“These walks with Leslie Carol Roberts—by turns exhilarating, heart breaking, and informative—are always just what I need. Rambling wide-eyed through these pages, I’m encouraged to come to know the past, present, and future of her backyard and, also, the whole wide world. I thought I knew a lot about the landscapes she describes. I’m delighted, after reading this book, to have learned so much more.” — Camille Dungy, author of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry
“A series of absorbing, funny, tragic, and deeply present ruminations…Packed with a scientist’s curiosity and an artist’s imagination, she uses her walks the way Thoreau encouraged us to treat every journey into nature: as a lesson in how to accept, relish, and even seek out change.”
—John D’Agata, author of About a Mountain
“This is no ordinary nature book…Rather, it is a profound meditation on the intersection of many different histories, lives, and fates, all of which reveal different facets of a thoroughly engaging literary imagination.” —Christopher Merrill, author of Self-Portrait with Dogwood
Here is where I walk: My daily rambles and scrambles, thinking about ecologies, from the Presidio, to Tasmania, to Italy, to reflections on being a woman and mother in the world in times of climate change. The Presidio is the frame for my eco-memoir. It is America’s only residential national park tucked wholly into an urban setting, it is a fading historic forest, it is a dynamic place of revival and renewal as more trees are planted and more people come here to take solace in these woods. Here is where my memories of other ecologies, people, and travels emerge.
Through my daily walks into the Presidio, I humbly accept the invitation of the beckoning trees and find myself colliding with the urban coyote, the peculiar banana slug, and the manzanita. I have a taste for the ridiculous and poignant aspects of human ecosystems and note some of these as well — parents bragging about Austrian ski vacations, grocery stores packed with nannies.
I organized the work into 12 episodes — but in reality this is 12 years of walks compressed into 200 pages (art! hahaha!) each connected to a month of the year and interwoven with field notebooks, exploring everything from my fascination with Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone (aka St. Francis) in the fields of Bevagna where he spoke with the birds, to the brilliant work of Western botanist Alice Eastwood. I reflect on Robert Rathbun, the high school art teacher who first inspired my thinking about aesthetics — and digress into the tragic accident that left me severely injured, my subsequent work as a college professor teaching writing, and the loss of a beloved student to cancer. In all this, places of exquisite beauty and complexity provide me with exactly the scaffolding needed to survive, with nature serving as a tonic.
A recent review noted:
“Here Is Where I Walk provides a vivid answer to how we can find our place, not only in nature but within ourselves and the world we walk.”
About me: I am an author, journalist, and essayist and Professor and Chair of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, California. I am writing my next book, Antarctica Poetica, which is looking at environmental activism, how we bombed the South Pacific as part of our “nuclear bomb research” phase as humans; and why the French thought it was a good idea to blow up a Greenpeace ship.