Paper pub. date
May 2012
ISBN 9780870716553 (paperback)
5.5 x 8.5 inches, 112 pages.

Wild Delicate Seconds

29 Wildlife Encounters

Charles Finn

"Wild Delicate Seconds is an exquisite read, full of small surprises with big heartbeats. Finn's stories are warbler-sized. They cut through the air of the mind like flames."
—Gretel Ehrlich, author of The Solace of Open Spaces and The Future of Ice

"These brief meditations are as beautiful for what they donʼt say as for what they do. Charles Finn does not pad, overreach, or over-emote. His precision accounts of wildlife encounters summon awe, wonder, and magnificence when those feelings are authentically present, but just as readily summon comedy if the encounter was, as Edward Hoagland once put it, 'like meeting a fantastically dressed mute on the road.' These are not fleeting glances: they are full-on full-bodied face-to-face invocations of the way animals and birds 'speak out by saying precisely nothing,' uncannily propelling us into 'the exact place where the world begins.'"
—David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and My Story as Told by Water


In twenty-nine micro-essays that border on prose poems, Charles Finn captures chance encounters with the everyday—and not so everyday—animals, birds, and insects of North America.

There are no maulings or fantastic escapes in Finn’s narratives—only stillness and attentiveness to beauty. With profundity, humor, grace, and compassion, Finn pays homage to the creatures that share our world—from black bears to bumble bees, mountain lions to muskrats—and, in doing so, touches on what it means to be human.

Wild Delicate Seconds will appeal to both trained and casual wildlife observers; to birders, hikers, conservationists, ecologists, and naturalists; and to readers of American nature writers such as Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Barry Lopez, Annie Dillard, and Mary Oliver.


About the author

Charles Finn is editor of High Desert Journal. His writing has appeared in more than fifty newspapers, journals, magazines, and anthologies, including The Sun, Open Spaces, Northern Lights, Big Sky Journal, and High Country News. Originally from Vermont and a recent resident of Bend, Oregon, he now lives in New Jersey with his wife Joyce Mphande and their two cats Lutsa and Pushkin. When not writing, Finn is a commissioned woodworker, building microhomes and microcabins using all reclaimed lumber and materials. Explore more of his writing here and learn more about his woodworking business, A Room of One's Own, here.

Read more about this author

"This is a simple book—in design, length, and the economy of each of the 29 stories collected within. It is simply printed and illustrated, with an elegant woodcut on the front cover and precise, iconic ink drawings of the 29 animals encountered printed unobtrusively, almost as page markers, on the title pages of each story. Twenty-nine mostly run-of-the mill animals, all wild, met in the wild or just outside his door, by Charles Finn. Cougar and mountain goat may not qualify for run-of-the-mill, but the others—ravens, bumble bees, a red fox—would not disrupt our day in encounter. But we are not Charles Finn, and it is his eye, his sensibilities, that turns these chance encounters into deeper reflections on the interrelatedness of life and the mystical place that is our world. All this in less than 500 words per story. Simple, but not so simple.

Finn ... gives us quick glimpses of the natural world in its natural element, not editorialized by our sloppy human wisdom. In all this is a collection of snapshots that happen to include not visual acuity, but smell, sound and the inner rumblings of a writer attuned to what he has stumbled upon. Finn, in the preface to this book, calls the individual pieces 'nonficton micro-essays' and there I would argue with their maker. These are more prose poems than essays, each with an inner rhythm that works for the beauty and mystery of the animal in question. They are perfect moments of words that simply present a much greater idea... I do not think we could ask much more of a writer whether in fiction, essay or the poetry this book reveals itself as ultimately."   —Montana Magazine

"I don't know when I have felt more captive to a suite of animal associations than I do in reading Wild Delicate Seconds.  I think of Ernest Thompson Seton, both Adolf and Olaus Murie, and all of the Craigheads, written with the elegant concision of Penelope Fitzgerald and the wild whimsy of Tom Robbins. But this is Charles Finn, all by himself, except for the company of 29 memorable creatures--all the more memorable for his gem-like accounts of intimate meetings in the wild. Finn's mastery of simile, his deep, deep attention to others around him, and his humility in the presence of his evolutionary peers make this a fine book, one I shall read over and over, give away again and again, and return to when I am lonely."
—Robert Michael Pyle, author of Mariposa Road and The Thunder Tree

"When I know the name of a creature, Thoreau said, I find it difficult to see. Charles Finn has escaped that disability, and done magic: to summon the moment of encounter with a wild creature without killing that drama with too much mind. The feral moments in this book are deft, alive with exact detail, full, and short. This is a field guide to a different kind of outside, where the wise, wide-eyed child of the self meets ouzel, turtle, fox, and owl. We need more big short books like this one—after reading Finn, you will wander alert, humbled, wise."
—Kim Stafford, author of The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft

"In the space of these twenty-nine encounters, Charles Finn invites his readers into a landscape of 'uncountable geometries, great silences,' a primordial terrain in which 'hunger is the beginning of everything.'  Here, a crane’s flight is 'the old machinery of the world lifting into the sky.'  Here, we experience moments so stunning 'there is no restarting the heart.' Finn gives us the quality of intense seeing that transcends into insight, seeing that transforms into vision.  In the encounter with ravens, he reminds us of what poets tell us: 'Everything… shouts one thing, and one thing only, "Pay attention!"'  And Charles Finn does. Indeed, he does.  His words pay a rapt and rapturous attention."
—Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate

"Wild Delicate Seconds examines those jeweled instants offering an invitation, brief portals into a more comprehensive, complete, and compassionate universe, instants too often dismissed with a glance. Charles Finns’s 'micro-essays' distill keen observation and deep contemplation,
articulating an interaction with the world at once inclusive, generous, and instructive."
—Robert Stubblefield

Sign Up for Our Newsletter