Twice now I’ve had the pleasure of being in the audience of Mary Holland at local speaking engagements and I give thanks for each opportunity. But even if I can’t be in her presence to catch her excitement about the natural world and listen to her tales of wilderness adventures, I’ve contented myself with turning to her book, Naturally Curious. It’s like having a naturalist beside me at all times. And when I encounter something I’m not sure about, it’s to Mary that I turn–or at least her book.
It was with great joy then, that I learned she’d published a new book this past year (in addition to children’s books and calendars and . . .). I purchased a couple of copies at my local independent bookstore, Bridgton Books, to give as presents. Of course, I also added it to my own wish list.
And so it was that I was grateful to open a certain shaped package of just the right weight on Christmas morning. Quite often we disguise our gifts to each other, but this one I knew immediately.
Book of January
Naturally Curious Day by Day by Mary Holland is exactly that. She breaks the year down into more than months as she did with her first book. For each day, she includes two or three photos and a paragraph or two. No too much info, not too little.
True confession here. I keep it in the upstairs library, aka bathroom. It’s just the right amount of information and I’m always looking for something to read when I’m seated there. (I’ve been known to read the packaging on a myriad of bathroom-related items.)
My reading experience includes credits and acknowledgements, dedications and prefaces. And what to my wondering eyes should appear in NC Day by Day, but a photo credit to one of my mentors: Bridie McGreavy, PhD. I remember when Bridie first shared the photo of the mouse impaled by a shrike with some of us. Turn to page 419 and see if for yourself. (Congratulations to you, Bridie.)
After I opened this coveted gift, a relative asked how Ms. Holland knew what to include for any particular day–that that animal or plant species would be seen that day. Ah, but Mary knows this because she is a seeker who has spent decades in the woods and on the water and she understands the rhythm of the natural world. How often do those of us who follow Mary’s blog and venture outdoors realize that we saw the very item she writes about the previous day or trust we will notice it that day?
It’s only day 5 and already, I’ve photographed most of the things Mary writes about from
pileated woodpecker holes and
associated scat (filled with insect bodies and bittersweet berries),
snow on conifers,
white-breasted nuthatches, and
to mammal prints,
maple buds (in this case Red Maple), and
even a snow scorpionfly.
Each month begins with a lengthy description appropos to what’s happening at that time of year, e.g. woodpecker holes and other signs of birds feeding, the survival of evergreens through the winter season and our local nuthatches, both white- and red-breasted.
How does Mary know what to include for each day of the month? It’s easy. She’s paid attention and encourages all of us to do the same. Probably, in hind sight, it was difficult for her to narrow down her topics.
Thank you, Mary Holland, for taking us along on your treks through your photography and prose, for teaching us and learning with us, and for providing resources for us to return to day in and day out.
Naturally Curious Day By Day: A Photographic Field Guide and Daily Visits to the Forests, Fields, and Wetlands of Eastern North America by Mary Holland, Stackpole Books, 2016. $29.95.