The Book of Edgewood

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books —John Lubbock

he Book of Edgewood is no ordinary book, that is, it’s not the kind of book you can bring up on your Kindle or curl up with in bed, nor is it the kind of book you’ll ever hear expounded upon in a podcast or at a cocktail party.

Truth be told, the Book of Edgewood isn’t a book at all. Or better, it’s not a book in the usual dictionary sense of a “handwritten or printed work of fiction or nonfiction, usually on sheets of paper fastened or bound together within covers”.

Sparganium in Sky Pond by Jason Hollinger 2009

Actually, the Book of Edgewood is better than that; it’s the original book, the book of the world – the kind of book that can never be read except in the place where it was, is and will continue to be written every day of every month or every year of your life.

To put this more robustly, the Book of Edgewood is continuous the first and only book Homo sapiens ever read for some 99.9999999% of its evolutionary history. Call it the Book of the Ancients.

As such, the Book of Edgewood brings into focus the existence of two fundamentally different kinds of literacy: Gaian literacy, which focuses on the world in which one finds oneself, and textual literacy, which focuses on the printed page. For nearly the entirety of human history, humans have engaged in the first kind of literacy; the second kind, textual literacy, has come about only very recently.

I could say more on this theme, much more, as David Abram has done, but for now let me simply suggest that the post-Gutenbergian diffusion of the printed book, and now the ebook, has come at an existential cost that is only now coming home to roost.

Two costs actually, intertwined: first, an atrophying of our ability to situate ourselves within ecosystemic space (which might have been useful in coming to terms with The Climate Crisis); and second, a culture-wide tendency to conflate the textual world – the world as presented to us through the text – with the world itself. For just as a map can never be the territory it represents, so a text can never be the Living World it seems to point to.

There was a time, not long ago either, when reading the book of the world was a necessary of day-to-day prosperity in any number of human cultures across the world. So many details one needed to know, so many dangers to avoid, that learning to read the book of the world had to begin early and continue a lifetime.

The same is true in the Pandoracene, or it will be in any event. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine how reconciliation with the Living World could even begin without a minimum reclamation and daily practice of our ability to read the world.

Against this backdrop, the Book of Edgewood is intended as corrective, consisting of one-off readings of Edgewood Blue – its forests, ponds, gardens meadows – around a subject of your choice selected from among a variety of themes posted on the walls of the outdoor “Reading Room,” awaiting your visit here at Edgewood.

Each reading lasts about an hour, and is followed by another hour for questions, answers and discussion. The object, to summarize, is to remind ourselves of the wealth of understanding – and of meaning – that can come to us through apprenticeship to the Wild.

May the Book of Edgewood be with you always —Trevor

Next up: Saving the Sister Trees