Forty-one free verse nature poems comprise this collection by Andrea Freeman, a natural sciences/nature awareness teacher and nature photographer from the wilds of California. Combining science and natural history with poetic sensibility, this collection looks at patterns in nature that reflect humanity. Filled with lovely imagery and an obvious appreciation for the natural world, the work explains the wisdom of going with the natural flow of life – whether it’s a leaf dancing its “way back to earth in grand finale” or listening to the river sing its love songs.
Several poems, including “Upon Seeing Petals on the Ground,” note the narrator’s awareness of mortality while watching the rhythm of natural life. “I water these flowers / every morning, / smitten by their loveliness, / their perseverance, / through the coming and going. / I’ll keep this garden alive / until the wind comes to carry me / across that edge where the petals lead, / into far off fields on the other side of time.”
Another recurrent theme in this collection concerns human understanding of our place in the universe. In “The Stars,” we are told that stars watch over us as “luminous sentries of the night, / as guardians of memory / from before the birth of time.” They represent “the swirling nebula within each of us, / from whence we came,” but have forgotten.” Likewise in “Reflections on a Rainy Day,” the author writes “Though I can’t say where I came from, / or how I chanced to be here, / the river of water, / flowing through my veins, / seems to remember.”
Although the concept of “conversations with the natural world” is certainly poetic, the collection could be described more accurately as communication with the natural world or inspirations from the natural world, as “conversations” imply a mutual exchange of ideas through spoken words. What the mountains, rivers, animals, and stars communicate to the author may be unstated universal truths, but they are still inferred from observation. A lack of emotional vulnerability and intellectual uncertainty may prevent some readers from making a personal connection with the material, although the comfortable use of descriptive language to explore nature’s beauty and wisdom successfully engages the senses.
WHAT THE RIVER KNOWS: CONVERSATIONS WITH THE NATURAL WORLD is a thoughtful collection of nature poems that range from communing with sea creatures on the beach and wildlife in other habitats, to less tangible metaphysical meanderings about stars shining in the sky and the great mystery that underlies life.
~Carol Michaels for IndieReader