. John Tallmadge | Exploring Nature, Culture, and the Human Journey
I only went out for a walk but decided to stay out till sundown, for going out, I realized, was really going in. - John Muir

Professional Background

Every journey needs guiding stars. Mine have been nature, literature, teaching, and human relationships.

Urban New Jersey instilled a childhood longing for lakes and forests. Dartmouth College kindled a passion for books and mountains. The wisdom and beauty of poetry combined with great teaching to make academia look like a promised land.

Then the Army preempted grad school for language training in California. But weekend escapes to the Big Sur and the High Sierra brought healing and transformation. I discovered the nature writers and hiked the John Muir Trail. Back at Yale, Muir’s copy of Emerson appeared in the rare book library. I took my students up Mount Katahdin after reading Thoreau’s The Maine Woods.

The next ten years were an education in teaching. The University of Utah and Carleton College supported work in American literature and writing along with special topics like Dante, environmental studies, and natural history. My students explored the Canyonlands and the Boundary Waters, inspiring wilderness essays for Orion.

1986-87 brought watershed change: marriage, fatherhood, a graduate deanship at the Union Institute in Cincinnati. For the next eighteen years I learned about urban nature and adult education while raising a family and writing books. I developed ten graduate seminars in literature and environmental studies and supervised thirty-six doctoral dissertations.

Meanwhile, ecocriticism emerged with opportunities for national leadership as President of ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment), as a Director of the Orion Society, and as a reader and series editor for trade and university presses. PBS, NPR, and the Chronicle of Higher Education all covered aspects of this work, which I now continue in private practice.

Innovative teaching and scholarship have always thrived at the margins of disciplines, where thought and imagination blend. Naturalists call such an edge the ecotone, a place of biotic richness and evolutionary ferment. My books and essays draw insight from this kind of ground. They use natural history, ecocriticism, and creative nonfiction to probe both wilderness and urban environments, looking for ways to connect with nature and deepen our spiritual life.

Likewise, my faculty development workshops and custom seminars create learning communities through active facilitation, interactive presentations, and experiential activities grounded in scholarship. My literary coaching helps people discover their “real work,” listen for their emerging story, and nurture the voice they need to tell it with clarity, economy, and grace.

A true teacher knows that learning depends on listening, that story speaks more deeply than information, and that process can be just as important as product. The Inuit call such a person isumutaq, “one who can create the conditions where wisdom shows itself.”

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"Naturalists call such an edge the ecotone, a place of biotic richness and evolutionary ferment."

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