Featured Book Review
The feeling was really more of being struck the being stung. Standing on the hillside behind our Oregon home, I must have been 15 or 16 years old. I was performing some chore my father has set me to – clearing weeds most likely as I was using hoe when the incident occurred. I remember standing up from a stoop with the hoe in my left hand when suddenly something struck the back of my right with a perceived force that I swear knocked it backwards. My first thought was that I had been shot (we lived in the country) but looking down and seeing no blood, I was perplexed. It was only when the burning sensation and swelling began that it dawned on me that I had been stung.
Looking back, I think it must have been a yellow jacket. I likely drove the hoe blade too near a nest – or perhaps simply too near it as it hunted near the ground. I remember the burning lasting for quite some time – well over half and hour at least. Since that time, I’ve been stung by a variety of other insects, including an ant that fell down the back of my shirt in Panama and delivered an electric-shock-like jolt to my lower back sufficient to elicit from me a forcefully delivered, extremely blue expletive. While some stings were not nearly as bad as others, I wold not voluntarily wish to repeat any of them. Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
Much like scents, flavors can have remarkable powers over our minds. Even a small taste of just the right flavor can, as Proust so eloquently described – at length – in his À la recherche du temps perdu, unlock a veritable treasure chest of memories. For myself, it’s the flavors from my childhood that seem to have the greatest ability to send my mind whirling back through time. Raspberries and salmonberries, Astoria cinnamon toast and pannukakku – and razor clams. Indeed, as I discovered when reading David Berger’s Razor Clams; Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest, even the well-written description of a flavor can possess this remarkable mnenosynic ability. Keep reading…
In Roxanne, the 1987 film adaptation of the Cyrano de Bergerac story, Steve Martin – in the leading male role of the a small mountain resort town’s erudite fire chief somewhat obviously named C.D. Bales – chastises his lovable but incompetent band of volunteer fire fighters upon finding a trash can ablaze inside the fire station:
I have a dream. It’s not a big dream, it’s just a little dream. My dream – and I hope you don’t find this too crazy – is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can’t have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, “Whatever you do, don’t call the fire department!” That would be bad.
Mark on Sundays
As Mark has been very busy covering a number of recent developments in British wildlife conservation this past week, the Sunday book review he normally publishes is this week more of a Tuesday book review. However he more than makes amends for being a couple days late by focusing this new column on the recent publication of the British Trust for Ornithology’s State of the UK’s Birds 2017 and a particularly handy volume published a decade ago with which to compare the finding of the BTO’s new report: A Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds.
Newly Noted Books
What with the slashing of both the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase National Monuments by… well, we don’t speak his name here at The Well-read Naturalist as we don’t like to swear, interest in the struggle between public lands and private interests has taken an expected notable upswing.
“Sweetheart, does this smell OK to you?” said I standing before the open refrigerator contemplating the edibility of a container of left-over casserole, the date of original creation thereof had eluded me. Trusting to my wife’s much keener sense of smell than my own, I can confidently make the determination whether to eat said casserole or chuck it in the bin.
All the time I spent reading and subsequently writing the review of David Berger’s “Razor Clams” got me reminiscing about my time growing up in a commercial fishing family on the Oregon coast. The time I spent out on the water, learning the craft from my father, who learned it from his father. The feeling of a Chinook or Silver Salmon in my hands. The knowledge that what we were doing was going to enable people to have wild-caught fish to eat.
It’s named Superior for a reason. The largest lake in the world, Lake Superior has a history as vast and deep as its seemingly endless waters. However not so very long ago, following unrestrained industrial pollution and natural resource exploitation, it was in a sorry state indeed. However unlike other similarly afflicted bodies of water around the globe, Lake Superior has, thanks to the diligent efforts of a large number of people and organizations dedicated to restoring its health, made a comeback.
One need not read too far back into the history of natural history to encounter the idea of spontaneous generation – the idea that life could be created directly out of rotting material. It was a widely held, even thoroughly tested, theory that stood the test of a far longer period of time than many of our present scientific ideas have existed.
One of the great treats of attending scholarly events is the presence of university presses and other academic publishers who – on occasion – will have with them a copy of a highly anticipated forthcoming book for examination. Such was the good luck I had recently at Entomology 2017 with the forthcoming second edition of “Garden Insects of North America” by Whitney Cranshaw and David Shetlar.
As those who follow The Well-read Naturalist’s Twitter or Instagram feeds will likely already know, I make a regular habit of reading from the collected essays in Melissa Harrison’s Seasons quartet of anthologies from Elliott & Thompson. However what most likely don’t know is just how regular this habit is, or why I do it. It’s easy enough to assume that I find the essays, poems, and diary extracts enjoyable and inspiring; Ms. Harrison’s exquisite editorial taste assures that nothing less would have been included. However even more than these collections being superb assemblies of writings about nature, in then I have found something more than I originally expected that has been of deep and lasting value to me, for which I am deeply grateful to all those whose works are included as well as to their remarkable editor, that perhaps may well be of similar help to others, hence I take somewhat of a personal risk by explaining it here. Keep reading…
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.
On the day this article is published, it will be exactly one month until the day of the 2017 North American Solar Eclipse; an event that is expected to cause tens of millions of people to stop what they are doing and turn their eyes (properly protected, it is hoped) skyward to witness one of […]
Not being much of a television viewer, I tend to miss most of what occurs in that medium – even things I might find interesting or useful. Just such an interesting and useful program was apparently aired on the public broadcasting series Nature back on 1 November with their feature on Helen MacDonald titled “H Is for Hawk: A New Chapter.”