This section has stories where people feel an affinity to the outdoors, or nature features prominently in the action for good or bad.
The setting is often an important part of the plot.
Some deal with pollution and the destruction of the environment.
“The Siskiyou, July 1989” by T. C. Boyle
A family of activists are at a motel in Oregon. Tyler is nervous about the job. Andrea is confident; she has more experience with this kind of thing. Tyler is worried about bringing his daughter, Sierra, with them. There’s a logging road nearby that’s always busy with trucks and woodchippers. They have a plan for it.
Some of this story can be read in the preview of I’m With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet.
“A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett
Nine-year-old Sylvia lives in the country and has a strong connection to animals and nature. One day a young man, a hunter, comes through the area and stays with Sylvia and her grandmother. He is looking for a rare heron to add to his collection.
“A White Heron” can be read in the Amazon preview of A White Heron and Other Stories.
“The Vegetable Man” by Luigi Ugolini
The narrator recounts a story told him by a green man. He had a degree in Natural Sciences and explored the Amazon and Mato Grosso. He found many wonders, including a new plant beyond classification—tall as a person, with thick and fleshy leaves, reddish branches, and long white hair.
“The Vegetable Man” can be read in the preview of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories.
“Wilderness” by Dean Koontz
Addison, a boy of eight, has a lonely life. He lives with his mother in an isolated house surrounded by forest. He’s never seen another person. His mother banishes him from the house for days at a time. He’s comfortable in the woods and with the animals.
The beginning of “Wilderness” can be read in the Amazon preview.
“The Law of Life” by Jack London
Koskoosh, an old man and formerly the chief of an Inuit tribe, sits by himself outside of his tribe’s camp. They are preparing to leave the area to look for better hunting grounds. Koskoosh isn’t going with them; he will wait alone for his death as nature dictates.
“The Law of Life” can be read in the Amazon preview of Tales from the Klondike.
“The Lightning-Rod Man” by Herman Melville
On a very stormy night, a salesman calls on the narrator, warning him of the dangers of lightning. He tries to sell the narrator a lightning rod. Each strike of lightning makes his pitch more urgent, but the narrator trusts God with his fate.
This is the seventh story in the preview of Classic Short Stories.
“The Sound Machine” by Roald Dahl
Klausner has invented a machine that captures sound frequencies inaudible to humans and makes them understandable. He tries the machine out one night and hears a terrible shriek. The problem is he can’t identify where it’s coming from.
This story is in Complete Short Stories: Vol 1.
“More” by Nancy Kress
Catie is being released from prison after serving a fifteen year sentence for a widely known crime. She’s picked up by Wayne, who’s fifty now. They’re headed for the compound. On the way, she wants to stop to look at a dome, a model C-2 made by HomeWalls. They’re designed to enclose an area, making it a great living environment and keeping the less fortunate out. Fifteen years ago, someone had tipped off HomeWalls about their plan.
Some of this story can be read in the preview of Solaris Rising 2.
“The Harvest” by Tomas Rivera
A migrant farm worker takes frequent walks by himself. His fellow workers think he might be hiding money.
“A Day in the Country” by Anton Chekhov
A young girl goes to a cobbler for some help for her brother. He has his arm stuck in a tree, and there’s a storm coming. They walk together and talk about nature.
“The Pagan Rabbi” by Cynthia Ozick
The narrator hears that a renowned rabbi and childhood friend, Isaac, has committed suicide. He visits Isaac’s widow and learns that he had become fixated on nature before his death.
“Love Song” by Deirdre Kessler
A boy and girl have a strong connection to nature and each other. The boy identifies more with animals than humans.
“A Field of Wheat” by Sinclair Ross
A married couple in their late thirties, beaten down from years of hard work, lives in poverty on their farm. This year the husband’s wheat crop is the best it’s ever been, and there is hope of a large payout as wheat prices are high.
Read “A Field of Wheat” (PDF page 45)
“A Mild Attack of Locusts” by Doris Lessing
Warning of a swarm of locusts from the north reaches a farm. It’s been seven years since the last swarm, so they expect their maize crop to be destroyed.
Read here (New Yorker)
“The Toxic Donut” by Terry Bisson
In the future, all the world’s environmental problems have been solved. Ron, an assistant for an annual awards show, walks the special guest, Kim, through a rehearsal. Kim has been chosen to represent all of humanity and nature on the show.
“And of Clay Are We Created” by Isabel Allende
In Latin America, mudslides have buried towns and killed thousands of people. A thirteen-year-old girl, Azucena, is buried up to her neck in one of the mudslides. Rolf Carle is the first reporter on the scene. Volunteers are unable to rescue the girl, and Rolf gradually pays less attention to his job and becomes more emotionally attached to the girl as he tries to assist her himself.
“The Japanese Quince” by John Galsworthy
Mr. Nilson perceives a peculiar sensation in his throat, leading him to take a morning walk in the nearby gardens to shake this uncomfortable feeling. During his trip, he sees Mr. Tandram which makes him feel awkward because they have never spoken even though they’re neighbors.
“The Wave” by Liam O’Flaherty
A two hundred foot high cliff has developed a cavern at its base from “battling” for thousands of years with the incoming waves. Waves continue to crash in, and high tide is approaching.
This story has no human or animal characters. The “characters” are the cliff and the waves.
“Brownian Motion” by Virginia Euwer Wolff
This story is told by four people: the mother, father, and two daughters. The family takes scuba-diving lessons and then they go to the Caribbean. The father, Jim, reacts cynically to the ocean, while the oldest daughter, Patrice, feels happy.
“The Eclipse” by Selma Lagerlof
A group of women live on a mountain and have a lot of free time because their kids go to school and their husbands are at work. They take turns hosting get-togethers to combat their loneliness, trying to think of something to celebrate. When an old woman hosts a gathering, she wants to make it about the sun because a solar eclipse is coming.
“Big Two-Hearted River” | Ernest Hemingway
Nick Adams is back in Seney after experiencing something that has damaged him psychologically. He finds the outside soothing. He spends time at a river, fishing, and camps out.
“The End of Old Horse” by Simon J. Ortiz
Two brothers, Native American boys, go to a creek to fish and keep cool on a hot day. On their way, they see Old Horse, a dog, tied up, straining excitedly against his rope. They tell the owner, but he says to ignore it.
“Bezhin Meadow” by Ivan Turgenev
The narrator, having finished grouse shooting for the day, heads home but gets lost. He ends up in Bezhin Meadow with five boys who are watching some horses. He rests while the boys tell superstitious stories.
“The Lamp at Noon” by Sinclair Ross
Ellen lights the lamp at noon; the dust storm is in its third day. Her husband Paul works the land but it’s unproductive. Ellen feels oppressed by the environment and their poverty, and she wants Paul to go work for her parents. Paul is confident things will turn around, and he’s willing to wait.
“Antaeus” by Borden Deal
T. J. is a young boy whose family has moved North for work. He is introduced by the narrator to the local group of boys who hang out together. T. J. Is surprised to learn there is nowhere to grow anything like he is used to in the South. When he suggests turning their hangout into a garden, everyone is interested and gets to work.
“An Idle Fellow” by Kate Chopin
The narrator is tired after years of studying. She sits on a door-step with her friend Paul. He’s an idle man who likes to observe nature and people.
“He-y, Come On Ou-t” by Shinichi Hoshi
In a certain village, after a big storm, the people discover a hole in the ground. It’s about a meter wide, but they can’t figure out how deep it is. It seems to have no bottom. They think about what should be done with it.
“The Night Came Slowly” by Kate Chopin
The narrator is losing interest in people and books. She prefers to lie under a maple tree at night.
“The Music on the Hill” by Saki
Sylvia has convinced Mortimer Seltoun to marry her. She takes him away from Town to a remote country house. It’s a wild-looking place. Sylvia is surprised when Mortimer expresses a belief in Pan, ancient Greek God of the wild.