A new book by Indiana Humanities is designed to help Hoosiers connect more deeply with nature—whether they’re surrounded by hills or prairie, wetlands or dunelands, limestone creeks or kettle lakes. Next Indiana Campfires: A Trail Companion is a collection of prose and poetry from Indiana Humanities’ award-winning Next Indiana Campfires series. The book features a reprint of a Scott Russell Sanders essay; contemporary and classic works by Indiana, Midwestern and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors; and a trail journal to record notes about the weather, what was read and discussed, and more.
“We hope people use this book to look more closely at a beloved Indiana landscape, to see what is rare and distinct, to restore a sense of wonder and delight in a familiar place,” said Leah Nahmias, co-editor of the book and director of programs at Indiana Humanities. “Some readings describe precisely this particular corner of the earth, while others instruct us how to move through nature. And some ask us what will become of our wild places—and what we can do to make sure they survive.”
The book includes 30 readings, including Scott Russell Sanders’ essay “Becoming Native to Indiana,” which is currently out of print, familiar names like Etheridge Knight, Susan Neville, Mary Oliver and Tecumseh, as well as lesser known Indiana authors like Jared Carter, D.A. Lockhart and Michael Martone. It includes more than 20 trail journal pages for readers to reflect on and record their notes from their adventures, and more than 40 sketch pages to doodle, draw or write a poem inspired by the trail. Each reading is accompanied by icon illustrations to help the reader choose what to read and where. Identified Indiana landscapes include prairie, woodlands, waterways, dunes and communities. The book sells for $20 and can be purchased at IndianaHumanities.org/trailcompanion.
Indiana Humanities has used each of the texts in the book during treks for its award-winning Next Indiana Campfires program, which pairs nature and literature to spark conversations about Indiana’s future. Since 2016, the organization has taken Hoosiers on hikes, bike rides and paddling trips, pausing to read aloud the words of important Hoosier and Pulitzer-winning authors. On the trail, participants have considered Indiana’s history of conservation and discussed how Hoosiers can carry this legacy forward. Led by facilitators and naturalists, attendees talk about the role of literature in defining a sense of place, how place shapes identity, and how writers help us understand the natural world and ourselves in it.
“Though each trek has been unique, some common themes have emerged,” Nahmias said. “One is that Indiana is a beautiful place, but sometimes we Hoosiers have struggled to articulate its loveliness. We’ve also noticed that people are surprised that Indiana contains ecologically rich landscapes. We’ve observed, unfortunately, that many Hoosiers seem to have internalized the idea that we’re ‘flyover country.’ Just like the Next Indiana Campfire treks themselves, we hope this book helps people discover our state’s beauty and appreciate the unique ways writers create and deepen our connections to the natural world.”
The Next Indiana Campfires program has received support from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and the Mellon Foundation, which helped to support the creation of this new book.
Indiana Humanities creates a variety of reading and discussion programs as a way to help Hoosiers connect with others, and use the humanities (texts and scholars, history and ideas) to grapple with our most urgent questions. All of these ideas come together in in Next Indiana Campfires: A Trail Companion.