The Seattle Street-Smart Naturalist: Field Notes from the City

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David Williams Book Signing

Lake Union is a landscape that has been dramatically transformed. Over the course of years the lake has been radically altered from its pre-Seattle days when it was inhabited for thousands of years by Native Americans.


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Field Notes: Observing Lake Union is an audio tour of the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop that explores the complex interplay between human values and natural ecologies that have shaped Lake Union today. The tour focuses on the underlying ecology of Lake Union and its transformation through eras of geologic change, Native American stewardship, European settlement, commercial industry and large-scale infrastructural development as well as urban planning and park design.

Common Tasks

The project probes questions relevant to cities everywhere: what are the underlying ecologies of our urban landscapes? How do we understand the layers of human history that have shaped the landscape we experience today? And how might we design human systems to more thoughtfully integrate into natural systems?

Williams: Seattle Walks

I simply wanted to focus on the natural world in Seattle. In some essays I explored by foot or bike. In others I chose a topic and delved deeply into it, interviewing experts, probing its history, and going out into the field with scientists.

Seattle: A Literary City - S5 E2 - Sounds by the Sound

A few of them focus on topics that have long interested me, such as building stone or weather, and others arose because they simply seemed fascinating at the time. I enjoyed writing and researching each of them.


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I also know that I like Seattle better after spending so much time exploring and discovering new and old places. They fail to show that stories are in our yards, under our feet, and on the walls of our buildings. The citizens of Seattle have dug up, dug into, dumped upon, and carted away its original topography as few other cities have.


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Williams says his writing career evolved from his career as an educator. He followed this with Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology , which weaves together the natural and cultural history of building stone from around the country. Captivated by rock cairns, in all their variations around the globe, Williams wrote Cairns: Messengers in Stone. For thousands of years, people have fashioned piles of stones to delineate trails, honor ancestors, and mark territory.

In doing so they have sought not only to connect to place but to communicate and share timeless messages. Search form Search.