Thursday, October 18, 2018

Fall Nature Journaling Weekend

I had the great good fortune to be invited to teach nature journaling up in the wilds of Maine a couple of weeks ago.

There was a smallish turnout—I guess I should go into teaching how to file your taxes or some other universally desired skill, but what fun would that be?

And, to be honest, small groups are my favorite, where each person can work at his/her own pace, and we all get to know each other so well, even in the course of a few hours.

The weekend started Friday evening and went through Sunday morning—not quite three days, but enough time to luxuriate in attention, observation, detail.

We practiced the basics of observing and drawing.

We went on slow hikes, noting each thing of significance as we went along.

We closed our eyes to use our other senses, and wrote about what we noticed, felt, remembered, and wondered.

It was a pretty terrific way to spend a fall weekend in Maine.

Friday, October 12, 2018

September 2018 Reads

A roundup of books I read over the last month. You can see past lists here:

August 2018 Reads

July 2018 Reads

September's book pile is quite a bit smaller than August's tower. I'd like to say that I was taking a break from reading to something even more healthy and productive—writing, say, or saving the world—but really the cause was TV. I had to catch up on "The Handmaid's Tale" and then I had to watch "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" as an antidote. The twins and I haven't even gotten through another whole volume of Amelia Peabody, thanks to the start of school and homework and lots of other things going on. 

I had to do my photo shoot at the library with my phone, because I'd already returned Rachel.
My one NF book for the month was a doozy: Journey into Summer by Edwin Way Teale, about his 19,000 mile cross-country road trip, tracking the phenomena of summer in 1960. Full disclosure, I started this one back when summer began, but I kept moving other books ahead of it in the queue. But when September came, I determined to finish reading it before summer ended (I think I may have gone over by a day or two). This book is really great. Teale and his wife start in Maine and make their way through the upper midwest, down into Kansas and around Colorado, over a period of three months. Along the way, they come upon some fascinating things, like a mayfly hatch in Lake Erie that turns roads slick with insects. I found myself wanting to recreate Teale's journey to see what's left of the things he saw along the way 60 years later (my cynical guess is that nearly everything is gone or diminished, except for bald eagles, which bird's absence Teale repeatedly notes). 

Two books on the list this month: First off My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne Du Maurier. After I finished Rebecca, a friend said I needed to read this one next. Once again Du Maurier messes with the reader's head and you're left at the end not knowing for sure who the real villian is. That's all I'm going to say, though. The other novel I read was Night Fall by Joan Aiken, which is the first novel of suspense I read, way back when I was a teenager. For some reason, I still have my copy and just for fun decided to read it again. It was still a fun read, though not what you might call "literature of enduring value," and it reassured me that plots don't have to be super complex to be engaging (and all the funny 1960s lingo is pretty entertaining, too).

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

September Newsletter

After a very long hiatus, I sent out a new newsletter yesterday. If you didn't get it in your inbox, you can see it here (I think some email services may be blocking it, because I didn't even get my copy). If you don't already have a subscription, you can subscribe here. If you've already subscribed but didn't receive your copy, check your spam folder and "promotions" tab. And if you try to subscribe, but it doesn't work, send me a message using the blog contact form at right and I'll sign you up manually!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Nature Journaling Weekend October 5-7

I'll be teaching a three-day nature journaling workshop at Little Lyford Lodge in Maine's beautiful wild woods near Greenville on October 5-7 for the Appalachian Mountain Club. If you've ever wanted to fully immerse yourself in observing, drawing, writing about, and just genearlly soaking up the natural world, this is the weekend for you, and I'd love to have you join me.

More information, including a workshop schedule, and registration here.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

August 2018 Reads

A roundup of books I read over the last month.

July 2018 Reads
June 2018 Reads January 2018 Reads

I'm a little embarrassed by August's book stack. I mean, it's so tall, it necessitated a portrait-oriented photo. And two books didn't even make it to the photo shoot. AND they're almost all beach books. But it was August, and what is August for, if not to read beach books at the beach (and in the tent, and on the hammock, and from the deck?).

Nonfiction. I'll start with the one serious book in the stack: Downcanyon, by Ann Zwinger. This, like Wind in Rock, which I talked about in June's list, is on dock for my next naturalists' book club meeting. I've read a lot by Zwinger in the last few years, and I think Downcanyon is her most beautiful writing. It's a year-round view of the Grand Canyon. She made trips there in all seasons, some by raft, others by research vessel, others on foot. How terrific of a life would that be? And the writing is just lovely, with the right balance of history and natural history with just a touch of the personal. (My book club wanted a book that had more nature than personal narrative, and all of Zwinger's books fit that bill. Though she doesn't completely excise the "i" or "me" from "memoir," the writing is first and foremost about what she observes and researches.) Zwinger, an art historian by education and illustrator of all her own books, has a truly artistic eye for the landscape, and a vocabulary to go with it, and paints vivid word pictures of all there is to see in the grandest of canyons.

Fiction. Oh dear. Did I really read that many books? I think I devoured three on our 5-day camping trip alone. Four are from Alexander McCall Smith's The Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency series. I've read these off-and-on over the years, but had fallen behind recently. (How does that man write so many books? He's published 60-odd books in the last 20 years, since the first Ladies' No. 1 book came out. If only I could have a fraction of that creativity, imagination, energy, and je ne sais quoi.) Anyway, I picked up a couple volumes at the library booksale earlier this summer, and after I read them, I picked up a couple more at the library. They're nice, quiet reads, full of gentle wisdom and mild humor, and they make you feel like all is right in the world, as long as Precious Ramotswe is on the case.

I also read five more Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels books. I'm not even going to list them here. I didn't even get one in the photo (it was buried on my nightstand and I'd forgotten about it until I dusted some time later). I'm starting to fear for my mental health. But, I am happy to report, I'm slowing down on the obsession. I've mostly exhausted the supply from used book purveyors in a two-hour radius of my home, and I'd say I was starting to exhaust my capacity for modern gothic, except that I also read this:

Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier. I remember as a kid seeing this book on my mother's bookshelves, and probably on the shelves of other people's mothers. I'd always assumed it was an up-scale romance. Boy was I wrong. It's described on the on the front cover as "romantic suspense," but I wouldn't consider it terribly romantic (almost anti-romantic). However it is suspensful, from the very first sentence (which I can't quote exactly, since I gave my copy to a friend, but which goes something like, "Last night I dreamed I was back at Manderley…"). You know something terrible is going to happen. And that it has something to do with the mysterious, late wife of Mr. de Winter. And when you find out what does happen, you are forced, against your own good sense and moral compass, to root for the perpetrator to get away with it. It's a book that messes with your head. And it's a book of lush, lingering passages of description, and a narrator whose fertile imagination fills the pages with daydreams about what might have happened, what is going to happen, what may be happening right now, elsewhere. It's a mesmerising page-turner if I ever read one.

Read-Aloud. E, Z, and I are still working our way through Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody series, last month reading The Golden One. Not much more to say about these books, which I'm reading for at least the fourth time (so they must be good), except that it's pretty darn nice when your eighth-graders still want you to read to them (even if part of their motivation may be to get out of reading to themselves).

Friday, September 14, 2018

Seah Kayaking and Nature Journaling

The very first thing I did the first time I came to Maine was go on a five-day sea kayaking trip. I went on another a year later and took kayaks out for shorter adventures during my two years in college on the coast. I bought a used ("tupperware") boat many long years ago, but only had it out on the ocean once or twice before I had kids and my kayak became a dust- and spider-collecter. I've gone out sea kayaking maybe twice since we had kids (one of those trips is chronicled here). And I didn't know how much I missed paddling, that salty film on my skin, even lugging heavy boats over mudflats.

Then I had the great good fortune to have been invited to teach a nature journaling workshop for Northstar Adventures and I spent last Saturday paddling with a small group of people in beautiful Penobscot Bay, from Castine Harbor to a pair of islands in Brooksville.

There we explored the shore, did a variety of writing and drawing exercises, and ate a delicious lunch (some of our group even took a swim in the cold water).

It was a pretty divine day and I was so happy to be back out on salt water (and wondering why the hell we live in Maine but inland). With each workshop, freelance gig, and piece of writing sold, I feel one tiny step closer to my career goals (which I once articulated as, "Go canoeing and write about it.") Yet, as we speak, I'm sending out resumes, because the demands of three teenage kids (all of whom have stomachs, feet, and teeth, three expensive body parts), a house whose appliances and fixtures are all exactly 16 years old and therefore all meeting their demise at once, and two 20+-year-old cars mean that the necessity for "real job" is becoming unavoidable. Which means that going canoeing and writing about it will once again become a weekend/evening/lunchbreak/interstitial pursuit. I won't say I'm not sad about that.

But in the meantime, if you want to join me for a THREE DAY!!! nature journaling workshop, I'll be teaching at Little Lyford Lodge in the Greenville area for the Appalachian Mountain Club. See here for details.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Summer Round-Up

I thought summer wouldn't go by so fast this year, since we didn't take a three- (or eight-) week road (or hiking) trip in the middle of it, but, if anything, I think it went faster. After the first day of "Hey Mom, hey Mom, hey Mom," I knew I had to sign E and Z up for a LOT of camps, which I did, which was nice for me (and probably for them, too, but they won't admit it), but it also resulted in a lot of the same kind of rushing around to get places on time that characterizes the rest of the year and is, I believe, a huge contributor to making time fly by. But, this summer was not ALL rushing around. Since my last, 4th-of-July update, we took a weekend trip to Vermont (for a funeral and some college tours, but also a bit of sight-seeing and hanging out in swimming pools; I have no photo evidence of that trip, however).

We also went to the beach.

And I, without kids, did some bird-watching.

And saw Maine's peculuar red-billed tropic bird.

And some bonus seals.

We went to the beach again.

And we went on a 5-day camping trip.

With 4 other families, for a total of 21 people, 12 of them being males under the age of 18 (five of those being males 13 years old).

While there, we climbed a small mountain.

Then we went to the beach again.

And we went hiking again.

And, finally, we celebrated the nominal (though not calendrical and, this year, not even weather-wise) last day of summer by taking a gorgeous boat ride among harbors and islands and coves.

This summer may have gone by too fast, and it may not have been marked by an epic vacation, but it was still pretty darn nice.

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