equation. Thoreau had it backwards: In civilization is the preservation of the wild.” Chet Raymo, Physicist and author.
Here is writer who conveys the complexity and beauty of nature without putting on rose colored glasses. Coming Out of the Woods inspires, entertains, informs and tells a page-turner story that reveals how all human interaction with nature demands tradeoffs. Think of it as an update of Thoreau’s Walden, but with a strong story line and conclusions appropriate for our time. I recommend it highly for introductory environmental studies courses, American literature courses, or courses on literature and the environment.
Orrin H. Pilkey, geologist, professor Emeritus, Duke University.
“Coming Out of the Woods has the potential to be what is called in the music world a ‘crossover’—a work that transcends the usual marketing categories. Kaufman has naturalist credentials that far exceed those of most environmentalists, and his insights can’t be dismissed. By holding a mirror up to nature, he teaches us about human nature as well.” Jane Shaw, editor, author, historian.
“In an age of political ‘correctness’ Kaufman has demonstrated great courage and integrity. He has tackled a challenging and controversial topic with clarity and without the rancor one might expect given his own history in the environmental movement. Kaufman’s is a solid presentation of the historical development and present position of the environmental movement with a thoroughgoing understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of its early and contemporary forms. For many readers, this book will promote a new recognition, understanding, and sharpening of their own position.” Publisher’s Weekly on No Turning Back.
“I really like the way the information is arranged—what it does to the ecosystem, how it got here and how to manage. I think I’ll just sit down and read the whole thing. Great photos and so many references.” Reader of Invasive Plants.
From Thriftway Books on the Beacon Books anthology of environmental writing.
“No matter what you think about environmentalism, nature, and ecology, this book has an essay to challenge your assumptions. More than that, though: these essays don’t merely challenge, but rather expand your viewpoint.. . . One of my own favorites is Wallace Kaufman’s “Confessions of a Developer”, an essay I found so fascinating that I wanted it to be an entire book of its own.”
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