Showing posts with label nature writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nature writing. Show all posts

May 02, 2013

"Bird Language"

A short essay on mid-twentieth-century cowboying (unexpurgated) and the languages of nature. 
As the old man sang, each new verse detailed another page of the cowboy’s improbable voyage along the Chisholm Trail from Texas to Kansas, which was a sequence of increasingly unlikely and anatomically doubtful accounts of said cowboy’s congress with a host of shady characters including a horse, a rattlesnake in a pile of sticks, and an old woman who gave him nothin’ but hell. And a social disease. If my memory serves me correctly, it concluded with several verses about his ending up in what would now be termed a “long-term relationship” with a cow, and what the cow did when she caught him “puttin’ on airs” with a buffalo who “was no better than she should be”, but by then we were laughing too hard for me to remember much of anything.
Read the rest. It does move on to birds and animals eventually!

February 10, 2013

Up the Line to Death

Years ago, I read Norman Maclean'sYoung Men and Fire (1992), which is an old man's book. He was in his eighties when he wrote it, and it is full of observations of how, for instance, some days the universe is just against you, no matter how strong and determined you may be. I copied out a few passages. (Where is that notebook?)

I remember Dad, the district ranger, indoctrinating some seasonal firefighters (no S190 class then—much more informal), telling them never to run uphill from a fire, that men died doing that. He must have been talking about Mann Gulch, still relatively fresh in the Forest Service's institutional memory, but it never came together in my mind until I read Young Men and Fire.

(I did not know until today that Canadian songwriter James Keelaghan had composed a song about it, "Cold Missouri Waters.")

More recently, having heard so much about them, I started on some of the books by John Maclean, Norman's son, beginning with the Colorado one, Fire on the Mountain (1999), since I had at least seen the location.

It's about the 1994 South Canyon (a/k/a Storm King) Fire near Glenwood Springs, where 14 firefighters died for a patch of scrub oak and PJ, thanks to various sorts of miscommunications, bad judgment, and hubris. A true tragedy as my eighth-grade English teacher defined it—when people do what they think is the right thing and bad stuff happens anyway.

John Maclean himself writes elsewhere of drama where "the sense of inevitable disaster builds until it overpowers the participants, who are swept along on a pathway to destruction. The audience watches with compassion and horror, aware of what's coming and as powerless as the actors to stop it."

The book audience is also muttering, "Get in your truck and go look at it, you idiot," and so on, but the end point is still the same.

I let a little time go by, went back to the library, and checked out The Thirtymile Fire (2007). I read a few pages and sat it down — I just was not ready to deal with another hand crew, full of confidence, setting off to fight a "minor fire" that would finish some of them.

But now I have started it, watching with compassion and horror.

Lines like this in The Thirtymile File remind me of Maclean senior: "For the Hagemeyers, the day would bring one missed portent after another, which added up to one huge miscalculation: that the natural world they counted on for spiritual solace cared in turn for them."

Eventually, I will get to the new one, The Esperanza Fire : Arson, Murder and the Agony of Engine 57. In due time. Meanwhile (because it is set in southern California?), a movie version is in the works.

Wildfire Today

Yes, there is a literary allusion in my title. I wonder if Norman Maclean owned that book; he might well have.

February 07, 2013

Happy Ninth Blogiversary

It was nine years ago today that I made my first post on this blog, which actually began as a class blog for my nature-writing class.

That first post included a photo of yet another ex-student, Mario Medina, in his historical persona as an interpreter at Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site near La Junta, Colorado.

When I made the blog my own, I removed the students' content — they had long since all moved on anyway.

January 13, 2012

The Gun, by Vicki Feaver

Vicki Feaver (b. 1943) is a British poet. According to her listing in the Poetry Archive, "Feaver includes the stuff of everyday life in her poems - jam-making, gym classes, ironing - but grafts them onto the transgressive power of fairy-tale and myth."

Author's note: I lived in Brixton in central London for twenty years and though I sometimes heard gunshots I never actually saw a gun. But now living in Lanarkshire, Scotland, right in the middle of the country, I see lots of guns. Almost all the men seem to have a shotgun. And then my own husband got a shotgun and brought it into the house, and at first I felt very afraid of it and then gradually my whole attitude changed as I describe in this poem.
The Gun

Bringing a gun into a house
changes it.

You lay it on the kitchen table,
stretched out like something dead
itself: the grainy polished wood stock
jutting over the edge,
the long metal barrel
casting a grey shadow
on the green-checked cloth.

At first it's just practice:
perforating tins
dangling on orange string
from trees in the garden.
Then a rabbit shot
clean through the head.

Soon the fridge fills with creatures
that have run and flown.
Your hands reek of gun oil
and entrails. You trample
fur and feathers. There's a spring
in your step; your eyes glean
like when sex was fresh.

A gun brings a house alive.

I join in the cooking: jointing
and slicing, stirring and tasting—
excited as if the King of Death
had arrived to feast, stalking
out of winter woods,
his black mouth
sprouting golden crocuses.

from The Book of Blood (Jonathan Cape, 2006).
Listen to her read the poem.

September 10, 2011

Philip Connors and Lookout Lit

Being a fire lookout sounds like the perfect writer's job: paid isolation.

But if you want to write about being a lookout, you are in a literary tradition. "Lookout lit" might be considered a subdivision of "hermit literature," which goes back at least as far as Han Shan in the East and various god-bothered hermits in the West.
I settled at Cold Mountain long ago,
Already it seems like years and year.
Freely drifting, I prowl the woods and steams
And linger watching things themselves.
from a poem by Han Shan/Cold Mountain
translated by Gary Snyder

At the pinnacle of lookout lit sits Gary Snyder himself, who mined a couple of seasons on Sourdough Mountain in the Cascades for miles of poems and essays—good for him.

One summer he talked Beat writer Jack Kerouac into being a lookout too. Phil Whalen and some other writers tried it too: you can read all about those days sixty years ago in Poets on the Peaks

So when Philip Connors of Silver City, New Mexico, wrote his own memoir: Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout,, he knew that he was part of a literary mini-tradition—lookout lit, I call it—and he makes the appropriate bows to the tradition.
It's no wonder our Forest Service brethren think of us lookouts as the freaks on the peaks. We have, in the words of our forebear Edward Abbey, "an indolent, melancholy nature." Our walk home is always uphill. We live alone on the roof of the world, clinging to the rock like condors, fiercely territorial. We ply our trade inside a steel-and-glass room immaculately designed to attract lightning. Our purpose and our pleasure is to watch: study the horizon, ride out the storms, an eagle eye peeled for evidence of flames.
Some of the Beats wanted the lookout to be a mini-Buddhist meditation hall—Buddhist or not, every lookout deals with solitude:
That thing some people call boredom, in the correct if elusive dosage, can be a form of inoculation against itself. Once you struggle through that swamp of monotony where time bogs down in excruciating ticks from  your wristwatch, it becomes possible to break through to a state of equilibrium, to reach a kind of waiting and watching that verges on what I can only call the holy.
There are still some lookouts, but solitude may be hard to come by. A man named Bill Ellis has worked the Devil's Head Lookout for 27 summers. But because of the site's nearness to Denver and easy hiking access, he sees 15,000 visitors every season.

That must not leave much time for Snyder-style cosmic musings.
This whole spinning show
    (among others)
watched by the Mt. Sumeru L.O,.

From the middle of the universe
& them with no radio.
 From "Burning," published in Look Out!, No Nature and other collections.

September 02, 2011

Possum Living, NASA, and Naturing.

Back cover of 1980 paperback edition
Possum Living: How to Live Well without a Job and with Almost No Money was published in 1978, an autobiographical  how-to book about a teenage girl and her father living ultra-cheaply in eastern Pennsylvania outside Philadelphia.
The economy was as dismal as the one we’re in now, but Dolly and Frank were quite happy to have no jobs—they rejected the “money economy,” choosing instead to make their own way and avoid the “gracious living” and acquisition-based one-upmanship that seemed to make so many other Americans miserable. “We have and get the good things of life so easily it seems silly to go to some boring, meaningless, frustrating job to get the money to buy them,” Dolly wrote, “yet almost everyone does. ‘Earning their way in life,’ they call it. ‘Slavery,’ I call it.” She and Frank referred to their existence as “possum living” because “possums can live anywhere.”
Possum Living contains twenty chapters with titles such as “We Quit the Rat Race,” “Health and Medicine,” and “Meat.” It includes instructions for mending clothes, pickling vegetables, and buying bargain homes in what Dolly called “sheriff sales” and everyone now calls foreclosure, plus recipes for the kind of food she and her father cooked and ate, like creamed catfish, rocket pickle, and dandelion wine. “We aren’t living this way for ideological reasons, as people sometimes suppose,” she wrote of the home she called Snug Harbor. “We aren’t a couple of Thoreaus mooning about on Walden Pond here. … We live this way for a very simple reason: It’s easier to learn to do without some of the things that money can buy than to earn the money to buy them.”
But Possum Living has an edge to it, which comes out in lines like "Daddy has shot fish with a pistol." Unconsciously, you always expect to turn the page and read, "Our neighbor died, so Daddy and I decided to try eating him."  Frank—Daddy—was not only an urban survivalist, but also a mean drunk when he had enough home-made wine in him and something of a law unto himself.
When developers started building houses nearby, those houses mysteriously burned. Barking dogs disappeared. When the derelict hotel across the road burned to the ground, everyone (wrongly) assumed vagrants. “If someone’s playing loud music at the creek behind the house, you or I would go ask them to turn it down,” says [his ex-wife] Marie. “Frank would go cut their tires. It was just Frank’s nature.” 
Sometimes you wonder if Possum Living sort of shaded off into Winter's Bone. Is is just coincidence that the 17-year-old protagonist of Winter's Bone has the surname of Dolly?

After her one-shot book success, Dolly Freed dropped off the survivalist/homesteading radar. Despite her sketchy formal schooling, she was effectively self-home-schooled, and she attended  Drexel University, getting A's in fluid mechanics, physics, and calculus. She ended up an aerospace engineer for NASA (as is her husband)—and also an environmental educator, still "naturing."

Frank died in a car wreck, estranged from his daughter, in and out of jail and halfway houses.  Ironically, before dropping out, he too had worked in the space program, as an electronics technician for a NASA contractor.

(Thanks to Roberta X for the link.)

July 07, 2011

Passing of Anne LaBastille

Wildlife ecologist and conservationist Anne LaBastille has died. She was 75.
LaBastille was an outspoken proponent of environmental conservation whose book Woodswoman reached a national audience and served as inspiration for legions of women interested in the outdoors. At the same time she was a controversial Adirondack figure who served as Adirondack Park Agency (APA) commissioner from 1975 to 1993, a tenure that showed her to be a tenacious defender of the wild character of the Adirondack Park.
Besides the important of Woodswoman to women interested in the outdoor life, she had a Colorado connection too: "She left Cornell to attend graduate school at Colorado State University where she received an M.S. in wildlife management in 1961. Her master's thesis was An Ecological Analysis of Mule Deer Winter Range, Cache la Poudre Canyon, Colorado."

June 18, 2011

Poem for the Dry Spring Wind

 No rain since mid-May, and most days are windy. Only the names of the fires change: Sand Gulch, Purgatoire, and Bear replaced by Track and Duckett.

Looking through a new anthology of writing from the San Luis Valley, Messages from the Hidden Lake, I found this poem by Julie Waechter, who works on the staff of Adams State College in Alamosa. (If you are going to write "after" or in the style of someone, you could do a lot worse than Richard Hugo.)

It's a good poem for the spring of 2011 in southern Colorado.


the enemy’s not poverty it’s the wind
after Richard Hugo


you stitch patches onto patches
layer the kids in castoffs
water down the milk
spice up another pot of beans

but wind defies even the sun
smothers its heat in gritty haze
blows you to the earth’s edge
where yesterday mountains stood

spring wind devours her own child
sucks watery marrow from grass
pursues the plow to clothe
her nakedness in good earth
stretches almost solid across the sky

you almost prefer winter

it’s cold, yes
so cold pine logs freeze hard as piñon
so cold water crusts over in the bucket
before you can haul it to the barn
so cold the redtail hawk cowers on a bare cottonwood

but cold is clean
honest

wind you can’t trust

December 11, 2010

Wyoming Papers Please Copy

From a listserv on literature and nature to which I subscribe comes this observation:

If such a thing [as "Footnote of the Year"] existed, it should surely go to this, from Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson's introduction to Queer Ecologies: discussing Brokeback Mountain as gay pastoral, they comment: "Although there are clear differences between Wyoming and Arcadia, both physically and economically."

December 10, 2010

A Book for Pronghorn Antelope

I was driving to Pueblo yesterday and passed a small group of pronghorn antelope at the edge of the prairie.

Again I thought, antelope get no respect. There is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Mule Deer Foundation, Whitetails Unlimited, and other groups that organize conservation efforts, help to fund scientific research, and sometimes buy vital land for habitat for other North American ungulates. For antelope there is, for instance, the Arizona Antelope Foundation, but no national groups that I am aware of.

They often seem to be expected to just make it on their own, like jackrabbits. Some Westerners refer to them half-pejoratively as "goats."

The catalog copy for Cat Urbigkit's new book, The Path of the Pronghorn, states,
They are the fastest land mammals in North America, clocked at speeds of up to sixty miles per hour. Of all the world’s land animals, only cheetahs are faster.
A ghost hides in that paragraph. At one time cheetahs did live in North America, and pronghorn evolved to outrun them in a sustained chase, since cheetahs are mainly sprinters. Until humans built automobiles, there was nothing faster than the antelope for many centuries on the Western grasslands. 

(For more on this and other "ghosts of evolution," see Connie Barlow's book of the same name.)

Wyoming has more antelope than any other state. Urbigkit's text and Mark Gocke's photos  trace the migration of one herd in the Green River country, as they move from the sagebrush desert up into their high-country summer range and back down again in fall.

This particular herd, she writes, "participates in the longest land-mammal migration in the continental United States .... up to two hundred miles to spend the summer in Grand Teton National Park."

And it's not an easy trip.

Path of the Pronghorn speaks for antelope, then, and does it lucidly.

August 10, 2010

Blog Stew on the Yellowstone

• Yellowstone visitors reach an all-time high in July. You may connect that to the economy however you like. M. and I visited in September 2008 as the stock market plunged, but we saw no newspapers and had no internet access except for one morning in a Cody, Wyo., coffee shop. We called it "camping like it's 1929."

• At Querencia, Steve Bodio heralds the publication of John Vaillant's The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival.

Its protagonists are a single huge tiger, a ragged bunch of drunken poachers, and a patrol of anti-poaching rangers dedicated to protecting tigers over a huge area, with no money and inadequate tools. The beginning, as an unnamed hunter and his dog approach a dark cabin on a freezing evening, is a masterpiece of tension and quiet terror; the ending is utterly cinematic but real (the book is based on over 200 interviews).
• More Southern Rockies bloggers are reporting a great mushroom year--Peculiar even channels Chaucer.

• The Atomic Nerds buy dead critters from their dog. I had to do something similar yesterday with Fisher. 

• After a black bear sow smacked one of my scout cameras in June, I sent the damaged camera to camera-trapping biologist  Chris Wemmer in northern California, whose students conducted a proper postmortem on it.

April 05, 2010

A Dog Memoir Worth Reading

Normally I do not read dog books—memoirs, that is. I do read dog-training books.

When I was a boy, I read one of Ernest Thompson Seton's  books of animal stories—I don't remember which—in which one or more dogs came to bad ends.

Talk about aversive conditioning! It was like setting the shock collar on "10." I was shy of dog stories ever after.

Forty-plus years later and  I still look at my collie-mix dog, Shelby, and think of the dog in the story (another collie?) sleeping sweetly on the hearth of home (if I remember right), while its owner, realizing from its bloody muzzle that it is the sheep-killer that has been plaguing the area, prepares to shoot it on the spot.

Then somewhere I learned a phrase that ran more or less like this: "All dog stories are sad because dogs do not live as long as we do."

I seem to recollect it being attributed to Judge John Voelker (a/k/a Robert Traver.)

Thus prepared, when M. brought home Ted Kerasote's 2007 dog memoir, Merle's Door, from the library, I decided to read it too.

It has provoked a lot of discussion across the dinner table. Merle's life was not unlike Shelby's when she was younger—she spent a lot of time out roaming on her own and socializing with other dogs as well.

Like Kerasote, we had to deal with a neighbor who wanted to overfeed her, and unlike him, we spent a lot of time looking for her. (It did not help that she was—I am sure—kidnapped for two months.)

Kerasote's laissez-faire attitude about letting his dog develop his native intelligence must be provoking comments elsewhere too, because he wades right into the nature-versus-nature debate as applied to dogs.

And dog-training, I have learned, is a minefield. For example:

  • Cesar Milan: genius or charlatan?
  • Clicker training: good idea or reliance on a stupid gadget?
  • Shock collars: Useful at times or vicious torture?

And so on. Come down on the "wrong" side of those debates, and there will be somebody flinging feces in your direction. (Speaking of which, now that the snow is melting, the dog run desperately needs the big shovel.)

Kerasote, meanwhile, always a hard-working nature/outdoor writer, has now smelled the kibble and morphed into a dog writer, with two new dog books forthcoming.

As for Merle's Door, it's a good read but you have to expect the inevitable ending.

March 04, 2010

Now We Are Six

Tuesday (when M. and I were in Colorado Springs) was Southern Rockies Nature Blog's sixth "blogiversary."

And in tribute to such longevity, here is the first post, which I did not write.

That's right. This started as a class blog for English 325, "Nature Writing in the West," a course that I designed at CSU-Pueblo. (I don't know if it survived my leaving.)

Consequently, many of the earlier postings are by students. And it was hard to get some of the student writers to hyperlink names, terms, etc. in their posts--or even put titles on them!

When the semester ended, I hated to see the blog die, so I kept posting. Later other nature-writing classes also participated.

This is post number 1,358, by the way.

January 06, 2010

Passing of Outdoor Writer Charlie Meyers

Charlie Meyers, who wrote for the Denver Post since the 1960s and was perhaps Colorado's best-known outdoor writer, has died.

He never talked about it, but he had been there and done that. He walked away from a float plane crash in Alaska. He met with a witch doctor up a remote river in Nicaragua. He did it all," said [Kirk] Deeter, whose fly-fishing book he penned with Meyers is scheduled to be published in May.

It wasn't just rich writing and engrossing characters that gave Meyers' work depth. He scrutinized tangled topics, such as Colorado water rights and resource protection, and the bureaucracies that managed both. He was an environmental reporter long before editors invented the title.


Given the current state of the newspaper business, I am not holding my breath to see if the Post replaces him. The distinct possibility that they will not leaves us bloggers to pick up the slack, I suppose.

December 26, 2009

'Ice Hunter' and the Ice

The big storm that battered the Midwest skipped over us, leaving just a couple of inches of powder snow on top of the icy Forest Service road where I walk the dogs.It's slippery--Fisher comes galloping up to me and makes a sort of canine snowplow turn in order to fully stop.

M. and I took a longer walk up the same road this afternoon, eventually reaching the south-facing stretch that was not so icy.

Coming home, I was thinking of Joseph Heywood's novel Ice Hunter, which M. gave me for Christmas and which I started reading last night.

The plot and characters are sort of Nevada Barr-meets-C.J. Box. Maybe more like Box, since Heywood's protagonist is a game warden—or conservation officer, the Michigan term.

Ice Hunter was published by The Lyons Press,  usually associated in my mind with fly-fishing. Right off Heywood makes a literary link, placing protagonist Grady Service in the same Marquette, Mich., courtroom in which Jimmy Stewart, playing a fly-fishing small town bachelor lawyer, defends the accused in the noirish 1959 drama Anatomy of a Murder.

That movie was based on a novel by Michigan judge John D. Voelker, also a well-known fly-fishing writer under the pen name of Robert Traver, best known for his "testament":

I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful and I hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don't want to waste the trip; because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant--and not nearly so much fun.

As to Ice Hunter, I am halfway through it and enjoying it. Working any time as a copy editor, however, ruins simple reading. I keep thinking, "Shouldn't that word have been capitalized?" or upon reading that a character got "a B.S. in forestry from the University of Colorado," I want to click Microsoft Word's INSERT menu and insert a COMMENT: "The forestry school is at Colorado State University (Fort Collins), not at CU-Boulder. Suggest change."

That won't stop me from looking for more "Grady Service, woods cop" novels, however.

November 16, 2009

A Tenuous Bond with a Foreign Soul


Early in her falconry memoir Lift, Rebecca O'Connor writes, "Predator or prey, you choose."

As she later elaborates, "Predator worship is an odd thing, but perhaps not so odd for a woman. I am aware that I am more prey than predator."

That dialectic--woman as prey and predator--spirals through Lift, a book that is intensely erotic in the original sense, being about passion, desire, and union with the Beloved, even when the beloved is a bird.

Anyone who has worked with animals (and O'Connor is an experienced bird trainer, author of A Parrot for Life: Raising and Training the Perfect Parrot Companion, not to mention an "Avalon Career Romance" called Falcon's Return) know how intimate the relationship can be. He loves me, he loves me not.

So it's no surprise that her relationship with her first peregrine falcon, Anakin, partakes of First Love, right down to the candlelight dinner of the first duck that the peregrine has brought down. At that point in her life, she admits, her relationship with Anakin  "is the only honest relationship." When frustrated, she catches herself "berating the bird like a lover."

Yet with falconry, there is a bond, but no possession. Battles of wills, development of trust, relationship-building--all of that--but still a falcon does not need the falconer. As O'Connor tries to tell herself when Anakin has disappeared while hunting, "The falcon and I will both be fine on our own."

(You have said that about human lovers, right?)

Thus the book's narrative twists like a mallard dodging a falcon three feet above the water, human relationships intertwined with bird relationships, hunting trips cut by bitter memories and sweet ones.

A lot of the back story of Lift involves things that were done--or threatened--to the author in her younger days, which add poignancy to her struggle to become--in some areas--the predator, confronted with the mysteries of death and blood.

 "Maybe I was wrong. Given the choice I would be the predator. Maybe I'm a hunter after all."

Whether you have felt that bond with an animal or not, by reading Lift, you might learn, in the author's words, "a way of thinking, a means of experiencing life." Not just falconers, but all true hunters, share O'Connor's experience of having touched "nature's senseless violence, clung her stray miracles [and had them] alter our beliefs."

(Rebecca O'Connor blogs at Operation Delta Duck.)

November 15, 2009

Teddy Roosevelt Biography Wins Outdoor Book Award

These are the 2009 winners of the National Outdoor Book Award, by category. I have The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America sitting in my "books to review" stack and will give it a longer review here soon.

History/Biography.  Winner.  The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America by Douglas Brinkley

Outdoor Literature.  Winner. Halfway to Heaven by Mark Obmascik
Outdoor Literature. Honorable Mention.  Rowboat in a Hurricane by Julie Angus

Design & Artistic Merit Category. Winner. Lars Jonsson's Birds. Illustrations by Lars Jonsson

Classic Award. Winner.  Kayak: The New Frontier by William Nealy
Classic Award. Honorable Mention. Appalachian Odyssey by Steve Sherman and Julia Older

Nature and the Environment. Winner. Our Living Earth by Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Nature and the Environment. Honorable Mention. Sand: The Never Ending Story by Michael Welland.

Natural History Literature. Winner. Every Living Thing by Rob Dunn

Children's Category. Winner. Whistling Wings by Laura Goering.  Illustrated by Laura Jacques.
Children's Category. Honorable Mention.  Operation Redwood; by S. Terrell French

Instructional Category. Girl on the Rocks: A Woman's Guide to Climbing by Katie Brown.

Outdoor Adventure Guidebooks. Winner. Guide to the Green and Yampa Rivers by Duwain Whitis and Barbara Vinson
Outdoor Adventure Guidebooks.  Honorable Mention. The Guide to Baja Sea Kayaking by Dave Eckardt

Nature Guidebooks. Winner. Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America  by Roger Tory Peterson
Nature Guidebooks. Honorable Mention  Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West by Dennis Paulson

December 18, 2008

A Tribute to George Herter

Yes, I already knew that the Virgin Mary was fond of spinach.

I learned to cook partly from George Herter, as my tattered copy of Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices will attest. I think about Herter now and then.

Herter never acknowledges — not once — that his facts are any less sturdy and real than his Herter’s Famous No. 153 Saskatchewan Goose Call. No, sir: Herter facts are the finest, the most famous, specially selected and custom-made by only the oldest and most experienced craftsmen — even more factual than is necessary. No sooner do you digest his account of drinking with Hemingway in Key West (where Papa recommends a mixture of three parts light rum to one ounce of port wine as “great for dandruff”) than you come across a chapter called “Milking Scorpions Brings You $150 or More a Week.”

Thanks to Steve Bodio for the catch on this Herter review essay. Read the whole thing.

August 16, 2008

The Presidential Candidates from Nowhere

Nature writers love to write about the uniqueness of "place." When teaching, I have assigned students to do the old CoEvolution Quarterly "Where You At" quiz as part of learning about their home environmental on an ecological level.

But as Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal, what does it mean when neither presidential candidate is really "from" anywhere in particular?

Mr. Obama hails from Chicago, but no one would confuse him with Chicagoans like Richard Daley or Dan Rostenkowski, or Harold Washington. "There is something colorless and odorless about him," says a friend. "like an inert gas." And Mr. McCain, in his experience, history and genes, is definitely military, and could easily come from Indiana or South Carolina or California, and could easily speak of upholding the values of those places.

(Via Never Yet Melted.)