Wild Apples 5: In Praise of Animals

As Elli Crocker’s Sheepish (left) might suggest, the latest issue of Wild Apples is not just an homage to the creatures with whom we share our world; it’s also a colorful exploration of our relationship with those creatures, an examination of the ways in which the lines between ourselves and other members of the animal kingdom might not always be so clear. The journal itself is lavishly illustrated with a wide range of paintings, drawings, and photographs, and the essays and poems that appear throughout are both inspiring and thought-provoking.

Of particular interest is an essay titled “The Animals Within Us” by Greg Lowenberg. In this piece, Lowenberg, the Director of Education for the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine, builds upon Edward O. Wilson’s concept of biophilia (the theory that humans unconsciously seek connections with the rest of life) to argue that the microbes and parasites we hold in common with other organisms underscore the extent to which we have all participated in the same intricate process of evolution. These microbes and parasites, according to Lowenberg, include “organisms that came from elsewhere but live within us, with full time jobs performing essential functions as digestion, disease and infection prevention, and tissue repair.” What’s more, Lowenberg argues, the fact that we share this condition with many other organisms means that we are not alone — and that we are not so different from other species as we might like to imagine.

Also of interest (among the many insightful essays and poems in the collection) is Katherine Leibowitz’s “Out of Our Skins: of Flux and Flame,” which offers a survey of myths, legends, and works of literature in which humans have taken animal form (and vice versa) throughout the ages. What emerges throughout this essay is that such tales are common to all cultures — a fact that echoes Lowenberg’s point that (other) animals are more central to the human identity than we tend to let on. We see ourselves in animals, both essays seem to imply, not so much because they are so human, but because we are, at the end of the day, animals ourselves.

As these two examples suggest, Wild Apples does a wonderful job of combining disciplines. Art, literature, history, and science all work together to complement each other beautifully and effectively in this colorful 48-page volume. Highly recommended (as the journal’s tag line suggests) for lovers of nature, art, and inquiry — and, if I might add my own two cents, for lovers of good writing as well.

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