Category Archives: Nature

Read-a-thon Wrap-Up, October 2021

Painting by Deborah DeWitj

9:00 p.m.  My Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon is over now. It’s been a long time since I pulled an “all-nighter.” (I get more excited about pulling an “all-dayer” these days, even though I do love naps!)  So although I’d love to stay up all night and read, I will leave the “night owl reading” to others and wish you a very happy reading night!

Thank you so much to all the organizers of the read-a-thon! I know it is a lot of work for many people, and I just want you all to know how much I appreciate you working to keep this fun tradition alive and thriving after so many years.

Here are the books I read and thoroughly enjoyed for this read-a-thon:

Read-a-thon Afternoon, October 2021

Owl illustration, by E.K. Belsher

6:00 p.m.:  I really enjoyed the books I read this afternoon for my OWL-themed Read-a-thon! And while looking for owl photos and art for my posts, I found the beautiful owl illustration above. It is by E.K. Belsher, an artist from Vancouver, BC.  Please visit her website here to see more of her extraordinary illustrations.

After a lunch break, I finished listening to the beautifully-written classic, I Heard the Owl Call my Name, by Margaret Craven. The location of the story was here in the Pacific Northwest, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, so I am familiar with and particularly liked the descriptions of the landscape of that area.  Also, because I have long been fascinated by the culture of the Native Peoples of that area, this story really resonated with me. It was a great choice for my “owl theme” for this read-a-thon, and I will be writing a full review of the book in the next few days because it is also one of the books on my Classics Club list to read 50 books in 5 years.

A short story I read this afternoon, also has “owl” in the title, but has nothing to do with owls.  An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, by Ambrose Bierce, is a powerful and moving story, set during the Civil War. Peyton Farquhar is a wealthy planter and slave holder who was helping the confederates during the Civil War. He was captured by Union soldiers and and is being prepared for execution by Hanging at Owl Creek Bridge. The story of how he was captured and of his attempted escape is told in a flashbacks. This story was originally published in 1890 and packs a powerful punch. I think it’s eerie enough to count it as one of my short stories read for the RIP-XVI challenge.  I vaguely remember seeing a film of this story long, long ago (was I even in high school yet?) and remember being haunted by it for a long time afterward.

The next book I read this afternoon was a fun book for middle grade readers written by Jean Craighead George.  It is called There’s an Owl in the Shower. I have read and loved many of JCG’s stories about nature and animals. In this book, Borden Watson was a young boy whose father was a logger who had lost his job due to the new government law, the Endangered Species Act, which included protections for the Spotted Owl.  The forest Borden’s father had been logging was home to the owl species.  Borden was very proud of his father, and so was very angry that a little bird could cause his father so much pain and stress.  A hero had been felled by a measly little bird.”  And then, while Borden was in the forest determined to shoot and kill Spotted Owls, he finds an owlet that had been blown out of the nest. He brings it home, not realizing it was a Spotted Owl, and his family take care of the cute little thing. This owlet, and all that the family learned about the lives of owls while helping it survive, changed their understanding of the complex issues surrounding endangered species. It’s an interesting book that helps young people understand both sides of the issue and learn about the fascinating lives of owls.

Spotted Owl

My next book has been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of years. It’s a lovely looking book, and I was anxious to finally read it. The Secret Life of the Owl, by John Lewis-Stempel, is a little gem full of all kinds of information, poetry, tidbits of history…all about owls. He also talks about each of the different types of owls in Britain, so although it is short, it is packed with learning for anyone interested in owls. And according to Mr. Lewis-Stempel, we all are interested in owls!

A collection of books and information on owls would not be complete without some of the poetry about these amazing birds. One joyful poem is The Owl and The Pussycat, by Edward Lear. I have a book of this short poem with illustrations by Jan Brett, an illustrator I love, so of course I added it to my pleasurable day of reading about owls.

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After dinner, I will spend a few more hours reading a book that my blogging friend, Nan, (Letters from a Hill Farm) recommended to me recently. It’s called The Owl Service, by Alan Garner, and I’m about of 1/3 of the way through it. I may not finish it tonight, but will count it as part of my OWL day.

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My afternoon was packed with some wonderful reading. I’m off to dinner now, and will check back in with you all at the end of my day.

painting by Jesse Willcox Smith

Read-a-thon Morning, October 2021

Read-a-thon time

NOON:  What a lovely read-a-thon morning — rainy outside but with plenty of hot tea and enjoyable books indoors.

My first book read today was Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen. It is one of my all-time favorite books. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it, and how many times I shared it with children, but it never gets old and it’s like visiting an old friend each time I reread it.  On a cold winter night, a young girl and her father go owling.    “It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime, when Pa and I went owling.”

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After Owl Moon, I read some other children’s books from the library. Owl Babies, by Martin Waddell, and illustrated by  Patrick Benson, was delightful. Three owlets wake up in the night and find that their mother is gone. They waited, but she didn’t return. They waited some more, huddled together on a branch outside the nest. They were worried. Would she ever return? A very sweet owl story for the young ones!

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Owl Sees Owl, by Laura Godwin, with beautiful illustrations by Rob Dunlavey, is a word book. The story is told visually and with single words, four at a time on a page. It’s a heartwarming story of a young owl’s exploration of his world outside the nest while his family is asleep. The four words on each page tell the story of his adventure. I would love to read this book (over and over again) to a very young grandchild sitting on my lap. Alas, my grandson is almost 15 years old, but he would have loved hearing it read to him back then!

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Owls: Our Most Charming Birds, written and illustrated by artist, Matt Sewell, is a guidebook for older children (and adults) who really want to learn about owls found all over the world. The illustrations of each owl are wonderful and the information that accompanies each one is excellent and informative. I learned a lot reading this one. It’s a book I definitely would have had in my 6th grade class library!

 


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Another old family favorite on my bookshelf is Owl at Home, by Arnold Lobel. My kids loved every one of Arnold Lobel’s books, and this one is well-worn and well-loved. From the publisher: “Owl lives by himself in a warm little house. But whether Owl is inviting Winter in on a snowy night or welcoming a new friend he meets while on a stroll, Owl always has room for visitors.

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Otis the Owl, by Mary Holland, is a beautiful photography book about the life of a baby owl. The photographs are amazing, and the story about the young life of this owl and his sister is interesting. But this book is also a science book for the young naturalist. There’s a wealth of information about owls after the story ends. See an example below. What a wonderful book for learning/teaching about owls!

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Wow! Owling: Enter the World of  the Mysterious Birds of the Night, by Mark Wilson, is an awesome book I found at the library. It was just jam packed with information about owls and comparing them to other birds. It’s a complete education for young and old, for anyone interested at all in owls!

A special book:  My friend, Marlo, shared a very special book with me on baby owls.  She created it for her grandchildren and very generously sent me the link to the photo book along with the following story about how she created it. “I’m going to add a little-known, amateur book to your available titles. Several years ago we stayed in a vacation home that had an owl nest in the yard. I spent most of the month sitting in the yard watching. Here is a link to the book I made for my grandchildren. https://babyowlbook.shutterfly.com … What a great experience it was!”  THANK YOU so much, Marlo, for adding your book to my owl reading today! I loved it!

The rest of my morning was spent doing Saturday chores and listening to the audiobook, I Heard the Owl Call my Name, by Margaret Craven. It is fiction, and not directly about owls themselves, but is a beautifully written classic about the native peoples and culture of the Pacific Northwest, of which owls play an important part.  I’m not quite finished with it yet, but after my lunch break / blogging time, I’ll finish this audiobook and continue with my afternoon read-a-thon reading!  

And outside, the rain continues!

The Read-a-thon Begins, October 2021

5:00 a.m.:  GOOD MORNING!  So begins another special day devoted to reading. Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon is an institution in the book blogging world. I remember Dewey and her blog, The Hidden Side of a Leaf, and am happy that her wonderful idea of how to unite readers and bloggers in an enjoyable event at least twice a year took hold and grew over time. What a wonderful legacy she left us!

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Illustration by John Schoenherr, from Owl Moon

In my post yesterday, I explained why I chose the theme for my reading today: OWLS!  I’m looking forward to spending today in the company of such terrific birds. I will update my reading progress mid-day, and again in the evening, so check back then to see which books I’m reading today.
My big mug of tea is ready; I’m in my comfy reading chair; and my books are stacked on my table and waiting on my Kindle. Time to start my reading day!

Enjoy your day of reading everyone!

October Read-a-thon, 2021

It’s almost time again for the October Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon! When I was teaching 2nd grade, read-a-thon days were the best. The kids would gather piles of books from the class library. They’d find a cozy spot on the floor somewhere and settle in for a wonderful reading session. I always provided snacks for them because books and treats go well together. And they would spend long periods of time reading and going through their piles of books. So that’s some of the excitement I feel when Dewey’s Read-a-thon comes around again…it’s my turn to gather the books and treats, and read, read, read!

Some of my former 2nd graders during a spring read-a-thon.

For the last few years, I’ve enjoyed doing a theme for my read-a-thon reading. Looking at my bookshelves for some inspiration, I realized I have quite a few books on owls, and that seemed the perfect theme for my reading this time. A pair of Great Horned Owls have nested nearby this year, and we hear them often in the middle of the night or early morning. They have been delightful nighttime companions, even leaving us some owl pellets under our cedar tree, so in honor of our bird friends, I’m going to read or reread my books on OWLS. I have also gathered some other books to read that simply have “owl” in the title.

Tomorrow morning at 5:00 a.m. Pacific coast time, I will begin my reading. I don’t last 24 hours these days, but I will read as long as my old eyes will let me, and I will post some updates on this blog a couple of times during the day.

Happy reading tomorrow, read-a-thoners!

 

Walking with Thoreau

Walking on a trail in the Hoh Rain Forest, 2019…

Henry David Thoreau wrote an essay called Walking, which was published as a long article in The Atlantic in 1862. Although some of the words he used are dated — we seldom use “methinks” anymore — his ideas are still clear and fresh today, and it is very readable. In this essay, he expresses his need for long walks in nature, and laments the loss of “wildness” in our culture and the encroachment of private ownership of great parcels of wilderness areas. Looking back at his world of 1862, when there were still great areas of unsettled land, and where woods and forests still remained right outside of towns, easily accessible for long rambles, it makes me sad to realize how far away we have come from that closeness to nature.

He reveled in the beauty of nature on those walks, a phenomenon that was mostly unknown to the village dweller who sat indoors all day:

We had a remarkable sunset one day last November. I was walking in a meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, just before setting, after a cold, gray day, reached a clear stratum in the horizon, and the softest, brightest morning sunlight fell on the dry grass and on the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon and on the leaves of the shrub oaks on the hillside, while our shadows stretched long over the meadow east-ward, as if we were the only motes in its beams. It was such a light as we could not have imagined a moment before, and the air also was so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradise of that meadow. When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon, never to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever, an infinite number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the latest child that walked there, it was more glorious still.

And he prized “wildness” over “civilized.”  Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him.

In short, all good things are wild and free. There is something in a strain of music, whether produced by an instrument or by the human voice—take the sound of a bugle in a summer night, for instance—which by its wildness, to speak without satire, reminds me of the cries emitted by wild beasts in their native forests. It is so much of their wildness as I can understand. Give me for my friends and neighbors wild men, not tame ones.

He used the word “sauntering,” and gave the history of the word from the Middle Ages, which basically meant a type of “crusade.” So walking was not merely taking a walk, but was a devotion, a commitment to immersing oneself in wildness.

If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again — if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man — then you are ready for a walk.

I enjoyed his musings on being in nature, and I admired his commitment to living in wildness. He was a unique individual with unique circumstances that allowed the freedom he had to devote his life to nature. I’ve always been a bit intimidated by what I perceive as his fanaticism, but he reminds us of what we have almost completely lost today: the incredible restorative power on the human soul of being outside, in the wild, in nature.

 

I chose to read this book as one of my 50 books in 5 years for The Classics Club, Round 2.

Owls


I am awake in the middle of the night listening to a pair of Great Horned owls calling to each other from the tall trees in our neighborhood. This is such an unusual happening — being awake like this at this time (yes, I have too much on my mind) and also to hear the owls. So instead of sleepless worry, I am simply enjoying the song and the amazing conversation between the two owls. It is magical!

Whoo! WhooWhoo! Whoo! Whoo!” As the nights passed the booming of the owls became more and more frequent. Bubo called from his beech tree, Black Talon answered from her elm roost. Then Bubo called from the sugarhouse and Black Talon answered from the marsh.

~ from  Bubo: The Great Horned Owl, by Jean Craighead George

The Aye-Aye and I

An Aye-Aye

In the gloom it came along the branches towards me, its round, hypnotic eyes blazing, its spoon-like ears turning to and fro independently like radar dishes, its white whiskers twitching and moving like sensors; its black hands, with their thin, attenuated fingers, the third seeming prodigiously elongated, tapping delicately on the branches as it moved along, like those of a pianist playing a complicated piece by Chopin. It looked like a Walt Disney witch’s black cat with a touch of ET thrown in for good measure. If ever a flying saucer came from Mars, you felt that this is what would emerge from it. It was Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky come to life, whiffling through its tulgey wood.

This is the beginning of Gerald Durrell’s book, The Aye-Aye and I. It is the story of the trip to Madagascar he and his wife, Lee, took to capture healthy specimens of this amazing and rare endangered primate to place in breeding centers around the globe in an attempt to save them from extinction. Aye-Ayes are the largest Lemur, nocturnal primates, and they spend most of their lives in trees. It hunts for grubs by tapping on the wood and then gnawing a hole to get to the grub, and then uses its long narrow finger to pull the grub out.

I had never heard of an Aye-Aye until I found this book. My curiosity, as well as my love of Gerald Durrell’s writing, prompted an immediate purchase of the book, and I very much enjoyed reading it. If you have ever read a book by Gerald Durrell, you know he has a wonderful sense of humor and a wonderful way with words. In reading this book, you learn a lot about life on Madagascar — flora, fauna, and human! — and get to know this amazing creature and the struggles it faces for survival.

 

 

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust: Reading the World,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a fascinating account from Madagascar.

One Day At Teton Marsh

During this time of self isolation, are any of you dreaming of travel? I am! but right now I’m happy to be able to do some delightful armchair traveling.  One Day At Teton Marsh, by Sally Carrighar, is a beautiful written and illustrated book about the wildlife at Teton Marsh, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, all on one day at the onset of winter. You can see that my copy of the book is old from the photo above. It was published by the University of Nebraska Press, (one of the Bison Books) which was my favorite publishing company for many years. But it’s been a long time since I read it. But I pulled it off the shelf recently and reread it. It has been a lovely companion for my armchair travels, and when this time of quarantine is over, and it is safe to travel again, I want to go to Jackson, Wyoming, and spend some time appreciating the wildlife of that beautiful area!

The style of this book is very interesting. Sally Carrighar has told the story of that one day at Teton Marsh from the point of view of each of the animals that live there. So with each chapter, you really learn about the animal, it’s life and habitat, and how it fits in to the web of life. The writing is beautiful and the stories are quite fascinating! And I love the illustrations, by George and Patritia Mattson.

You’ll have to check your library to find a copy of the physical book because it is out of stock everywhere I looked. However, it IS  available as a Kindle book here.( Just be sure to read it on a device where you can really appreciate the illustrations!)

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in Wyoming.

 

 

I also read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.