Book of January: Naturally Curious Day By Day

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.

day-by-day-1

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.)

bridie-1

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

h-3

pileated woodpecker holes and

h-10

associated scat (filled with insect bodies and bittersweet berries),

h-4

snow on conifers,

h-5

white-breasted nuthatches, and

h-6

puffed-up chickadees,

h-7

to mammal prints,

h-8

maple buds (in this case Red Maple), and

h-9

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.

Books of December: A Holiday Wish List

In the spirit of changing things up a bit, I decided that I’d include five books I highly recommend you add to your holiday wish list and two that I hope to receive.

These are not in any particular order, but I’m just beginning to realize there is a theme–beyond that of being “nature” books.

b-forest-forensics-1

Book of December: Forest Forensics

Tom Wessels, forest guru and author of Reading the Forested Landscape, published this smaller work in 2010. Though only 5″ x 7.5″, the book is rather heavy because it’s filled with photographs. Despite the weight, Forest Forensics fits into a backpack and is the perfect guide for trying to figure out the lay of the land. Using the format of a dichotomous key, Wessels asks readers to answer two-part questions, which link to the photos as well as an Evidence section for Agriculture, Old Growth and Wind, plus Logging and Fire. In the back of the book, he includes Quick Reference Charts that list features of particular forest and field types. And finally, a glossary defines terms ranging from “age discontinuity” to “Uphill basal scar,” “weevil-deformed white pines” and “wind-tipped trees.” In total, it’s 160 pages long, but not necessarily a book you read from cover to cover. If you have any interest in rocks, trees, and the lay of the land, then this is a must have.

Forest Forensics by Tom Wessels, The Countryman Press, Woodstock, VT, 2010.

b-shrubs-1

Book of December: Shrubs of the Northern New England Forest

Michael L. Cline is executive director of Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, New Hampshire. In September, I had the pleasure of attending a talk he gave at the center about Shrubs of the Northern New England Forest. The 6″ x 9″ book weighs about the same as Wessels’, and will also fit handily into your pack. Of course, you might want to leave the books in your vehicle or at home and look up the items later–thus lightening your load. Using Brownfield Bog as one of his main go-to places, Cline describes 70 species of shrubs from Creeping Snowberry to Mountain Ash. The book is arranged by family, beginning with Mountain Maple and Striped Maple of the Aceraceae (Maple) family and ending with the American Yew of the Taxaceae (Yew) family. Each two-page layout includes photographs (and  occasionally drawings), plus a description of habit, leaves, flowers, twig/buds, habitat, range, wildlife use, notes and other names. I have no excuse now to not know what I’m looking at as I walk along–especially near a wetland. That being said, I’ll think of one–like I left the book at home, but I’ll get back to you.

Shrubs of the Northern New England Forest by Michael L. Cline, J.S. McCarthy Printers, 2016

b-bogs-and-fens-1

Book of December: Bogs and Fens

Ronald B. Davis’ book, Bogs and Fens, was a recent gift from my guy. I hadn’t asked for it, and actually didn’t know about it, so I’m tickled that he found it. I’m just getting to know Dr. Davis’s work, but trust that this 5.5″ x 8.5″ guide about peatland plants will also inform my walks. Again, it’s heavy. The first 26 pages include a description of vegetation and peatlands and even the difference between a fen and a bog. More than 200 hundred pages are devoted to the trees, plants and ferns. In color-coded format, Davis begins with the canopy level of trees and works down to tall shrubs, short and dwarf shrubs, prostrate shrubs, herbaceous plants and finally, ferns. He also includes an annotated list of books for further reference, as well as a variety of peatlands to visit from Wisconsin to Prince Edward Island. As a retired University of Maine professor, Davis has been a docent and guide at the Orono Bog Boardwalk for many years. Field trip anyone?

Bogs and Fens: A Guide to the Peatland Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada by Ronald B. Davis, University of New England Press, 2016.

b-lab-girl-1

Book of December: Lab Girl

I’d never heard of Hope Jahren until this summer and then several people recommended her book, Lab Girl, to me. Rather than a guide, this is the story of Jahren’s journey from her childhood in rural Minnesota to the science labs she has built along the way. As a scientist, Jahren takes the reader through the ups and downs of the research world. And she does so with a voice that makes me feel like we’re old friends. Simultaneously, she interweaves short chapters filled with  information about the secret life of plants, giving us a closer look at their world. I had to buy a copy because for me, those chapters were meant to be underlined and commented upon. I do believe this will be a book I’ll read over and over again–especially those in-between chapters.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.

b-hidden-life-of-trees-1

Book of December: The Hidden Life of TREES

And finally, a gift to myself: The Hidden Life of TREES by Peter Wohlleben. I’d first learned about this book in a newspaper article published last year and had to wait until recently to purchase it after the book was translated from German to English. Again, it’s not a field guide, but offers a delightful read that makes me think. And thus, you can see my bookmark. I’ve not finished reading it yet, but I’m having fun thinking about some different theories Wohlleben puts forth. As a forester, Wohlleben has spent his career among trees and knows them well. He’s had the opportunity to witness firsthand the ideas he proclaims about how trees communicate. And so, I realize as I read it that I, too,  need to listen and observe more closely to what is going on in the tree world–one of my favorite places to be. Maybe he’s right on all accounts–the best part is that he has me questioning.

The Hidden Life of TREES: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben, Random House, 2016.

And that’s just it–the underlying theme of these five books you might consider is TREES. I can’t seem to learn enough about them. One word of caution, each author has their own take on things, so the best thing to do is to read the book, but then to head out as often as you can and try to come to your own conclusions or at least increase your own sense of wonder.

And now for the books on my list (My guy is the keeper of the list):

Naturally Curious Day by Day: A Photographic Field Guide and Daily Visit to the Forests, Fields, and Wetlands of Eastern North America by Mary Holland, Stackpole Books, 2016

Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts: A Field Guide to Common Bryophytes of the Northeast by Ralph Pope, Cornell University Press, 2016.

Do you have any other suggestions for me?

One final thought about books–support your local independent book store as much as you can. Here in western Maine, we are fortunate to have Bridgton Books. Justin and Pam Ward know what we like to read and if they don’t have a particular book we’re looking for, they bend over backwards to get it for us.