I joined the faculty of Middlebury College in 1973, upon completion of a Ph.D. in English at Yale University. My initial appointment in English eventually became a split-appointment in English and Environmental Studies. American nature writing in the lineage of Thoreau, English Romanticism (especially Wordsworth), Bashō and the haiku tradition, the literature of food and agriculture, and service-learning were among my main interests as a teacher. In 2010, I retired with the non-departmental title of College Professor. During most of those years at Middlebury I also taught at the Bread Loaf School of English in the summers, not only at the main campus in Ripton, Vermont, but also at the programs in Santa Fe, Juneau, and Asheville.
Published books include Imagining the Earth: Poetry and the Vision of Nature, Reading the Mountains of Home, The Frog Run, and Pilgrimage to Vallombrosa. All of these combine discussion of literature, treatments of the Vermont Landscape, and memoir. Following the Brush is a collection of essays about classic Japanese culture. I was also co-editor of the Norton Book of Nature Writing, Family of Earth and Sky (about indigenous literature of nature from around the world), and Spirit and Nature. Information about all of these is available under Books on the Links page. Also on that page are several recent essays and talks and a C. V. listing other projects.
The Carnegie Foundation and Center for the Advancement and Support of Education named me Vermont Professor of the Year in 2008. In 2009 I also received the Vermont Campus Compact Excellence in Community-Based Teaching Award, the James Bruce Engle Award from Vermont Coverts, and the Vermont Land Trust Award for contributions to conservation at the state level. In 2010 the John C. Elder Chair in Environmental Studies was established at Middlebury College.
My wife Rita served for many years as a special educator at the Lincoln School, just up the hill from our village of Bristol. The two of us met at Pomona College, from which I graduated in 1969 and she in 1970. We raised our children Rachel, Matthew, and Caleb in Bristol, and today collaborate with our two sons on a sugaring operation in the hills of Starksboro. The Vermont Land Trust and Vermont Family Forests are two conservation organizations in which we take an active interest. Since our retirements from teaching we have immersed ourselves in playing traditional Irish music, she on the concertina and I on the wooden flute. My multi-media account of this experience is accessible online at pickinguptheflute.com.