The Mediate Role of Nature in Humboldt's Views
This paper offers a speculative analysis of a conceptual, philosophical problem that arises in Alexander von Humboldt's View of Nature—the problem of intellectually accessing the Absolute through Nature. A working heuristic assumption of this paper is that for Humboldt there is, in the first place, a kind of Absolute which is found by turning away from human affairs and looking into Nature. I acknowledge that in the text the concept of Nature is vague, while the Absolute is not explicitly named at all. Part of what makes Views of Nature such a rare kind of work is that it is both an account of a material, topographical exploration as well as an abstract scientific inquiry. One upshot of this is an inherent ambiguity in the use of much of the terminology. However, Humboldt is clear at times about the promise he supposes Nature to hold, especially contrasted with the banality of human affairs. For example:
Thus does man, at the lowest level of animal brutality or in the vainglory of his elevated civilization alike, ever make for himself a wearisome life. … He who seeks spiritual peace amidst the unresolved strife between peoples therefore gladly lowers his gaze to the quiet life of plants and into the inner workings of the sacred force of Nature, or, surrendering to the instinctive drive that has glowed for millennia in the breast of humanity, he looks upward with awe to the high celestial bodies, which, in undisturbed harmony, complete their ancient, eternal course.1
This is not the only overture to a primordial serendipity attainable through investigations into Nature. While that passage suggests a kind of metaphysical oneness, a passage just preceding it, describing the bio-electric capacity of eels, contains a more genealogical gesture towards unity:
This is the wondrous struggle of the horses and fish. That which, invisible, is the living weapon of this denizen of the water; which, awakened by the contact of moist and dissimilar parts, races through all organs of animals and plants; which thunderingly inflames the broad roof of the heavens, binds iron to iron, and steers the silent, returning motion of the guiding needle—all, like the colors of the refracted beam of light, flow forth from One Source; all melt together in an eternal, all-encompassing power.2
It is language like this that makes me confident from the outset that Humboldt has some notion of Nature as an Absolute, at least in the sense of a total unity. One of two tasks of this paper is to bolster that judgment. I claim that Humboldt's Nature functions as a mediate term for a fundamentally empiricist idea of the Absolute, insofar as accessing the Absolute depends on the modern scientific investigation of Nature. Nature affords the intellect sole access to the Absolute by making manifest the “flow” of life.
It is necessary to acknowledge that Humboldt's method is neither a traditional nor standard modern philosophical approach. Rather than elide or diminish that fact, I'd like to use this paper as an opportunity to embrace its idiosyncrasy. His method has roughly four elements, as I see it—empirical observation, namely the 1799 expedition of which the book is partly an account; encyclopedia, especially in the aggregation of diverse cultural and scientific geographies; classification, as in the chapter on the physiognomy of plants; and what I will call speculative meditation, or meditative speculation, in those instances when he sketches historiographical connections or makes philosophical claims. Because this is a philosophical analysis, the basis of my investigation will be the comparison of two parts of the text that fit the latter category—his speculation about the colonization of California by Buddhist sailors, and his meditation on the Rhodian Genius. But I do not intend to neglect the other three aspects, and hope to draw attention to the way they help define the Absolute for Humboldt, so that the pursuit of Nature becomes a holistic—even embodied, material—endeavor, and not a mere theoretical inquest. I aim to show that, rather than presenting a scattershot text, Views of Nature coheres around a method that works to reveal Nature as a means to the Absolute without naming it as such. The speculation about the lost Buddhist pilgrims and the meditation on the Genius are not departures from his investigation, but integral to its exposition of Nature in this role. The second task of this paper, aside from securing the notion that there is an Absolute for Humboldt, is then to reveal how his work subtly but surely pursues it through the study of Nature.
- From the jungle to the heath
Before taking up Humboldt's speculative meditations, I'd like to bring attention to two pairs of images conjured by Humboldt, including that contained in the passage I partially quoted above. In these pairs, an impulse to turn away from human affairs and toward the reality of the cosmos that might make sense of his naturalism can be found. For even presuming my ascription to Humboldt of a yearning for the Absolute is granted, the question would remain: What need would there be for Nature? Why would the Absolute be mediated, and why specifically by something called Nature? Humboldt seems to take an approach which is both universalist and empiricist when it comes to the desire to seek “spiritual peace”—a concept which merits its own explication, but which here is assumed to be an experiential counterpart to reaching the Absolute, or at least its possibility—by looking to either the plants or the stars. It is universalist in the sense that this desire is shared by all people, civilized or not. It is empiricist in the sense that it advocates a turn to the material, living, and observable world rather than a retreat into any kind of pure abstraction of ideas. Humboldt's Nature functions, therefore, as a mediate term for an empiricist idea of the Absolute.
To get a better sense of the impulse toward spiritual peace, I would highlight two examples given by Humboldt of the tragic condition of humanity in its confinement to its own engagement. The first comes at the end of the opening chapter, and describes a tribe in Guyana that erases its own footprints in the mud of the riverbank, so as to avoid pursuit by its bellicose neighbors:
Though tiger and crocodile battle horses and cattle in the steppe, we see on its forested bank, in the wildernesses of Guyana, man forever armed against man. With unnatural desire, some tribes here drink the blood drained from their enemies; others, seemingly unarmed and yet equipped for murder, strangle the enemy with a poisoned thumbnail. The weaker tribes, when they take to the sandy bank, carefully brush away the traces of their timid steps with their hands.3
So this passage leads directly into the one cited above, “Thus does man, at the lowest level...” This benighted tribe has to resort to erasing its own physical traces so as to avoid falling prey to other humans. I would compare this to a second textual example of a 'pitiful' condition, this one more civilized. While the tropical peoples, by Humboldt's reckoning, struggle with an overabundance of life, human and otherwise, northern peoples struggle with a dearth of it:
The sickly plants within our greenhouses provide but a weak image of the majesty of tropical vegetation. But in the refinement of our language, in the incandescent imagination of the poet, in the depictive art of the painter there open rich wellsprings of compensation. From this, the power of our imagination creates a living picture of exotic Nature. In the cold of the North, in the starkness of the heath, the lone individual can acquire for himself that which is being explored in the most distant latitudes, and thus create within himself a world that is the work of, and is as free and immortal as, his own spirit.4
Both the Native who erases his own footstep and the European who constructs shelter for his plants and himself do so not in struggle against Nature per se, but against its vicissitudes. There is nevertheless a stark difference in the way they approach these particular predicaments, one that I think, if put in context with the rest of the work, actually proves illustrative of the mediate role of Nature.
The difference is that while the Native does his best to erase his mark, the European relies on his mark, and continually develops it. Why is that? For Humboldt, this is not a question of racial difference, or any other supposed difference in kind on the level of humanity. All of humanity shares a basic condition of strife, along with a spiritual yearning for a loftier harmony. Rather, for Humboldt, the difference between peoples is determined by geography:
...the knowledge of the natural character of different parts of the world is connected in the most intimate way to the history of humanity and to that of its culture. For even if the beginning of a culture is not determined by physical influences alone, still a culture's very direction, the character of a people, the bleak or cheerful attitude of humanity depend to a great degree on climatic conditions...The influence of the physical world upon the moral, the mysterious interworking of the sensory and the extrasensory, bestows upon the study of Nature, when lifted to higher considerations, a charm that belongs to it alone, and that remains too little acknowledged.5
The difference in behavior between the Native who erases his mark and the European who develops his is not, for Humboldt, indicative of a difference in kind on the level of their humanity. Rather, it is a contingency of their environments. It is a difference in psychological tendencies, cultural practices, and even philosophical understanding, but one rooted solely in their contingent, environmental relationship to Nature.6
In fact, these behaviors, in their divergence, serve as evidence of the underlying sameness of their humanity. The two archetypes of humankind share the impulse to find spiritual peace in Nature. For the Native, whose jungle is superabundant, that means becoming invisible, so as to fold quietly into the Nature that is already established around him; for the European, whose heath is barren, that means first finding a way to access Nature. This is not some kind of benign or inverse Orientalism on Humboldt's part. He is neither fetishizing nor exceptionalizing the Native. Rather, it is the empirical fact of the proliferation of life-forms in the tropics that motivates his privileging of the jungle vis-à-vis Nature. The Native is simply a human who happens to take the jungle as his habitat.7
Between the jungle and the greenhouse, then, we can find the mediate place of Nature in one sense—that is, humanity can both exceed it, as in the native tribes who run amok in the tropical rainforests, and fall short of it, as in the northerners who must strain all of their creative faculties to wanly approximate it. So one human could be led to erase his mark, while another enhances it. But Nature's mediate place is not merely between extremes of human behavior, but between human affairs and spiritual peace. At least, that's how Humboldt himself characterizes it. I'll quote again the two alternatives he suggests for one who wishes to gaze away from human carnage: “He who seeks spiritual peace amidst the unresolved strife between peoples therefore gladly lowers his gaze to the quiet life of plants and into the inner workings of the sacred force of Nature, or...he looks upward with awe to the high celestial bodies, which, in undisturbed harmony, complete their ancient, eternal course.” Nature can be located not only between an excess of forms and a scarcity, but between the minute physiognomy of a single plant and the vast heavenly cycle.
Yet it is not there merely to exist in between. Whether one pursues the plant or the star, for Humboldt, that pursuit begins empirically. What peace is to be found—what Absolute—is accessed through the natural object, in a real, material way. Nature mediates the Absolute insofar as, in order to find respite from one's particular condition and attain a more fundamental communion with life, one must access the universal Nature through its particulars. This is ultimately what his method offers.
Why wish to 'arrive at' and 'inhabit purely' Nature at all? It seems that for Humboldt, there is a spiritual peace that only Nature can offer, which is itself the sense of unity with the cosmos. This inherent motivation, too, lends this “spiritual peace” the quality of the Absolute. But even in the now twice-quoted passage that presents the alternative of the plant or the stars, it is only the plant that is a living, natural thing. Why is Nature, with the specific connotation of biology, privileged over the lifeless motion of the stars, or of earthly geology for that matter?
The study of Nature, for Humboldt, as quoted above, has “a charm that belongs to it alone” when “lifted to higher considerations,” and I take this to be important for understanding the work done in Views of Nature. The figure of the northerner in the greenhouse is one who strives to achieve what the paucity of Nature in his environment has failed to deliver. I believe the difference between the pursuit of Nature and the study of it is that between the two axes I delineated above, namely, the 'horizontal' axis of human behaviors and the 'vertical' axis that runs from the soil to the sky.
Humboldt is doing work that has not yet been done, and his hybrid method reflects the innovative, exploratory quality of his task. He is neither the Native erasing his tracks on the sandy bank, nor the European exercising the imagination in a greenhouse—yet he incorporates aspects of both into his work. This rudimentary synthesis is not the product of a dialectic, but reflects his established belief that Nature is the universal determinant of human expression. The study of Nature, therefore, involves elements from the full diversity of human culture—thus the encyclopedic aspect of the text.
Two of his speculative meditations are especially illustrative of this underlying assumption of the text, and what its implications are for the study of Nature. Humboldt isn't neglecting to perform a standard philosophical exposition for lack of ability or opportunity, but rather because the study of Nature is not best suited simply by authoring a treatise. In the speculation about the Buddhist priests, or bōzu, reaching California and colonizing Mexico, and in the meditation on the Rhodian Genius, Humboldt suggests that the study of Nature exceeds the bounds of mere intellect. This should not be surprising, given his commitment to empirical researches.
- California dreamin'
Speculation about Japanese contact with native peoples on the western coast of North America has been around since at least as early as Humboldt. More recently, beginning in the late twentieth century, the anthropologist Nancy Yaw Davis has worked for a large part of her career to hypothesize about a connection between the Zuni and the Japanese of centuries past.8 This theory has not been widely accepted in the academic community, though it is commonly maintained that it is not inconceivable that a sailing ship blown off course off the east coast of Japan could wind up in California or the Pacific Northwest, carried by a fortuitous combination of currents and winds, with its crew still alive.9 However, mainstream anthropology today maintains that these contacts, if they occurred, would have been very rare, and almost certainly would have resulted in the enslavement, absorption, or even murder of the crew by native peoples—a far cry from the kind of organized cultural foundation that Humboldt imagines. Nonetheless, my interest in Humboldt's fantasy is not in its potential veracity, but rather in what it says about the study of Nature.
It's notable that Davis, in her work, which is the most recent major development of this speculative notion, makes much of the parallels of the Zuni and Japanese languages; Humboldt lacks a linguistic connection between American Natives and East Asia, but wants one:
Could it be, perhaps, that...civilized Asians passed over to the New Continent? If these newcomers had been inhabitants of the steppes, where agriculture was not pursued, then this bold hypothesis, which through language comparison has heretofore gained little favor, would at least explain the conspicuous absence of actual cereal grains in America. perhaps there landed on the coasts of New California, battered by storms, one of those Asiatic priest colonies whose mystic reveries induced them to venture on long sea voyages, and of whom the history of the populating of Japan at the time of Qin Shi Huang-ti provides a memorable example.10
There are a few important things to note about this. As I mentioned, Davis seems to have taken a cue, intentionally or not, from Humboldt. She asserts that linguistic connections between Zuni—an isolate—and ancient Japanese dialects are significantly strong.11 It's also important to note that Humboldt really does try to make empirical sense of this claim, linking it both to extant agricultural practices and the recorded history of Imperial China. But the most crucial, and ultimately philosophical feature of the claim—the one that, even if it were to prove thoroughly, empirically false would still be important—is the idea that these supposed Asian colonists were motivated by two things—escape from human conquest, and mystic reverie.
Humboldt expands significantly in the notes on this speculation, which is only fleetingly mentioned in the body of chapter one. There, he asserts the “probability” that the Natives of the western Americas were contacted and influenced by Asian civilization—he simply says “associated with”—has been demonstrated by comparison of calendars, architectural styles, and comparative mythology. Humboldt has written before about the cultures of Guatemala and the Yucatan, and it is in those regions that he believes Asian influence to show most strongly.12 But, most importantly for the purposes of this paper, he believes that the Asian contact was both intentional and mystically-inflected:
A small number of individuals from the educated caste of priests could have perhaps sufficed to bring about great changes in the social conditions in Western America. The yarns once spun about Chinese expeditions to the New Continent really refer merely to voyages to Fusang or Japan. On the other hand, it is possible that Japanese mariners or Sian Pi from Korea, battered by storms, may have landed on the American coast. We know historically that bonzes (Japanese bōzu, “Buddhist monk”) and other adventurers sailed the East China Sea in hopes of finding an elixir of immortality.13
In Humboldt's imagination, it is monks who take a meditative journey across the eastern ocean. The discovery of the Americas would then be the result of a kind of leap of faith. This would not put Humboldt far out of step with the common European idea of the New World as a place of providence. It also mirrors the legend of the Fountain of Youth, supposed to be found in Florida, that famously motivated Ponce de Leon.
The fantasy of the monks' journey is significant because it reveals what Humboldt wishes were fact. The tale would be poignant, if true, because the Americas would assume the role of a geological manifestation of the monks' reverie. The land of purest Nature would be the land of purest spirituality. Thus Humboldt implicitly identifies what the monks are seeking—he seems to think of it as some vague kind of divine enlightenment, but presumably falling under the broad category of “spiritual peace”—with what can be found in the Americas, that is, Nature. I do not know Buddhism; but neither, to my knowledge, did Humboldt. Regarding Nature, two things are important—that the monks were escaping human affairs to seek a higher peace, even if that meant setting off into an obscure ocean; and that their reverie was reified in the abundant Nature of the Americas. The Nature of the Americas is implied, in the fantasy, to offer the chance to “turn away” that the Old World simply might not, if this turning away is so deeply empirical, and not a merely religious gesture.
This land Humboldt explores, then, would become a kind of empiricist Zion for the likes of the bōzu. Nature would become a medium by which not merely to continue their meditations ad infinitum, but to attain divine heights that were simply impossible back in Japan. The trip outward into the unknown, escaping society, was a leap of faith, and carried the risk of fatality. It was an act that could have readily, even probably, resulted in death. Serendipitously, it did not, and the monks—so the story goes—were able to found entire cultures on the basis of mysticism, even though those societies later collapsed.
Thus Humboldt's fantasy binds spiritual yearning to the Americas, the place of purest earthly Nature. Moreover, his characterization of the Native as a human determined by such a vivacious environment—as all human cultures are determined by the character of their natural environment—is not jeopardized by the presence of indigenous urbanity, as in the cities of the Yucatan. With this story, these cities become not urban societies like those of the old world, but priestly cities whose foundation began in an escape from Asia. In that way, Nature's function as the medium of the Absolute is preserved in his account. Even urban civilization, the pinnacle of human social life, becomes, in the context of the Americas, subsumed under the monkish quest for spiritual peace. The turning-inward of society is transformed into a continuation of an originary turning-away.
The fantasy of the monks thus serves an important function in the text. It maintains both Humboldt's notion of environmental cultural determinism and the relationship between Nature and the extremes of human behavior. It does so by offering a genesis that frames Native urban civilization in the context of Asian monasticism.
- The Rhodian Genius
The seventh chapter of Views of Nature is more straightforwardly presented as a story—“The Life Force, or The Rhodian Genius: A Tale” is the title. In this tale, a mysterious picture, unclaimed by an unattributed to any of the numerous artists in the city, is hung in the Syracuse of antiquity. People of all classes are perplexed by it.
In the foreground of the painting, youths and maidens were to be seen, crowded together in a group. They were unclad and well formed, but not with the slender figures admired in the statues of Praxiteles and Alcamenes. The strong build of their limbs, which bore the signs of hard labors, and their human expressions of longing and sorrow—all seemed to strip them of anything heavenly or godlike and bind them to their earthly homeland. Their hair was adorned simply with leaves and flowers of the field. Imploringly they stretched their arms out to one another, but their solemn, mirthless gaze was directed to a Genius that, surrounded by a bright shimmer, floated in their midst. A butterfly sat upon the spirit's shoulder, and in his right hand he held aloft a blazing torch. The shape of his body was rounded like that of a child, his countenance divinely animated. Commandingly, he gazed down upon the youths and maidens at his feet. Further characteristic elements of the painting were not distinguishable...14
Following the speculation about the Japanese monks, it's fair to note the resemblance of this description of the Genius to certain traditional representations of both Jesus and the Buddha. This is merely, I think, an attempt to give the character the strongest possible spiritual connotation without reference to Christian theology or the doxa of any particular religion (which Humboldt avoids in this text). It's also important to note the naturalized description of the youths and maidens, who are said to be bound to the earth, and lack the effete slenderness of the contemporary urbane ideal. Their reaching to each other indicates the turning-inward of society, but the sad gaze toward the Genius indicates the desire for spiritual peace that has motivated so much of the text to this point. This painting, then, seems to portray what is attainable through the study of Nature—that is, a commanding position apart from and above brutish society. The people who are caught reaching out for each other yearn for this condition.
It is important to note that this “spirit” is described not as a god nor a prophet, nor even a priest or holy man, but rather as a genius—in other words, in a purely intellectual term. Given that Humboldt has spent the first six chapters of the book detailing an empirical path to spiritual peace, this isn't surprising. Eventually, the story goes, a companion piece arrives on a commercial vessel:
It was of the same size and similar coloring, though the hues were better preserved. Again the Genius stood in the middle, but without the butterfly and with his head bowed, the extinguished torch pointed earthward. The circle of youths and maidens were now almost falling over him in many an embrace; their glance was no longer solemn and obedient, but bespoke a condition of wild abandon, the fulfillment of a long-nurtured desire.15
Here, the Genius has been stripped of both the living representation of Nature—the butterfly—and the light of the intellect—the torch. I would compare the butterfly and the torch in this story to the plant and the star in the first chapter. The butterfly on his shoulder and torch in his hand allowed the Genius to bear with him the promise of both the plant and the star, that is, of the empirical involvement with Nature and the accession thereby of the Absolute. But in this second iteration of the painting, bereft of both, the Genius is wrangled back into society, not necessarily malevolently by the people, but animalistically at least.
None other than a philosopher, in the story, is tasked by the Tyrant with reinterpreting the Rhodian Genius in light of the new companion piece. Epicharmus, a Pythagorean, was a philosopher who skirted the city and even the house of the Dionysians, choosing to live in the suburb of Tyche. “He occupied himself constantly with the nature of things and the forces within them, with the development of plants and animals...before the broad ocean his eye, as he put it, was afforded a view of the unlimited, the infinite, after which the mind strives in vain.”16 Humboldt is not so subtle about this character; Epicharmus seems to be the ideal of a Humboldtian intellectual.
Yet the Rhodian Genius offers him something he has not been able to find on his own: “For sixty years I have pondered the hidden wheels that drive Nature onward, the differences in the forms of matter, and today at last, the Rhodian Genius lets me see more clearly that which, until now, I only suspected.”17 What is revealed? That inorganic matter seeks its own kind, while organic matter, under the sovereignty of the Life Force that “imperiously asserts its rights,” ignores the “friendship or enmity of atoms described by Democritus” as it unifies disparate materials. Life Force, then, is to Epicharmus what the Genius represents. The people in the painting are the 'like elements' he commands; when his torch goes out and the butterfly departs, they clump to him automatically, thoughtlessly. Epicharmus relays this truth to his students, then bids them take him one last time to the ocean vista, before which to die.
What the tale of the Rhodian Genius does for the larger project of Views of Nature is, then, to offer a unification of classical philosophy with the study of Nature. The empiricization of “Life Force” and its representation in the figure of an intellectual guru, along with the role Epicharmus plays in the tale, serve to provide a pseudo-historical grounding for the method Humboldt develops. The tale of the Rhodian Genius is both an origin story for the study of Nature and a raison d'etre for Humboldt's text.
What Epicharmus sought in death is something that the bōzu, in Humboldt's earlier story, actually found. Epicharmus gazed across the sea in his final moments. The promise of the Americas, then, is to actually venture out across the sea. What the northerners could only approximate in art has become, for Humboldt, empirically achievable in the New World.
Humboldt is continuing the philosopher's work in View of Nature, but not necessarily in the mode of what came to be called philosophy. The Genius of the painting and the Japanese monks both represent the promise of projects that exceed mere intellectualism or even meditation. Rather, they apply knowledge of Nature to a kind of governance. In the case of the monks, that entails, in Humboldt's imagination, the material escape from the Old World, and the foundation of fundamentally mystical civilizations in the Americas, among superabundant Nature. In the case of Epicharmus and the Rhodian Genius, it entails mastery of the Life Force and its sovereign reign over matter.
Both stories illustrate what Humboldt aims toward in his work: Views of Nature strives, in its idiosyncratic way, to further the pursuit of the Absolute—a spiritual peace identical with the “One Source” or the “Life Force” that animates all living matter in the world—by establishing its accessibility through Nature. Humboldt defines humanity in broadly universal terms as a way of establishing an idea of environmental determinism in relation to human culture. Anchoring the spectrum of diverse human behaviors around Nature in this way, he is able to elevate the role of Nature above the internal logic of any particular belief. With the exceptionalism of the study of Nature established, Humboldt is able to assert empirical, scientific investigation as the sole viable means towards the spiritual peace afforded by the Absolute. It offers this not because of some merely intellectual superiority. The northerner and the tropical human are equals, to Humboldt, as are their cultural practices, including European science—all is determined by the environmental relation to Nature. Rather, empirical study of Nature is unique in its ability to move its undertaker closer to the Life Force, which is only accessible through Nature.
Humboldt thus advocates for the study of Nature as a turning-away from human affairs not for its own sake, and not to permanently abandon the community of humankind, but to seek out that force which orders life, and without which life could not be. That this force is the very possibility of life lends it the air of spiritual peace. He treads neither the path of the northerner working in the greenhouse nor the tropical native erasing his own footprints, but through a syncretic effort follows the imagined wish of Epicharmus. The Americas, to Humboldt, realize the mystery that the philosopher of antiquity saw in the ocean horizon. He intends to develop a method that allows one to use the condition of Nature there to attain the spiritual peace that eludes us in the Old World.
Humboldt, Alexander Von. Views of Nature. Ed. Stephen T. Jackson and Laura Dassow Walls. Trans. Mark W. Person. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2016. Web.
1Views of Nature, 41-42
6One result of the method I am attempting to draw out of Humboldt's text is the diminution of philosophy, at least in the sense of metaphysics, relative to the study of Nature.
7Hence colonists lose much of their European quality as they dwell in the tropics, for him.
8She has published a book stating her case, called The Zuni Enigma: A Native American People's Possible Japanese Connection. An overview of her work and its reception can be find in a Chicago Tribune article from 2000, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2000-07-19/features/0007190071_1_buddhist-monks-zuni-william-davis.
9Debris carried from Japan to the Pacific Northwest by sea is relatively common, e.g. from the 2012 Japanese tsunami. Wind currents too are capable of carrying balloons from Japan to mainland North America, as they did the Second World War's “Fu-Go” balloon bombs, which killed at least one American civilian and started small forest fires. http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2012/06/huge_dock_washed_ashore_on_ore.html; http://www.npr.org/sections/npr-history-dept/2015/01/20/375820191/beware-of-japanese-balloon-bombs
10Views of Nature, 35-36
11Thus, in Zuni, she provides something Humboldt is actively looking for, granted she finds it in North and not South America: “Up to now we remain insufficiently familiar with American languages to be able to give up completely, in the face of their tremendous variety, the hope that a dialect might one day be discovered that, with certain modifications, might have been spoken simultaneously in the interiors of South America and Asia, or that at least indicates an old interrelation.” ibid, 104
12Note that this is an area and culture distinct from and located geographically further south than the Zuni of Davis' work, who lived mainly in what is now the southwestern United States.