Of all the passages from all the novels I’ve read in my forty-seven years, Margret Schlegel’s brilliant call in E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End for the uniting of the seemingly disparate parts of human existence continues with me most strongly whenever I am faced with a problem that could be easily solved if the opposing forces could “Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.”
I have also long thought that such an idea could lead to the solution to a number of modern social, political, and ecological problems – if the opposing sides could “only connect” the things they had in common perhaps the single problem that plagued them most could in itself be solved. As one raised religious and with a strong affinity for the natural world, I have long been particularly curious why so many of the world’s religious and so many of the world’s conservationists have so long seemed to be at odds. After all, despite both groups generally wanting to take good care of the world, the details in their respective ways of looking at it seem to keep them apart. The religious often place too much emphasis on human morality while the conservationists often place too much emphasis on earthly physicality. What would it look like if they could “only connect?” Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
When I was a boy growing up in the small Pacific coast fishing and logging town of Astoria, the federal and state agencies responsible for overseeing the rivers, wildlife, and trees were a part of daily life. The agents and rangers were part of our community; not a day went by that you didn’t bump into someone in a green or brown uniform shirt sitting at the counter in the local diner. Not that things were always peaceable. The decrease in the length and catch limits of commercial salmon seasons, the lowering of the timber harvesting levels, and the rise in awareness of the Northern Spotted Owl all took place while I still called Astoria home. Needless to say, coming from a family with deep roots in both the commercial fishing and the logging industries, many of my early ideas about the activities of the men and women working for these organizations were somewhat conflicted. Keep reading…
The sound is like nothing else on earth.
I was sound asleep, breathing in the fresh, clean air of the Berkshire countryside that drifted into my room through an open window near the bed, when I was jerked into consciousness by what I at first thought was a woman screaming. As I lay there in the dark, asking myself just what it was that I heard, another scream burst through the midnight silence, followed quickly by two more. By that time it was clear to me that it wasn’t a human scream, but for the life of me I couldn’t find anything in my brain to which it might be connected. More mammalian than avian, I finally drifted back off to sleep after some time, puzzling over the just what it might have been.
It was a fox – a Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes to be precise. Keep reading…
Newly Noted Books
Now approaching its thirtieth anniversary, Wintergreen is widely considered to be one of Pyle’s best works. So much so that Pharos Editions has recently republished it in a special anniversary edition with a new introduction written by David Guterson and an updated afterword penned by Pyle himself.
After a particularly enjoyable chat at the American Birding Expo with Katinka Domen from Beaks and Peaks of Honduras, I suddenly realized that I have been remiss in not making known here the recent publication of a very important new guidebook: Robert Gallardo’s Guide to the Birds of Honduras.
Of all the many books that I perused at BirdFair, one that particularly caught and held my attention – perhaps as a result of my affinity to Lepidopterans – was the Field Guide to the Micro-moths of Great Britain & Ireland by Phil Sterling and Mark Parsons with illustrations by Richard Lewington. Published in 2012 by British Wildlife Publishing and distributed by Bloomsbury UK, this handy field guide describes and depicts 1,033 species.
When I first saw the flyer advertising Richard Vetter’s forthcoming book The Brown Recluse Spider on the Cornell University Press table at the 2014 Entomology Society of America convention I thought “Well it’s about time!” After all, I can think of no spider in North America about which there is more misunderstanding and misidentification than the Brown Recluse.
When I first heard about the new book Plants Have So Much to Give Us, All We Have to Do Is Ask; Anishinaabe Botanical Teachings by Mary Siisip Geniusz, Wendy Makoons Geniusz, and Annmarie Geniusz, my mind immediately left back to a previous ethnobotanical book I read a few years ago: Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Gathering Moss; A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses – a book I found both fascinating and profound.
As I sit down to write this, the Countryside Alliance is calling for Chris Packham’s head – if not in fact to be removed from his shoulders then at least to be removed from the BBC. What the CA would say about Mark Avery is likely not printable in a family friendly publication such as this. Which is why I thought it so appropriate that Mr. Packham is the author of the forward to Mr. Avery’s most recent book “Inglorious; Conflict in the Uplands.”
Recently I’ve become dissatisfied with my knowledge of trees. I’m not entirely certain what has caused these feelings at this point in my life – I just find myself looking at a tree and becoming irritated with myself if I can’t identify it.
Therefore I’ve begun a course of study in the trees in my local area; an activity made much easier than it otherwise would be thanks to the superb book Trees to Know in Oregon by Ed Jensen as published by Oregon State University Press Extension Service.
The Well-equipped Naturalist
For as long as I’ve ventured afield in search of whatever nature might wish to show me, I’ve gone fully vested. That is to say, I’ve worn a field vest. Not that I have anything against day packs or shoulder bags, mind you; I just find that vests (or as my British friends call them, waistcoats) allow me to carry what I need in a way that allows me easy access to all of it while still letting me move about with a feeling of being unencumbered.
Gaia Vince’s Adventures in the Anthropocene; a Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made (Milkweed Editions / Chatto & Windus) has been awarded the 2015 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.
In their decision, the Winton Prize judges said, “Vince’s passion and strong voice grabs you instantly and the story she tells is truly original. A finely-crafted book on an important, urgent topic.”
The 2015 National Book Award Nonfiction Longlist contains two books classifiable as natural history: Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett and The Soul of an Octopus; A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery.
Curiously, neither of these books was on my radar as no review copies ever arrived. Thus I am uncertain as to which I would prefer to see ultimately chosen as the winner.