I tend to write in braided essay form, but in a recent essay about wolves, I took it to a different level. In this essay, I didn’t make so many explicit transitions. Instead, I used the research itself to catapult the essay’s questioning. I found “62 Interesting Facts about Wolves” using Google and considered how each one was really a fact about humans. If so many of the facts involve human-and-wolf interaction, can we imagine the wolf as a separate existence-worthy species? Or are wolves only a reflection of human fears, violent capacities, love of wilderness, ability to adapt? Should humans save them to save these elements of ourselves, or does wolf existence matter for reasons beyond its relationship to the human?
In the preface to his Collected Essays, Aldous Huxley says that “essays belong to a literary species whose extreme variability can be studied most effectively within a three-poled frame of reference. There is the pole of the personal and the autobiographical; there is the pole of the objective, the factual, the concrete-particular; and there is the pole of the abstract-universal. Most essayists are at home and at their best in the neighborhood of only one of the essay’s three poles, or at the most only in the neighborhood of two of them. . Later he adds: “The most richly satisfying essays are those which make the best not of one, not of two, but of all the three worlds in which it is possible for the essay to exist. Freely, effortlessly, thought and feeling move in these consummate works of art, hither and thither between the essay’s three poles – from the personal to the universal, from the abstract back to the concrete, from the objective datum to the inner experience” (v and vii “Preface”).
Applying Huxley’s three pole analysis to E. B. White’s essay “Once More to the Lake,” shows that this essay rises to the level of the “most richly satisfying” because White does “make the best . . of all three worlds.”