Second Nature is a humorous account of the author’s own experiences of maneuvering his relationship with nature through keeping a garden. As a reader of Pollan’s books, I was expecting to sense the upper class, elite white male complex that I typically do in his work, but failed to see that in Second Nature. Instead, Pollan writes what many Americans have experienced in gardening with an ounce of sarcasm and casualness. He laments the traditional American obsession with lawns by attempting to connect with his neighbors as if to say, “I am a conscientious homeowner. I share your middle class values” (61), yet ponders certain rebellion regarding the traditional maintenance of his lawn. In discussing the history of his land and journey to gardening, Pollan is able to effectively communicate what his place in nature is, while taking the reader for a ride through his life’s fumbles and moments of discovery.
Pollan openly discusses the crude relationship that Americans have with the land, specifically through land ownership. He writes that we often have a “skewed” relationship to nature by thinking that our lawns exhibit the natural setting, even though they’re constantly doused in chemicals and manipulated. Here, Pollan explains with historical evidence and a strong opinion exactly what I’ve needed answered throughout our course. I’ve yearned to hear a first hand account of someone working through their relationship with nature, knowing as much as we do. He openly uses his experiences to educate the reader on our their hypocrisy, while explaining why it harms the planet morally and physically. Pollan uses gardens as a way to “meet halfway” between the perfect manicuring of lawns and wildness. It increases one’s awareness of the natural world in a more give and take relationship, as opposed to the dictatorship that is meticulous mowing and landscaping.
Throughout the book, Pollan debunks common misconceptions about what nature and wildness truly are, tieing into much of what we’ve already discussed in class. He does this very well when speaking about weeds and how they are often seen as wild and “in the wrong place”. He counters this by arguing that weeds are just as cultivated as any other plant. Their placement is often not wild, but once the result of man’s impact. Instead, he writes that wilderness is a taboo in our culture and further drives a wedge between us and nature. Pollan follows this pattern consistently throughout Second Nature, exploring a common phenomenon in man’s relationship to land and quickly showing its faults. This style of writing held my attention well and contributed to the overall success of this book.
Pollan’s journey of self-reflection in relationship to the natural world, specifically how we manipulate it, has encouraged me to think about my own relationship with nature. I appreciate Pollan’s perspective more than the romantic authors we have read, including Thoreau and Abbey. Pollan is more honest about his faults and hypocrisy in becoming a steward of the land, whereas Thoreau and the like place themselves on pedestals, expecting a level of respect for their sacrifices and immersion in the natural world. Pollan tells a relatable story that I can personally identify with, as I’ve always had a fascination with gardens. My parents never gardened, but my grandparents had a small and respectable garden at their home in Washington. Loaded with fresh vegetables and strawberries, I loved watching them tend tirelessly to these plants who depended on my grandparents’ care to thrive. As I move forward in my own life, I see myself experiencing an introduction to gardening similar to that of Pollan’s, likely starting with pest management as he describes with his pesky woodchuck and experiencing many certain failures along the way.