So. I have been thinking about the change of seasons. I don’t want to miss spring this year. I want to distinguish the last winter frost from the out-of-season one, the frost of spring. I want to be there on the spot the moment the grass turns green. I always miss this radical revolution; I see it the next day from a window, the yard so suddenly green and lush I could envy Nebuchadnezzar down on all fours eating grass. This year I want to stick a net into time and say “now,” as men plant flags on the ice and snow and say, “here.” (Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

Even in the Northeast, everyone is bracing for Hurricane Sandy. Back on Wednesday, before it had really registered as a force to be reckoned with, I read this episode in The Child from the Sea and thought it was just stunning. I’m not sure why it had such an impact on me, but it’s partly that it represents some fine nature writing. I live inland and have never spent much time near the sea, but Elizabeth Goudge consistently enables me to feel the immensity and…Continue Reading “Storm writing”

The girls and I finished our reading of My Side of the Mountain yesterday. It left me pondering the stark contrasts between 2012 and 1959, when Jean Craighead George’s Newberry winning classic was published. The story recounts a year in the life of Sam Gribley, a New York City boy who decides he wants to escape from his large family and the crowded city for a wilderness life. He heads to Delhi, a hamlet in the Catskills, to the family’s long-vacant farm property. There, he…Continue Reading “My Side of the Mountain”

Did you know there’s a whole volume of chickadee poems? I’m apparently one of many fans of this cheerful, talkative, hardy, round little acrobat. Anna Botsford Comstock points out that the winter birds have a special place in the hearts of Northeasterners, and I would agree. Thornton Burgess relates that as a boy practicing with his first gun, he shot a chickadee. But he always regretted it. It made “Tommy Tit,” the chickadee of the Burgess Bird Book, his favorite of all the birds. It…Continue Reading “Feather, Light, and Air”

A Wing in the Door by Peri Phillips McQuay is by turns a beautiful and a frustrating book. It narrates the fate of a female red-tailed hawk taken illegally by a would-be falconer from her nest when only a month old. The hawk — named Merak — is confiscated by Canadian authorities and kept at a rehab for awhile to be “untamed,” then released at a conservation center. McQuay and her husband, a naturalist at the center, live on site and observe the bird over…Continue Reading “A Wing in the Door”

I read this book when I was around 10, and I’ve always remembered it as one of the best. I didn’t remember all the details, but I remembered some of them. Mostly I remembered it as a book that had a strong impact, opening my eyes to new knowledge and moving me deeply. You won’t find much about Rufous Redtail (1947) online, or about its author, Helen Garrett. There is more information out there about its illustrator, Francis Lee Jaques. Out of print and priced…Continue Reading “Rufous Redtail”

I was introduced to Wes Jackson’s work through reading Wendell Berry. The two men have a longstanding friendship and have similar views of what Berry has called “culture and agriculture.” In Becoming Native to This Place, Jackson explores the ways our assumptions about the earth as an inert repository of resources for us to extract and manage developed, how they are destructive to community, and how they might be changed to develop new paradigms in our relationship to nature. Like Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson sees…Continue Reading “Becoming Native to This Place”

The fields and woods about one are a book from which he may draw exhaustless entertainment, if he will. (John Burroughs, from the essay “A Sharp Lookout”) Today, the girls and I took our dog (Katie) and rambled at a place where we spent a fair amount of time in August and early September, collecting monarch caterpillars. It was chilly, with a thin blue sky and a lot of mud and gray tree trunks. After being there when it was abuzz with activity — meadow…Continue Reading “Exhaustless entertainment”

We’ve been reading and enjoying Thornton Burgess’s Longlegs the Heron. A friend loaned us a copy of this difficult-to-find book after reading this post, and as food for our ongoing heron interest it has been timely and fun. This book has a feel slightly different than other Burgess Bedtime Books I’ve read — more purposefully educational about the habits of Great Blue Herons. We learn a lot about Longlegs’ fishing practices and his striking patience. We learn that he eats field mice as well as…Continue Reading “Longlegs the Heron”

“I think I’ve found out the secret of making a dream come true.” “What’s that?” “Just don’t stop. Don’t stop. Don’t ever stop. If someone tells you something is impossible, do that thing first. Prove that it is possible, and keep going.” So says Michael Taylor, speaking of his years-long quest for the tallest tree in the redwood forests. Richard Taylor’s The Wild Trees, as informative as it is about the ecology of the redwood canopy, is as much about the elite society of people…Continue Reading “The Wild Trees”