Chance Particulars: My early history with field notebook-keeping

When I was about seven my father gave me a little pink diary with its own golden key. Each night from my pillow, I penciled a line about my day in Mrs. Rudy’s class at elementary school. As a teenager in Japan I kept a journal of poems that came to me as I wandered tiny streets of soba and tea shops–as well as intense conversations about war and romance with friends. All through college and grad school, too, when puzzled or troubled or ecstatic, I’d take to the page when I needed to sort something out or cathartically get something down. Then, when I was 23 a life-changing opportunity chanced my way and I found myself a field biologist perched on a Patagonian cliff recording the behavior of whales. Amazed and wishing to render in words the natural marvels I was beholding, I turned to the chronicles of Charles Darwin, Margaret Mead, and Bruce Chatwin, the writers and thinkers I admired. And soon, as I strove to imitate and master their methods, I was off and running. I was hooked. I’d discovered the deep and abiding satisfactions of the keeping of a field notebook.

After years of field notebook-keeping as a field biologist, social worker, ethnographer, traveler, and literary journalist, I gathered all my thoughts on field notebook-keeping into the slim volume of Chance Particulars. The book is my offering to you: of the tools necessary for the creation of a lively and vivid field notebook all your own.

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