Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Sunday Salon and Getting Back to Nature

There's something about the beginning of a new year that gives me pause. I don't make resolutions anymore, although I do contemplate things that I'd like to accomplish. This new year, more so than most, has really made me stop and think about what is really important in life. I don't know if this is because of my aging years or because of the craziness happening that started with the pandemic, but things feel different. Of course my family and friends are important. Those relationships give me purpose and hope. But I have also found comfort in the natural world around me.

This year my husband and I planted 2 raised bed gardens. It was a thrilling rollercoaster of emotions as we watched and waited to see things grow. We planted mostly small tomato and pepper plants bought at a local farm, but I did manage to find some Clemson Okra seeds and planted one small row of those too. Every morning, coffee in hand, we would inspect the gardens and thrill at the micro inches that we noticed with our naked eyes. The Okra looked pathetic, but we persisted in babying them along and months later we had incredible strong and tall stalks filled to the brim. We woke up to our tomato plants being devastated by insect or animal and learned about Tomato Hornworms. Though they wiped out my tomatoes one summer day, I was fascinated by them. Once spotted, they didn't scurry away, they kept on their mission or at least they were enjoying themselves too much to be bothered with us. On a gardening site someone suggested I buy a blacklight flashlight and search for them at night. Sure enough any interloper feasting on our plants lit up light a Christmas tree and we were able to move them to a more suitable location.

We also have a huge pear tree in our front lawn and every year since we've been here, which would be almost 3 years now, the tree gets so heavy with fruit that the branches bow to the ground. Pears fall and make an incredible mess. But strangely as I walked out one day this summer I noticed there were no pears on the ground. I was amazed and wondered who might be feasting on those. Maybe the deer I spotted on our security camera munching on our fresh winter crops? I don't know, but I loved watching them, 3 baby deer and their mother, play near those gardens and nibble to see if they liked brocolli. 

Have you looked outside around you lately? There is a world outside that goes on without much bravado or fanfare. A world that will bend to our will if need be, but is content to "do its' own thing" unnoticed. Besides our own observations, have you read any books that coaxed you to "stop and smell the roses"? Of course there are the classics, such as Bill Bryson's A Walk in The Woods, or anything written by John Muir. I might even venture to mention Born Free by Joy Adamson, which I read as a teenager and remember crying my eyes out. But I've never really been a big "nature" reader. This year seems to be the year of change though and I have a few books on my nightstand waiting for me to crack the spine and find a nice comfy chair to slowly turn some pages...

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil... As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of Arizona, where she hiked with her Indian father; and the chillier climes of western New York and Ohio. But no matter where she was transplanted―no matter how awkward the fit or forbidding the landscape―she was able to turn to our world’s fierce and funny creatures for guidance. “What the peacock can do,” she tells us, “is remind you of a home you will run away from and run back to all your life.” The axolotl teaches us to smile, even in the face of unkindness; the touch-me-not plant shows us how to shake off unwanted advances; the narwhal demonstrates how to survive in hostile environments. Even in the strange and the unlovely, Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship. For it is this way with wonder: it requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions in order to fully appreciate the world’s gifts.

This was my original pick for First Book of the Year this year, but I really wanted to read and finish "that first book" as a pleasant distraction and World of Wonders seemed more like a book I would enjoy reading a chapter a night. So I will start this book after I put down my "First" book and leisurely enjoy it. Published by Milkweed Editions in 2020, it is also Barnes and Nobles Book of the Year of 2020.

Braiding Sweetgrass:  Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer... As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise” (Elizabeth Gilbert). 

When I first opened this book and read in the preface... 
"Hold out your hands and let me lay upon them a sheaf of freshly picked sweetgrass, loose and flowing, like newly washed hair… Hold the bundle up to your nose. Find the fragrance of honeyed vanilla over the scent of river water and black earth…” brought me back to my first visit to Charleston, SC and the Charleston City Market where the Gullah artists weave Sweetgrass Baskets that are beautiful as well as functional. I found one I could afford and brought it home with me, filling my livingroom with that wonderful smell. One of the ladies braided a few pieces together and handed it to me so I could enjoy putting it up to my face and breathing in that earthy clean smell. And if Robin Wall Kimmerer could capture that in the first few sentences of her book, I wanted to read more of her writing. She has gotten rave reviews for this book, and it is on my wishlist now. Probably soon to be on my nightstand!  Published by Milkweed Editions in 2013.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World by Peter Wohllebeh... Are trees social beings? In The Hidden Life of Trees forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland.

A small book that really had a lot of buzz back when it was published in 2016 by Greystone Books. Almost reminding me of the buzz around The Secret Life of Plants: A Fascinating Account of the Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Relations Between Plants and Man by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird in 1989. I had picked this book up and was fascinated with a section I read on the way the trees in a forest look out for one another. But as I said I'm not a big nature reader, so for some reason I never finished the book. Now I am determined to. As with some books, there is a right time to read them and this feeling of connection around me is motivating me. How about you? 

Do you read books about the Natural World? Nature essays?

Maybe you've found yourself at home more than usual these last 6 months or so and had the opportunity to spend more time outdoors. Being retired I'm able to sit around more, but usually find myself busier than I was when I was working. But this, this nature thing, I think I'm going to read more about it. I know I've enjoyed paying attention this past summer and this winter. I hope you get a chance to too...

Weekly Update...
Monday, January 4th... Memoir Monday! Learn about cute Matthew McConaughey and his new memoir Greenlights. Follow the link to read about this interesting and fresh outlook on life.

Friday, January 8th... First Lines Friday! Follow the link to read the first lines of a great book to see if it's your cup of tea!

Hope you find something here that piques your interest! And if you've found a great book, please share it here! I love hearing about great and interesting books!

In the meantime, stop by this week to enjoy more of Memoir Monday and First Lines Friday and maybe some other interesting bookish talk.

Happy reading... Suzanne


shelleyrae @ book'd out said...

I think a lot of people have regained appreciation for the outdoors having spent so much time indoors.

Wishing you a great reading week

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I love reading books about nature. Books about nature have been such a comfort during the pandemic. It reminds me that we are only one little part of the bigger universe.

I hope to read World of Wonders this year, and I got Braiding Sweetgrass for Christmas.

Lady In Read said...

I do read books about nature, and all these look so wonderful so thank you for pointing these out for me today..

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