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Local author writes two more nature books

Chris Highland displays the two books he recently completed and self-published, “Meditations of John Burroughs; Nature is Home” and “Meditations of Margaret Fuller; The Inner Stream.” His nature meditation book series highlights different naturalist thinkers from America’s past. - Spencer Webster / The Record
Chris Highland displays the two books he recently completed and self-published, “Meditations of John Burroughs; Nature is Home” and “Meditations of Margaret Fuller; The Inner Stream.” His nature meditation book series highlights different naturalist thinkers from America’s past.
— image credit: Spencer Webster / The Record

FREELAND — Nature is a teacher.

And South End writer Chris Highland of Langley should know. Highland has penned a nature meditations series and recently added two more books to his list.

Highland self-published “Meditations of John Burroughs; Nature is Home” and “Meditations of Margaret Fuller; The Inner Stream” as part of a series that examines what Highland called the wisdom of naturalists and spiritual thinkers.

The series began in 2001 with “Meditations of John Muir, Nature’s Temple.”

“It started with John Muir who is really a spiritual guide for me in some ways,” Highland said. “That was followed by the Thoreau, Emerson and Whitman books.

I was ready for more in the series.”

Highland learned a lot about self-publishing as he worked on his series.

“It was an educational process to take it on this way; doing it all, the editing, uploading all the files and dealing with it all being electronic,” he said.

For Highland, the benefits outweighed a workload some would consider daunting.

“I get to continue the tradition of having my photographs in the books, on the cover and on the inside,” he said. “Images are powerful doorways and portals, windows into the natural world where I find the greatest teachings; the greatest teachings really for any subject.”

Highland said wisdom surrounds us; in the trees, the water and the lands.

People need to turn to these teachers, he said.

“These six books are a reminder that there is a wilderness around us — whether it is right outside our door or down the road or within us,” he said.

“That is what I am trying to connect to with these books; the wilderness within us. There is unexplored territory of whatever you want to call it, spirituality, a sense of meaning of life, a sense of context of belonging and a sense of home.”

In sharing writings from Fuller and Burroughs, Highland hopes to show that life is not static, that the phrase “inner stream” represents both the outer world and the inner world of our bodies.

“If we really think about the nature of the human body, the streams within us, the cells the blood, the stream that we are,” he said. “We stand still but never can be still because our bodies are continually in a process of evolution. We relate our inner stream to the literal outer streams.”

Highland questions in the book how close people can come to the wilderness within and the wilderness without. He also sees that awareness of the answer comes from participating in life rather than simply by observing it.

“Do we just drive through a park? Do we just go take a walk on a beach? Do we work in our gardens?” Highland asks.

“How are we relating to a life we are really a part of? There is a sense in which we and humanity and divinity are not separate just as humanity and nature are not separate.”

Transcendence is common for humanity; the need to find something beyond us, Highland said.

“What I think I am uncovering is not new to me,” he said. “What my books are bringing out is that Muir, Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, Fuller, Burroughs and others are representative voices.”

Highland appreciates the naturalists presented within his pages.

“All of these books that I’ve put together are kind of my respectful appreciation for the gifts of each one of their lives; each of these wise thinkers who immersed themselves in the natural world,” he said.

For Highland, the lessons can begin right in someone’s back yard.

“John Burroughs said wherever we go, we need to carry a microscope and a telescope. He was looking very closely at the natural world around him,” Highland said.

“No one is truly inaccessible to nature. You can’t be separate from the divine, from the spirit.”

Highland wants readers who are looking for something a little deeper than the park mentality; those searching for deeper experiences in their world that are hopefully more meaningful.

“These books are my gift to my own culture that has a hard time learning quietness and peace,” he said.

“Meditations of John Burroughs; Nature is Home” and “Meditations of Margaret Fuller; The Inner Stream” and his other books are available at BookBay in Freeland, Island Coffee House, with a portion of the proceeds going to help South Whidbey youth.

The books also can be ordered through Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and through Highland’s Web site, www.naturetemple.net.

Spencer Webster can be reached at 221-5300 or swebster@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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