Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Study - The Curious Naturalist: Spring

This is hard for me to say, but I think that this is my most prized book.

The Curious Naturalist, by John Mitchell & The Massachusetts Audobon Society and illustrated by Gordon Morrison.

It was first published by Prentice-Hall in 1980.

My copy looks like this - and I inherited it sometime in the early 90s from my great Aunt Nora.

This book is fantastic.  It is broken into four sections (one per season) and includes seasonal observations and information, activities and crafts.  Flora, fauna, the night sky, sounds, gardening, the list goes on.  Some of the crafts are somewhat hokey, but still interesting.  I mean, who doesn't  want a twig belt?

The illustrations are beautiful and detailed and the entire book is meticulously hand-lettered.

What I love most about this book are the introductory passages before each season's section.  The writing brings me to that season.  In the dead of winter I can read the summer introduction and be there.  The night sky, the sounds, smells, the heat from the sun.

Want a taste of Spring?

"There is perhaps no other event in the natural world that is as characteristic of a season as a full chorus of spring peepers.  It is not only that the voices of living things are calling once more after the long silence of winter, there is something about the atmosphere in which the chorus takes place that epitomizes the season.  There is a certain moist smell in the air on rainy spring nights, slow mists rise from rafts of ice floating in dark marshes, everywhere on roads through wet areas the small white forms of migrating spring peepers, wood frogs, green frogs, and pickerel frogs will appear, and all around you the air will be filled with a high bell-like ringing, a little like a distant horse-drawn sleigh.  That distant chorus is the voice of the spring peeper, a small tree frog no larger than the end of a little finger.  Throughout history naturalists have referred to it as the voice of spring."

I don't know about you, but that passage absolutely gives me chills.  If you've never heard what the author is referencing, I suggest this be the year you change that.  It's well worth it and it's a sound you will never forget.

Some favourite pages from the spring section -

I hope wherever you are, spring is starting to show itself, and if not, just read a passage from this book - you'll be transported.

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