Study Guide

Walk Two Moons Man and the Natural World

By Sharon Creech

Man and the Natural World

The detour through Pipestone wound through a cool, dark forest and if you closed your eyes and smelled the air, you could smell Bybanks, Kentucky. (12.19)

Sal uses all of her senses to tell a story. She almost teleports to Bybanks simply by breathing. It must be really comforting for Sal to smell a smell that is so familiar and that reminds her of the home she misses so much.

"It's a water moccasin isn't it?" she said. It's a poisonous one, isn't it?" The snake slithered and wriggled, straining toward the water. (15.29)

Nature is not always kind, even though Sal and her family love it and respect so much. In fact, it can be lethal; you could argue that this snake causes Gram to die.

Outside the hospital, I heard the warbling of a bird, and it was such a familiar warble that I stopped and listened for its source. Bordering the parking lot was a rim of poplars. The sound was coming from somewhere in the top of one of those trees, and I thought, instantly, of the singing tree in Bybanks. (16.9)

Once again, nature helps transport Sal to her beloved hometown of Bybanks, Kentucky. By noticing nature and using all of her senses, Sal is able to feel closer to home. And feeling closer to home comforts her more than anything else.

Next to my favorite sugar maple tree beside the barn is a tall aspen. When I was younger, I heard the most beautiful birdsong coming from the top of that tree. It was not a call; it was a true birdsong, with trills and warbles. I stood beneath that tree for the longest time, hoping to catch sight of the bird who was singing such a song. I saw no bird – only leaves waving in the breeze. (16.10)

When was the last time you noticed birds singing? Sal has such wonder for the natural world around her, and it seems to have started at a very young age. She even knows the difference between a birdcall and a birdsong. Plus, her vivid imagination makes it seem like the tree itself is singing. What a mysterious occurrence.

The longer I stared up at the leaves, the more it seemed that it was the tree itself that was singing. Every time I passed that tree, I listened. Sometimes it sang, sometimes it did not, but from then on I always called it the singing tree. (16.10)

It's almost as though this tree has a life of its own. It's a magical tree! Sal seems to be very connected to this tree and to the songs it sings. Is it a source of comfort? Of joy? Is it just a matter of curiosity?

That day I climbed up into the maple and watched the singing tree, waiting for it to sing. I stayed there all day and on into the early evening. It did not sing.
At dusk, Gramps placed three sleeping bags at the foot of the tree, and he, Gram, and I slept there all night. The tree did not sing. (16.11-12)

While the singing tree has been a source of comfort and wonder to Sal, it becomes a source of pain and sadness when it does not sing. This seems to be an example of how nature can be cruel just as often as it can be kind. It's almost as though Sal feels like, in addition to her mom leaving her, the tree has left her, too.

That night I tried to write the mini journal for Mr. Birkway. First I made a list of all the things I liked, and they were all things from Bybanks – the trees, the cows, the chickens, the pigs, the fields, the swimming hole. It was a complete jumble of things, and when I tried to write about any one of those things, I ended up writing about my mother, because everything was connected to her. At least, I wrote about the blackberry kiss. (20.1)

Sal's love of nature is deeply connected to the love she has for her mother. When her mother leaves, she turns to nature for comfort and for sense of purpose At the same time, it also reminds her of the painful fact that she has lost her mom for good.

I thought about a baby rabbit that our dog, Moody Blue, caught and carried around—she was not actually lunching on the rabbit, just playing. I finally coaxed Moody Blue to drop it, and when I picked up the rabbit, its heart was beating faster than anything. Faster and faster it went, and then all of a sudden its heart stopped. (22.21)

We could argue that Sal's greatest fear is death, so this moment, when she has one of her first encounters with death, is particularly interesting. Yes, it's a wild bunny rabbit that dies and not a human being, but Sal seems truly affected. She learns that death is a part of nature and a part of life. Moody Blue didn't mean to kill the bunny, but the bunny died anyway.

I told Gram and Gramps a story that my mother had told me about the high sky, which looked higher here than anywhere else I had been. Long ago, the sky was so low that you might bump your head on it if you were not careful, and so low that people sometimes disappeared right up into it. People got a little fed up with this, so they made long poles, and one day they all raised their poles and pushed. They pushed the sky as high as they could. (23.12)

Sal's mom tells her lots of stories, and most of these stories have to do with nature and explaining why nature is the way it is.

I said, "It isn't normal to die. It isn't normal. It's terrible." (29.12)

Sal is really upset by Longfellow's poem "The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls." All her short sentences make her seem angry. Why do you think the poem upsets her so much?

The way Mr. Birkway read this poem, you could hear the tide rising and falling, rising and falling. In the poem, a traveler is hurrying toward a town, and it is getting darker and darker, and the sea calls to the traveler. Then the waves "with their soft, white hands" wash out the traveler's footprints. (29.3)

The word "hurrying" here makes us think of all the times in Sal's story when she feels the need to rush. Throughout her road trip to Idaho, "the air screamed, <em>hurry, hurry, hurry</em>" (12.17). Just as the traveler in this poem is hurrying toward a town, Sal is hurrying toward her mom in Idaho. However, there are certain times when Sal doesn't feel the need to hurry anymore. What happens to make her feel this way?

I prayed all night long to the elm tree outside. I prayed that we would not get in an accident, that we could get to Lewiston, Idaho, in time for my mother's birthday, and that we would bring her home. Later I would realize that I had prayed for the wrong things. (32.5)

This is one of the only times in which we get a very clear picture of Sal's relationship to nature, and, more specifically, to trees. She actually prays to the elm tree, feeling that it has the power to help her. She believes in trees. She has a spiritual connection to them. Later, when Sal sees her mother's grave for the first time, she hears a bird singing a birdsong in the willow tree nearby. She kisses the bark of the willow tree, as though saying goodbye to her mom. Trees are mighty powerful beings in Sal's eyes.

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