Mossy Trees & Nevada Barr

As a Canadian I have to admit that I have not spent a whole lot of time thinking about the landscape of South Carolina. However, prior to this trip If I had been pressed on the issue I would have likely guessed that the landscape would be characterized by big mossy tree trunks. There are trees with mossy trunks in Spartanburg, South Carolina, but this was certainly not the predominant view of the area around Wofford College. I wish I’d had time to take a side trip out from Spartanburg, to see more of the vegetation in this region.


My preconceived notions as to what I would encounter in terms of landscape and vegetation in the American South are informed, at least in part, by the mystery novels of Nevada Barr. Barr’s heroine, a park ranger named Anna Pigeon, fights crime in a number of different US National Parks, the specific setting changing with each novel. I’ve been reading Barr’s detective fiction for years now. I’ve found these books to be a fun way to relax and unwind after a long day. I was, therefore, delighted to be able to attend a panel at ASLE called “Nevada Barr and Other Eco-Sleuths.” One of the most interesting themes that came out of the presentations and the discussion that followed afterwards had to do with regulatory boundaries and expectations in certain spaces. For instance, many of the crimes that Anna Pigeon fights are activities that would not automatically be illegal outside of park borders (i.e.: hunting), and so there is this interesting relationship between how certain landscapes dictate certain patterns of behaviour. This, of course, is not a new observation and there has been much writing on the subject over the years, but what was neat about this discussion was that we were given the opportunity to think about the ways in which objects of popular culture reinforce and sometimes challenge these patterns of human behaviour as dictated by landscape.

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