. John Tallmadge | Exploring Nature, Culture, and the Human Journey
The creator loves pizzaz. - Annie Dillard

Essays & Articles

Nature Writing and Creative Nonfiction

"The Wild Within," Orion 23:4 (July/August, 2004), 44-49. Pregnancy and childbirth reveal primordial wildness deep within the organism.

  • Reprinted in Utne Reader, January/February 2005
  • Listed with Notable Spiritual Writing of 2004, in The Best American Spiritual Writing of 2005, edited by Philip Zaleski, Houghton Mifflin 2005

"The Arrow of Biological Time," Whole Terrain 12 (2003/2004), 5-8. Urban landscapes reveal how wildness always grows back.

"A Matter of Scale," Audubon 103:1 (February 2001), 28-33. Children teach how wildness depends the scale of perception.

  • Reprinted in A Place on Earth: An anthology of nature writing from Australia and North America, edited by Mark Tredinnick, University of New South Wales Press, 2003
  • Download [PDF]

"Invisible Landscapes," Writing Nature 10 (Summer 1999), 15-17. A neighborhood walk reveals hidden dimensions of urban nature.

"Moving to Minnesota," North Dakota Quarterly 63:2 (Spring 1996), 41-54. A mountaineer struggles to love and learn from the prairie.

"The Great Divide," North Dakota Quarterly 63:1 (Winter 1996), 37-47. Climbers learn that today’s wilderness offers no true home.

"A Home in the Winds," North Dakota Quarterly 62:4 (Fall 1995), 73-87. A mountaineer thinks he has found the perfect place.

"Meeting the Tree of Life," Witness III:4 (Winter 1989), 138-150. A fire-dependent forest shows a teacher how to deal with catastrophe.

  • Reprinted in Orion X:1 (Winter 1991), in On Nature’s Terms: Contemporary Voices, edited by Thomas J. Lyon and Peter Stine, Texas A&M Press, 1992, and in the ASLE Graduate Handbook.

"Into the Deeps," Orion Nature Quarterly V:1 (Winter 1985), 32-45. Desert trout teach backpackers about survival in a nuclear age.

"In the Mazes of Quetico," Orion Nature Quarterly III: 3 (Summer 1984), 24-35. Canoeing teaches a guide about goalless travel and living by faith.

"Nothing Special: Spiritual Dimensions of Backpacking," Orion Nature Quarterly II:2 (Spring 1983), 14-23. Hiking the Muir Trail as a five-stage process of transformation.





Lichen,  Boundary Waters




“Shackleton, Coleridge, and the Epic of Endurance,” Interdisciplinary Literary Studies 10:2 (Spring 2009), 43-55.  Plot structure of Shackleton’s narrative compared with that of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner to reveal how both tragedy and comedy emerge from rites of initiation.

“Rediscovering John Burroughs,” American Transcendental Quarterly, new series 21:3 (September 2007), 165-174.  Renewed appreciation for Burroughs’s literary achievement and environmental relevance in the search for sustainability.

"Resistance to Urban Nature," Michigan Quarterly Review 40:1 (Winter 2001), 178-189. Analysis of various prejudices and preconceptions, using alien species as an example.

"Toward a Natural History of Reading," ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 7:1 (Winter 2000), 32-45. An argument for the value of field experience in research, interpretation, and teaching, using Clarence King’s Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada as an example.

"John Muir and the Poetics of Natural Conversion," North Dakota Quarterly 59:2 (Spring 1991), 62-79. Discussion of My First Summer in the Sierra as a conversion story.

"'Ktaadn': Thoreau in the Wilderness of Words," ESQ [Emerson Society Quarterly] 31:3 (Fall 1985), 137-148. Reading of Thoreau’s adventure as a story of how to write about nature.

"From Chronicle to Quest: the Shaping of Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle," Victorian Studies 23:3 (Spring 1980), 325-34. How Darwin went from his diaries to the published account, following conventions of Victorian travel writing.

"Voyaging and the Literary Imagination," Exploration VII (December), 1-16. Literature of exploration as a narrative genre related to both realism and romance.



Aldo Leoplod


Philosophy and Religion

“A Visit to the Creation Museum,”  Isotope 7:2 (Fall/Winter 2009), 34-37.  A skeptical traveler’s illuminating encounters at the creationist showcase in northern Kentucky.

“The Cathedral and the Shell,”  Whole Terrain 15 (2008), 7-8.  Reflections on religion and science sparked by discovering fossil shells in the stonework of Notre Dame.

"Choosing Life," Orion Online, November 15, 2001: "Thoughts on America: Writers Respond to Crisis" series. Response to the World Trade Center attack of 9/11 in light of city birds.

"Therefore, Choose Life: the Spiritual Challenge of the Nuclear Age," Pendle Hill Pamphlet Series #300 . Wallingford PA: Pendle Hill, 1991. Addiction theory sheds light on the arms race and the path to survival.

"Saying 'You' to the Land," Environmental Ethics 3:4 (Winter 1981), 351-363 Backpacking and Martin Buber can prepare us to realize Leopold’s land ethic.



Teaching and Pedagogy

“Teaching Natural History and the Spirit of Place,” (with Fred Taylor), Journal of Natural History Education 3, 1-8.  Literature, science, and pedagogy at a wilderness seminar in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  Available online.