“Think like a mountain”- Aldo Leopold
I still see clearly in my mind the little rock between the bushes and the forest. I would jump over it to enter Mr. Wilder’s yard. I don’t know exactly when it started, but I do know that our friendship was deeply established by around the time I was six and continued until he passed away when I was eleven. He was my next-door neighbor and my pal and I fondly recall summer days (and spring and fall, too, but especially summer) sitting on his back porch with iced tea in hand, hanging out and and talking. One day, Mr. Wilder, with words and tears for a dead bird, made me see birds as a living, feeling individuals. He awakened me because until that moment, I thought of a bird as “just” a bird. It was almost inanimate to me. That bird’s passing was the beginning of my lifelong appreciation for the individuals that make up the natural world.
I was lucky because Mr. Wilder had the time and inclination to share his stories with me. Always offering some tasty drink like iced tea or lemonade, he would chat with me for hours as we watched “bird TV” at his feeders. He had a lot of stories about what the neighborhood was like before rural electrification. His sensitivity to all living beings extended to the trees and he lamented how the trees were cut to make way for power lines. Mr. Wilder made me appreciate history and nature, and the value of a good story, too.
If you also share a connection with nature and all the beings that breathe, and you like a good story, too, here are a few of my favorite books from OWL’s collection:
Bear-ology by Sylvia Dolson. This is brand new to our collection and is an excellent primer on bears. The author arranged the book so that a topic is briefly covered in 1 to 3 pages. This makes it excellent for keeping in your bag for those times you find yourself waiting in line or any circumstance where you may want to read only a couple pages at a time. You will be amazed how much you will learn about bears in those few pages! Absolutely fascinating! Who knew that a bear helped the Allies in the Battle of the Monte Cassino in WWII or that sibling cubs often have different fathers?
Lost Mountain: a Year in the Vanishing Wilderness, Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Appalachia by Erik Reece. I am confident that Mr. Wilder would have been shedding the same tears as I if he read this book. The author is a native Appalachian who reveals the devastation of radical strip mining wherein entire mountains are leveled, vaporized, and otherwise obliterated from the Earth forever. Reece takes this topic and makes it accessible in ways that the mainstream media have not. He does offer hope and alternatives but reminds us that those mountains that are gone are lost mountains. You meet the miners and those fighting to save their precious land. You learn of the rampant methamphetamine addiction that most Appalachians believe correlates to the life of the miner. Reece makes you question if the ends justify the means.
Crows: Encounters with the Wise Guys by Candace Savage. This is a joy to read and an excellent exploration into the life of crows… you will never see crows the same way again. You’ll discover, for instance, that it isn’t really a “gang of crows” but in fact an extended family of crows (very unusual in the bird world), or read a story of the mother crow who returned to her nest to find her babies had been killed by a raptor and cried out for four hours, or enjoy another about the New Caledonian crow that makes tools. Fascinating!
Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone by Douglas W. Smith and Gary Ferguson. This is the story of the return of the wolf to Yellowstone National Park. Each chapter alternates between the saga of the issues, obstacles, and details related to the reestablishment of the wolves in Yellowstone with profiles of a particular wolf or wolf pack. The portraits of the wolves are incredibly moving and for anyone who does feel a kinship with nature, you will feel profoundly moved by these portraits. One glimpse in particular that touched me was the story of a female wolf whose partner was shot by a poacher. Even though she had young pups, and was also pregnant at the time, she abandoned the pack (highly unusual for a wolf) and ran for days and days. With their tracking devices, researchers tried to locate her and found that she was racing non-stop through the most remote parts of the wilderness. After literally days of running, she howled and howled, then turned back and ultimately returned to the pack. Could anyone argue that she wasn’t mourning? Don’t miss this book.
Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered or Reviled Bird by Andrew Blechman. This book deserves wider readership. I honestly felt sorry for it, sitting on the new shelf (when it was new) and no one taking it home, so I picked it up and I was so very glad I did. Rock doves, known commonly as pigeons ,are either peace doves or flying rats, depending on the observer. More than any other bird, pigeons seem to either be loved or hated. This book traces their history, provides fascinating facts about them, dips into the world of those who race pigeons, and gives you a whole new appreciation for this amazing bird… like did you know that rock doves average 60 mph sustained speed? Some homers go up to 100 mph sustained! Go, pigeon, go!
For more titles, browse the 500s and you are sure to stumble across more gems!
Ann Marie is the Library Director and actually does feel bad for books that do not get borrowed.