What the River Knows

Conversations with the Natural World

Poetry - Inspirational
110 Pages
Reviewed on 10/26/2016
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Andrea Freeman is a naturalist, poet, writer, artist, teacher, harpist, and mystic.
She is a dedicated peace activist and advocate for the rights of nature, the preservation of biodiversity, and the cultivation of compassion and expanded consciousness.
She teaches field-based classes in the natural sciences and nature awareness. For many years she worked as an animation artist and also taught enrichment classes for children in a wide-array of subjects. She’s also trained in the healing arts, is a gifted masseuse, and is knowledgeable about the healing properties of herbs.
Her two albums of Celtic harp music have been distributed internationally and she has played on the soundtrack for two documentary films. The DVD she produced, called H2Ode, which is a poetic and pictorial celebration of water and all the roles it plays on our beautiful blue planet, is being utilized in environmental education programs in the schools.
Her poetry has been published in the United States and in Europe. Much of her poetry is inspired by nature and her experiences in the natural world. She especially enjoys sharing poems and stories, by heart, in the oral tradition.
Her first book, The Infinite Song, which she wrote and illustrated, was published in 2013. It’s an allegorical creation myth tale, written in rhyming verse, that reminds us to celebrate life as loving stewards of the Earth and to honor our connectedness to one another, our beautiful planet, and the mystery from which all life emerged. The gorgeous paintings that accompany the story-poem make this book a visual work of art that appeals to all ages. It was the winner of multiple literary awards including the International Book Award and the Gold Medal Award from USA Best Books.
She has a BA in the Humanities and a Master of Science degree in Natural History and Environmental Studies. She holds a black-belt in Aikido.
She lives in the wilds of Woodacre, CA where crickets and coyotes serenade the stars at night and she cheers them on.

Visit her website: HalcyonWind.com

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

What the River Knows: Conversations with the Natural World is a collection of poems written by Andrea Freeman. Freeman is a naturalist and an educator, as well as a poet, harpist and artist, whose company, Awakening Wonder Edventures (AWE), teaches nature appreciation in the field. Her poems celebrate nature in all its wealth and variety, and she often intertwines her reflections on her own life and mortality with the natural processes she witnesses on her outings. Her opening poem, The Swan, is rich in visual imagery and contrasts of the swan's form, shape and movements in the water’s reflection as the poet exhorts her audience to find their own purpose within those images.

In Murmuration of Starlings, the poet employs gerunds, repetition and simile to bring alive the flowing motion of starlings as they swoop and swirl at dusk: "They glided in as speckled gusts of wind,/joining, parting,/joining again,/then swirled together, en masse, across the sky,/moving as both a particle and a wave;/like light,/they wove the air/into a tapestry of wings;/like light.” The reader can't help but visualize the endless motions conveyed in this richly nuanced and compelling piece. The poet also adds to the complexity of this poem through her use of physics and cosmological concepts as seen above in the "particle and wave" reference and later on: "Coiling and uncoiling,/a nebula sung into being out of interstellar beaks and wings,/now a galaxy of starlings.../As I watched them, formed out of stardust myself.”

Each of the poems in What the River Knows invites the reader to another natural feast for the senses. There are walks along sandy tropical beaches, adorned with shells and sea hearts, conversations with aged trees, and a poem celebrating the poet's unspoken communion with a fox sharing a perfect meadow for an early evening's rest. Freeman's poems seem to slow down the busy hustle and pace of the modern world and invite a few moments of quiet retrospection and renewal, a rejoining and re-dedication of self within the natural world. And, along the way, there are wonders and delights to be explored. What the River Knows: Conversations with the Natural World is most highly recommended.

Andrea Freeman

Here is the review the book received from Kirkus Reviews:

Freeman’s new poetry collection offers an unabashed paean to nature.
Perfect for a backyard hammock or quiet moment in the great outdoors, this book uses lyrical descriptions of creatures
and landscapes to celebrate the mysteries of the wild world. Beauty is pre-eminent—a virtue—and omnipresent; readers
just have to know where to look and when to be watchful. “Today, it was the fish who were my teachers,” begins the
poem “Rainbow Trout.” Under the rough surface “is a place of refuge.” The poet believes in the totemlike aspects of
animals and their ability to carry messages. Her portrait of the pileated woodpecker working a dead trunk for food, for
example, sees the bird as a harbinger of optimism in a challenging world. After he “chiseled the tree from different
angles,” a lesson emerged: “See how it’s possible / to find nourishment / in what is broken, / beauty in decay?” This sort
of reverence for nature’s teachings fills the book to bursting. Even the growth pattern of a wild geranium gives form to
worshipful attention: “And so I point my storksbill seedpod / to the breathing hole of sky, / and uncoil my seed dreams /
into the honey nectar of the heart, / to take root and flower.” Scientific knowledge informs the poems in the specific
habitats and animal behaviors noted, but cultural legends (Egypt’s “special feather of Maat” that determines one’s
afterlife) and mystical moments (“Blow the wind of your soul’s knowing into place”) also matter. Anthropomorphosis
represents yet another way of knowing. In “Red-tailed Hawk Messenger,” for instance, a hawk’s cry takes phonetic
shape, “Kree-eee-ar!” / Kree-eee-ar!” but also an English translation: “ ‘Speak up for yourself! / Speak up for what is
true!’ / he cried, / his voice filling the hollows.” However readers find it, a sense of awe promises the best connection to
the larger universe: “There are no doors to a meadow / but one crosses a threshold to enter.”
For its openness to natural wonders, this poetry volume humbles and delights. — Kirkus Reviews

Andrea Freeman

And another review:

San Francisco Book Review
What the River Knows: Conversations with the Natural World
By Andrea Freeman
Star Rating: 5 / 5

The many and varied wonders of nature have long been fodder for poets. Think of Walt Whitman, Joyce Kilmer, Emily Dickinson, and many more. This collection of poems by Andrea Freeman—a naturalist, writer, artist, and more—will comfortably find a place among other nature poets and their works. Freeman examines a wide range of fauna—foxes, dragonflies, California condors, rainbow trout, coyotes, and others—and flora—jasmine, oak leaves, storksbill geraniums—as well as rocks, water, and beyond into the firmament. Her love of all things found in the natural world is apparent in every line, every careful word choice, and every image in her lyrical, mostly unrhymed work. Her personal observations inform every poem, as seen in these lines from “The Fox Meadow”:
“They walk as softly as shadows
crossing a meadow, foxes do —
their ears perked, listening.”
The skill with which Freeman takes her readers along on her forays into the wilderness is really astounding. Her descriptions are rich and personal and paint such pictures, as in these lines in “Reflections on a Rainy Day”:
“The curling mustache of mosses and ferns
unfurled into a festoon of freshly moistened smiles.”

Certainly Freeman’s attributes as artist, writer, and naturalist can be seen all over this collection, and her attributes as a self-described mystic show up often as well with lines such as, “Blow the wind of your soul’s knowing into place” from the poem “Tongues of Fire.” 

Poet Freeman has written a highly personal collection and readers will feel they come to know her and what is important to her as well as how she approaches the wonders and magic found in the natural world. At the same time, it is completely accessible and open enough that a reader can bring his or her own experience to the collection and find ways to relate those experiences to many of these verses. This is a lovely work that deserves a wide readership.
Ñ San Francisco Book Review