Zoro’s Field

Thomas Rain Crowe
Foreword by Christopher Camuto


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About the book

After a long absence from his native southern Appalachians, Thomas Rain Crowe returned to live alone deep in the North Carolina woods. This is Crowe’s chronicle of that time when, for four years, he survived by his own hand without electricity, plumbing, modern-day transportation, or regular income. It is a Walden for today, paced to nature’s rhythms and cycles and filled with a wisdom one gains only through the pursuit of a consciously simple, spiritual, environmentally responsible life.

Crowe made his home in a small cabin he had helped to build years before—at a restless age when he could not have imagined that the place would one day call him back. The cabin sat on what was once the farm of an old mountain man named Zoro Guice. As we absorb Crowe’s sharp observations on southern Appalachian natural history, we also come to know Zoro and the other singular folk who showed Crowe the mountain ways that would see him through those four years.

Crowe writes of many things: digging a root cellar, being a good listener, gathering wood, living in the moment, tending a mountain garden. He explores profound questions on wilderness, self-sufficiency, urban growth, and ecological overload. Yet we are never burdened by their weight but rather enriched by his thoughtfulness and delighted by his storytelling.

About the author

Thomas Rain Crowe is the author of eleven books of original and translated works, as well as a poet, translator, editor, publisher, and recording artist. He received the Ragan Old North State Award for Nonfiction given by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association and the Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award given by the Southern Environmental Law Center for Zoro’s Field. He lives in Tuckasegee, North Carolina.

For discussion

  1. What are the advantages of a nature-writing memoir such as Crowe’s being written in the present tense?
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  3. Why do you think Crowe chose the title Zoro’s Field, and what is the role and place of mountain sage Zoro Guice in the narrative?
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  5. How does Crowe portray issues such as environment, ecology, and bioregion in the book?
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  7. What does Crowe’s experience tell us about our lives today?
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  9. What are the advantages Crowe cites as to living off the grid and off the clock?
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  11. How does Crowe balance the “how to” aspects of self-sufficient living with the more interior and introspective narratives?
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  13. How does Crowe inject humor into his narrative, and what is its affect?
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  15. Crowe’s rich literary life outside of his Zoro’s Field experience comes into play from time to time in the narrative. Does that blend well with the main elements of this story?
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  17. Who are the characters that are a part of the “story” of this Walden-like experience, and what roles do they play in the author’s over-all drama?
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  19. How does Zoro’s Field compare to Thoreau’s Walden? What are the similarities and what are some of the differences?
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  21. How does Crowe address the spiritual aspects of a life lived in the wild? What conclusions, if any, does he make?
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  23. Is the addition of poetry at the end of each chapter a positive addition to the overall text?
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  25. Crowe has added an Epilogue, bringing the reader up to the present time some twenty years later. Was this a good decision on the author’s part?