Looking for memorial service reading ideas
June 20, 2005 4:10 PM   Subscribe

A friend is looking for reading ideas for a memorial service. The person was a non-religious, nature-loving guy. Any ideas? Thanks!
posted by garbo to Religion & Philosophy (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
John Muir?
posted by 27 at 4:18 PM on June 20, 2005

Last paragraph of The Origin of Species 1st edition to avoid the God stuff: "There is grandeur in this view of life...."
posted by orthogonality at 4:22 PM on June 20, 2005

Something from Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
posted by ericb at 4:29 PM on June 20, 2005

Search results for "Nature" from "Search Inside This Book" feature at Amazon.com for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
posted by ericb at 4:32 PM on June 20, 2005

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles…

Whitman, "Song of Myself"
posted by sanko at 4:36 PM on June 20, 2005

Or, a passage from Thoreau or
posted by ericb at 4:37 PM on June 20, 2005

I'm partial to :

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost, Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
posted by ruelle at 4:38 PM on June 20, 2005

Can you give us any specifics about region? So we could perhaps suggest quotations from regional naturalists?
posted by bricoleur at 4:39 PM on June 20, 2005

I like sanko's suggestion...
The past and present wilt - I have fill'd them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his
Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab
and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yaws over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you. [Song of Myself ]
posted by ericb at 4:41 PM on June 20, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks Bricoleur,

He was from California, the Big Bear Lake area, and spent his life working outdoors. So I think some of the Muir suggestions are very apt. Would love any other geo-specific ideas.
posted by garbo at 4:44 PM on June 20, 2005

The Geography Of Home: California's Poetry Of Place (California Poetry Series).
posted by ericb at 4:50 PM on June 20, 2005

This isn't geo-specific (I'll ruminate on that), but ruelle's Frost selection reminded me of this Mary Oliver poem:

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
posted by bricoleur at 4:52 PM on June 20, 2005 [6 favorites]

"Leaving" by Wendell Berry

Parting from you, rising
into the air, I enter again
the absence we came together in.
My ways in house and field
and woods have reached an end,
dismembered of each other
and of me. And you remain
on the earth we knew, already changing
into the earth you know.
Fire-driven through the air,
I go alone, a part
of what, together, we became.
posted by naomi at 5:08 PM on June 20, 2005 [4 favorites]

Well, as a devout atheist I want this quote from Bertrand Russell read at my funeral.

"I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting. Many a man has borne himself proudly on the scaffold; surely the same pride should teach us to think truly about man’s place in the world. Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendour of their own."
posted by Decani at 5:39 PM on June 20, 2005 [1 favorite]

I definitely second anything by Robert Frost.
posted by Ugh at 7:53 PM on June 20, 2005

Eek. Forgot to add the poem:

Into My Own - Robert Frost

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as 'twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto th edge of doom.

I should not be withheld but that some day
into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.

I do not see why I should e'er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.

They would not find me changed from him the knew--
Only more sure of all I though was true.

More here.
posted by Ugh at 7:55 PM on June 20, 2005 [1 favorite]

And for the third post in a row... that last line should read:

They would not find me changed from him THEY knew --
Only more sure of all I THOUGHT was true.
posted by Ugh at 8:01 PM on June 20, 2005

Gary Snyder has a lot of beautiful stuff in his new book, Danger on Peaks. I guess you could call him the quintessential California/nature poet.
posted by melixxa600 at 10:52 PM on June 20, 2005

Thanatopsis by William Cullen Bryant seems appropriate. In my opinion it is one of the finest poems written in the English language.
posted by mmcg at 8:58 AM on June 21, 2005

Desiderata. It's kind of hippie-ish, but beautiful.

If you're looking for music, too, 'Let The Mystery Be' by Iris De Ment would be a good choice.
posted by essexjan at 10:04 AM on June 21, 2005

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