Fjords Reviews

HOME | BOOK REVIEWS | Watershed Days: Adventures (A Little Thorny and Familiar) in the Home Range
Watershed Days: Adventures (A Little Thorny and Familiar) in the Home Range by Thorpe Moeckel



Fjords Review, Watershed Days: Adventures (A Little Thorny and Familiar) in the Home Range - Thorpe Moeckel

October 15, 2015

Watershed Days: Adventures
(A Little Thorny and Familiar)
in the Home Range
Thorpe Moeckel

Mercer University Press, 2015
229 pages
ISBN: 9780881465310


by Brian Gilmore


I read Thorpe Moeckel’s book, Watershed Days: Adventures in the Home Range in Taos, New Mexico. Taos is located in the high desert and is a city and area known for being close to nature. It is also a favorite hideaway for artists and writers, and for individuals who want to slide off the grid for a while or, in some cases, permanently. Reading Watershed Days, I didn’t necessarily get the impression that Moeckel wanted to slide off the grid, but he is celebrating the simplicity of nature and human relations within that space. His writings recalled two of the more well known writers that have also mined writing of the natural world very well in their own way: Gary Snyder and Barry Lopez.

Moeckel’s writing is careful and easy, snippets of precious life that reveal and argue for the majesty of simplicity. Moeckel has no agenda other than to share with the reader his experience and to provide the reader with an account of the days in the lives of Moeckel and his family. Moeckel has a cinematic approach to his work, which is not surprising since film was the inspiration for his art.

There are many pieces worthy of mention here. “Boogie Water,” has an expressive title and is one of the first pieces that draws you into Moeckel’s world. It is here where readers learn that Moeckel’s family, “we”, “moved to a nook of the James River watershed a few months ago in July,” and that, “it rained the first day...” Moeckel’s family is intimate with water throughout the text. Moeckel’s use of symbolism in “Boogie Water,” makes nature come alive. “Jennings Creek,” is “boisterous” and it is a creek that Moeckel has “known exclusively,” like hearing a “band play live after you’ve fallen in love.” In that respect, the creek was “cranking,” according to Moeckel, another either intentional or accidental allusion to music.

Another stand-out poem in the first section is, “My Skateboard, the Hills, and Other End,” Moeckel’s adult-life celebration of his youthful exuberance. “I ride a forty one inch FlexDex Wingnut Pro Model skateboard,” he writes at the beginning of the piece. Moeckel’s description alone states the obvious. Yet, out in nature, at least in his kind of nature, Moeckel’s love of skateboarding is tempered a bit. His past enthusiasm has taken a “back seat to one’s other enthusiasms,” in this case—living in the natural world of limited roads and places to ride a board. Nevertheless, Moeckel is not to be outdone. He finds his space even out here on the Blue Ridge Parkway:

Maybe it is vaguely secular of me to be skateboarding on the Blue Ridge Parkway. If a place has been paved, however, you might as well skate it. I don’t take it as far as Ed Abbey, histy crunchmeister, and justify tossing my garbage here by some logic that suggests since a stretch of ground has been asphalted it might as well be a dump.

“Going to Natural Bridge” feels like reportage as Moeckel slowly describes a long hike he takes to a “Natural Bridge” in Virginia where Moeckel lived with his family. The bridge, according to Moeckel, is so famous it was described in a New York Times article in 1899 and is also mentioned in Herman Melville’s novel, Moby Dick. Moeckel’s description of his one hour hike to the bridge feels like its own mythology as well:

It was around the bend, Natural Bridge, tremendous and silent. The sun beaming through the long shadows. What can be said? I sat on a bench – there were lots of wooden park benches at the edge of the paved path – and looked at all that rock and at all that air and light where once there had been rock. It reminded me of going to feed the chickens and finding two of them dead, victim of possums.

The second section, 2006-2007, is more of the same: Moeckel interacting with nature. If there is a weakness here it is the writings never drift very far from the same deliberate, exacting tone. Perhaps, the best piece of all is “Among the Tributaries.” Once again, Moeckel is as one with water, interacting and enjoying this part of the natural world. This is the Charlottesville area, a tributary known as the Moormans is brought to life, a body of water where he falls “in love with the rocks,” “metamorphic stone...deepened in color when wet and in the light.” His description of his father fishing in this spot is quite impressive: “Fish struck but they were small fish and they couldn’t seem to fit their mouths around the fly. Dad was tuned in. You could sense his body getting more comfortable in the canoe in the water.”

This more personal writing, of Moeckel’s family, also can be found in “Chicken Midwife Girl,” a piece about the writer’s daughter, Sophie, raising chickens. The mixture of Moeckel’s love for the natural world and his family’s intimate experience with it is poignant and effectively used throughout the book. Moeckel never has to state these themes explicitly; he just tells you what happens.


And Then by Donald Breckenridge

Dear Everyone by Matt Shears

Magic City Gospel by Ashley M. Jones

Intimacy by Stanley Crawford

Lunch Poems by Deborah Kuan

The Best American Poetry 2016

One with the Tiger by Steven Church

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

The King of White Collar Boxing by David Lawrence

They Were Coming for Him by Berta Vias-Mahou

Verse for the Averse: a Review of Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry

That Other Me by Maha Gargash

Simone by Eduardo Lalo

Swimming by Karl Luntt

Ghost/ Landscape by Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher

Enchantment Lake by Margi Preus

Bad Light by Carlos Castán

Diaboliques by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly

Staying Alive by Laura Sims

Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

Fireflies by John Leland

Maze of Blood by Marly Youmans

Tender the Maker by Christina Hutchkins

Little Anodynes by Jon Pineda

Conjuror by Holly Sullivan McClure

Someone's Trying To Find You by Marc Augé

The Four Corners of Palermo by Giuseppe Di Piazza

Now You Have Many Legs to Stand On by Ashley-Elizabeth Best

The Knowledge by Robert Peake

The Darling by Lorraine M. López

How To Be Drawn by Terrance Hayes

[INSERT] BOY by Danez Smith

Demigods on Speedway by Aurelie Sheehan

Find Me by Laura Van Den Berg

Singing Bones by Kate Schmitt

Knuckleball by Tom Pitts

Wandering Time by Luis Alberto Urrea

Teaching a Man to Unstick His Tail by Ralph Hamilton

Domenica Martinello: The Abject in the Interzones

Control Bird Alt Delete by Alexandria Peary

Twelve Clocks by Julie Sophia Paegle

Love You To a Pulp by C.S. DeWildt

Even Though I Don’t Miss You by Chelsea Martin

Women by Chloe Caldwell

Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

ESSAY 2:12 A.M. by Kat Meads

Revising The Storm by Geffrey Davis

Quality Snacks by Andy Mozina

American Neolithic by Terence Hawkins

Midnight in Siberia by David Greene

Strings Attached by Diane Decillis

Down from the Mountaintop: From Belief to Belonging by Joshua Dolezal

The New Testament by Jericho Brown

You Don't Know Me by James Nolan

Phoning Home: Essays by Jacob M. Appel

Words We Might One Day Say by Holly Karapetkova

Murder by Danielle Collobert

Sorrow by Catherine Gammon

The Americans by David Roderick

Put Your Hands In by Chris Hosea

I Think I Am in Friends-Love With You by Yumi Sakugawa

Third Wife by Jiri Klobouk

box of blue horses by Lisa Graley

Review of Hilary Plum’s They Dragged Them Through the Streets

The Sleep of Reason by Morri Creech

The Hush before the Animals Attack by Carol Matos

Regina Derieva, In Memoriam by Frederick Smock

Review of The House Began to Pitch by Kelly Whiddon

Hill William by Scott McClanahan

Seamus Heaney Aloft

The Bounteous World by Frederick Smock

Review of The Tide King by Jen Michalski

Going Down by Chris Campanioni

Review of Empire in the Shade of a Grass Blade by Rob Cook

Review of The Day Judge Spencer Learned the Power of Metaphor

Review of The Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish

Review of Life Cycle Poems by Dena Rash Guzman

Review of Saint X by Kirk Nesset

Review of Jessica Treadway's Please Come Back to Me

Eve Asks by Christine Redman-Waldeyer