Saturday, August 18, 2001

Robert Michael Pyle

Like many writers who come to the Nye Beach Writer's Series, Robert Michael Pyle has amassed an impressive array of credits and accomplishments. Fifteen books, ranging from butterflies to Bigfoot. Awards, including a John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing, a Fulbright Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, three Washington Govenor's Writing Awards, a Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Award, and a Distinguished Service Award from the Society for Conservation Biology.

Besides founding the Xerces Society for invertebrate conservation, he has worked as Land Steward for the Nature Conservancy and a butterfly conservation consultant in Papua, New Guinea. He has lectured on conservation and taught field courses and creative writing seminars and served on numerous faculties around the country and abroad.

I could go on. There's more. But if he sounds a little too cerebral, not to worry. Many writers start out with terrific brains, which often become fossilized under the tremendous dry weight of academia. To the delight of his readers, Bob Pyle combines an informed imagination, encyclopedic memory and sense of humor with the enthusiasm of an extemely articulate ten-year-old boy.

One reason for this may be, fortunately for both us and Bob, is that in 1982 his house burned down. "Out of this came three good things... I decided to...resign several roles of influence in conservation... to write full time." The second thing was a new romance that has maintained ever since, and the third, his book Wintergreen, of which Bob says, "defined my trajectory as a writer."

He had seen how colleagues in the professional conservation world sometimes became cut off from the natural world to become "office and airplane bound, prisoners of committees, meeting mired." His hands-on approach to life and his work are summed up best in Walking the High Ridge, Life as a Field Trip: "Since my conviction is that heaven is to be found in deep attention to the billowing brilliancy and ordinariness of the world as we find it, it seems to me that the way to know time and to honor the world is to use the days as well as can be."

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