10 nature loving reads

dahlia

Summer Books
Summer’s hallmark lazy, hazy days and laid back schedules offer ample time to dig into a stack of books for some porch-rocking, hammock-swinging, beach-sitting, lake-floating, story-reading delight. This year, let nature provide inspiration for a summer reading list that showcases the original literary muse as the main character. We’ve picked out a few suggestions to set your mind a-bloom and grow your curiosity.

Anthill by Edward O. Wilson

When a Pulitzer-prize winning biologist decides to write a coming-of-age novel, a modern-day classic emerges. Wilson displays the relentless struggle between man and nature through the heroic actions of boy fighting for the land he loves.

Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken

The subtitle — How The Largest Movement In The World Came Into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming — says it all to describe this thought-provoking work on the origins of modern initiatives for environmental awareness and social justice. Grassroots campaigns have successfully tapped into a collective consciousness with a magnificent ripple effect. Drop your pebble in the water…

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

A talented florist, who survives a lonely childhood in foster-care, becomes fascinated by the Victorian tradition of using flowers to express specific sentiments. As she learns more about the beautiful messages conveyed in the blossoms, she weeds out the nettles from her own painful past.

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

Establishing a strong connection with nature has always been a vital part of the human experience, yet our modern world increasingly parks us inside a technology bubble. Louv reports on the empirical need for children to enjoy regular exposure to the natural world and to enhance their education with significant time outdoors.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

A Harvard doctorate student finds herself engrossed in the pages of an Puritan woman’s journal, then following a trail of healing herbs and ancient ayurvedic-style recipes that leads her right into the madness of the Salem Witch Trials.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

The author that enraptured readers in The Girl with the Pearl Earring takes on the scientific discoveries of 19th century Britain and the classism creating a cultural “survival of the fittest”. Based on a true story of an uneducated British common woman whose fossil collections impressed the leading scientists of her time.

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

Escape to Nepal on this journey of spiritual discovery as the author accompanies a field biologist on a research climb. The extended trek leads to an emotional quest for both of them.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Born in the Age of Enlightenment and living through the Industrial Revolution, a botanist continues the research of her brilliant father even as her inherent need for questioning is challenged by her love affair with a captivating nature artist. Their relationship must weather the conflicts of Religion and Reason, Science and Spiritualism, Passion and Purpose.

The Thing with Feathers by Noah Strycker

From migration patterns to mating rituals, homing tendencies to nesting techniques, the distinctive behaviors of various bird species can teach us volumes about our own humanity. The truth about instinct and intelligence may be soaring right above us or perched on the limb of a favorite tree.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

With a signature wit and precise execution Bryson puts a hysterical twist on the basic travel guide as he attempts an ambitious hike along Appalachian Trail. Lace up your boots and prepare to giggle. (Hint: Read it quick before the new feature film hits the big screen later this year.)

Are you dirty?

explore the garden

I spent the weekend dirty. Filthy, actually. Sweaty and smelly. Covered in bruises and bites, scratches and scrapes. My legs now resemble those of a kid just bounding off the bus home from summer camp. Not sure if I’ll be able to squeeze in a manicure this week, so I might have a little explaining to do when clients and colleagues catch a glimpse of my thorn-pricked palms and ragged nails. An irritating throb between my ring finger and pinky marks the path of angry ants while red dots at my ankles either reveal the appetites of nibbling chiggers or an unwelcome poison ivy slap. Despite my battle wounds, I wish I could push away from my desk, skip the rest of my work week and dig right back into that dirt.  

My gardening projects never fully reach completion, instead rambling on and on like the vines I’m constantly pulling out of my way. This time, I managed to plant an entire new corner in a couple of days, but surveying it again this morning, I thought of possible changes. Then, I noticed the weeding and pruning needed on the opposite corner and, toward the back, eyed the perfect spot for some summer bulbs, a wide morning ray spotlighting an empty altar ready for the joyful choir of sun-worshippers — gladiolus, cannas, dahlias, perhaps more daylilies along the fence… definitely rudbeckia to smile up at everyone, proud of their signature black-eyes. The shady spots whimper for extra attention, too; under distant trees, a few hostas and ferns await companions in quiet repose hoping to see friendly foliage rooted before the neighbor’s English ivy encroaches on their mellow territory.

Such the grand and ubiquitous metaphor, isn’t it? From Eden to almanacs to everafter we cultivate our notions of life and love from the parables of the dirt. Technology, politics, even concepts of art, all change. Dirt remains constant. Century to century, through culture and custom, we dig and we plant. We marvel at what we are able to produce, whether for sustenance, sale or ornamentation. We battle invasive weeds, fret over failed crops and surrender to pests. We venerate the connection between bountiful gardens, healthy bodies and nurtured souls — celebrating the sunny spots that boast the brightest blossoms, resting in the calm shade requiring our mindful regard, watching carefully for threatening invaders and attempting to monitor our growth. We bandage our cuts and wipe away the perspiration. Then we crawl right back into the soil and we get dirty. Gloriously dirty.

Who else needs to dig?

hummingbirds

hummingbird in my backyard
hummingbird in my backyard

Why have I only now truly appreciated the flora and fauna around me? Take hummingbirds for example, all the years living and traveling in other countries and I am just now truly in awe of them in my backyard when clearly they were more abundant in Latin America. The charming hummers blatantly buzzing around me in other countries are now more allusive in my backyard. They announce their arrival with a subtle chirping, basically to ward off the other hummer that is nearing its source of nectar. They can be quite ferocious little critters. And contrary to believe they will sit long spells guarding a feeder or flowers waiting for another to enter their domain. Of the 356 known species, 51 are endangered. In Georgia we have 11 species and only one nests here, the ruby-throated, that has iridescent feathers that you only when the sun hits its throat and it weigh less than 3 ounces. We also have the calliope hummingbird that is the smallest bird found in North America an. the rufous humming bird that has the longest migration in North America, 3000 miles. They gear up for their long treks by consuming ½ of their body weight in sugar and feed around 5-7 times a day. I am amazed at how often they are in my backyard in the flowers in August. They used to come in July but it seems that every year they come later. These ardent fliers can live up to 12 years, so I intend to plant a hummingbird jungle feast for next year.