Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wendel Berry

I would like to suggest that our November book be any thing by Wendell Berry. The Long-Legged House is what I have and will be reading. He has a number of other writings including poetry that might be fun to read and discuss. Plus other writers have written about him. Looks like an interesting character.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

MEMBER REVIEW OF Hollows Peepers and Highlanders

PVNWG member Joy Pardue wrote the following in response to our July 2009 reading selection, Hollow, Peepers and Highlanders: An Appalachian Mountain Ecology, by George Constantz.

For weeks I’ve been enjoying a soundless light show each evening as fireflies flit about our yard signaling, twinkling, creating a wonderland and doing what fireflies do this time of year. Turns out they do much more than we’d ever suspect. When Constantz’ book arrived, I scanned the contents - “Femmes Fatales of Twilight” was the first title to catch my eye. This subject could only be those charming Tinkerbelle’s that close the day on a magical note so I eagerly turned to Chapter 11 and began to read.
This essay started off w/ Robert Frost’s charming poem entitled “Fireflies in the Garden” and I really liked the phrase “And here on earth come emulating flies”. Learned these enchanting insects emulate more than heavenly bodies. By the end of the second paragraph I learn their society is rife w/ “liars and cannibals” which is a serious accusation. Such a strong statement prompted me read on. By the end of the chapter I was thoroughly impressed at the level of sophistication these tiny creatures achieve. For an organism that probably doesn’t have enough neurons to qualify as a brain, they are as conniving as criminals.
Here I learned about aggressive mimicry – a form of predation which, as one would expect, gives an organism a survival advantage. In this particular case, it’s about eating well. After successful breeding, Photurus females mimic Photinus males to lure them close enough to consume them. Literally. Once the female is gravid, she has neither need nor interest in mating. Devouring a robust male “increases the number, and possibly the quality, of the eggs she produces”. For a Mama whose inexorable goal is to have her babies survive and thrive, this is a ‘no brainer’ which is convenient for an organism which basically doesn’t have one.
As in all warfare, the other side must continuously up the ante so it’s no surprise that this is precisely what happens next. At some level, males “sense” the danger. Their dilemma offers them two extremes: the highly desirable possibility of mating or the fatal one of being
cannibalized. No wonder he approaches cautiously. He’d be even more guarded could he comprehend that 16% of males of his species provide the fuel that generates offspring for another species.
As Constantz eventually points out, “it gets even more bizarre”. These wee beings then come up with the complex scheme of “mimicry of a mimicry”. After a convoluted discussion, the author attempts to explain this “step-by-step evolutionary arms race” but the details escape me as I’ve lost track of who is deceiving and/or devouring whom.
Constantz then wraps up this saga w/ a “pleasing finish”, telling us of Asian fireflies that “flash in rhythmic synchrony” producing a light beam almost as penetrating as the beacon of a lighthouse. And we learn that Photinus carolinus perform a similar show in The Smokies. Hmmm, I’d really like to see this group perform. By then I could have been grappling w/ a calculus problem; perhaps “if I'd charted the details or made an elaborate diagram of this information, complete w/ illustrations (in color), I’d ‘get it’.”
Un-naturalist-like, I’d spent hours observing ‘my’ fireflies and the extent of my curiosity was shallow indeed. First, I was surprised to find them ‘flying high’ – reaching the tops of tulip poplars and such. As a kid chasing these creatures around the yard, I never considered their vertical range. Plus I did wonder just how females sized up males. To me, their little lanterns looked pretty much the same but perhaps the females could spot a special glow. Or vice
This is an odd twist of the notion that “the devil is in the details” but I won’t let this become a case of knowing too much. Fortunately I’m not facing the same quandary as that of the Photinus males. For now, safe on the balcony, I’m content to gaze into the darkness and savor those glimmering lights which continue to enhance the pleasure of my evening tea.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Here are some of ideas for group reads that members put forth at the June meeting:
*Wangari Maathai: Unbowed-A Memoir (Maathai is the first African Woman and the First Environmentalist to Win the Nobel Peace Prize)
*Hannah Holmes: The Well-Dressed Ape-A Natural History of Myself
*E. O. Wilson: The Creation
*Mary Oliver: Collected Poems, Vol. II (Or any of her books of poetry)
*Peter Sauer, Editor: Finding Home-Writing on Nature and Culture from Orion Magazine
(includes work by David Ehrenfeld, Robert Finch, Barry Lopez, David Abram, Terry Tempest Williams, Ann Zwinger, and many others. )

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hal Borland

Just started reading Hal Borland and so far I am enjoying his book. He is plain spoken and very different from Wallace. It will be fun to compare the two. In chapter two I found two sentences that stood out to me, "Crows congregate in roadside poplars and loudly discuss everything under the sun." and "I don't know why a jay can make the most harmless action look like a felony, but he can." He put words to things I know, but haven't expressed before.

I also liked the last paragraph of chapter 2 when he talks about the purpose of country roads. Do any of you have a country road that is good for walking along? I have mountain roads and they aren't the same. Cheryl

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Future of Nature Study Guide

Lots of interesting links are included


Bill McKibben's famous The End of Nature did much to alert people to the need for CHANGE in the way we are treating our mother, our earth. Bill McKibben's new book Hope, Human and the Wild "offers a badly needed vision of optimism for the future of our planet." Just what the doctor ordered! I'm going to read this and will report back to the group. Sandy

The Future of Nature

This collection of essays/articles from Orion looks interesting, especially after our discussion at Yankauer. There is a study guide available online!,shop.product_details/flypage,shop.flypage/product_id,843/option,com_phpshop/Itemid,8/

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Letters From Eden

Has anyone read "Letters From Eden: A Year at Home, in the Woods" by Julile Zickefoose? It looks like it might be good. In the past I have enjoyed books that follow the seasons. They are helpful in reminding me what is out and about and I can keep a watchful eye for them.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Beyond Your Doorstep by Hal Borland

I would like to vote for Beyond Your Doorstep by Hal Borland. The like on this web site has some of the pages from the book and I found them interesting. I am interested in learning more about the ordinary things we see about us and how he writes about them.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Marilee Recommends

Take a look at this site and book review. “Life List” might be a good one to read, especially after “Refuge” – they are somewhat related per subject matter. Marilee

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gathering Moss

In addition to REFUGE, I'm reading Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Thanks for the tip, Cheryl! I love the way the author, a botanist specializing in mosses (bryology), also honors her Potawatomi heritage. She says that "In indigenous ways of knowing... a thing cannot be understood unitil it is known by all four aspects of our being: mind, body, emotion, and spirit." As a bonus, sprinkled throughout are delicate botanical drawings by her father.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hollows, Peepers & Highlanders

I am reading "Hollows, Peepers & Highlanders: An Appalachian Mountain Ecology" by George Constantz. I am barely into it and have already learned a ton of things. Thank you Ellen for suggesting it. I'm not sure it a book to generate discussion but it does have some WOW factors about local natural history.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Message from JOY

Have added Winkler's book to and ever- lengthening list which contributes to an on-going dilemma of whether to explore nature via hike/walks , read or dutifully attend ADL's (jargon for 'activities of daily living"). Much prefer one of the first two. Thanks for another good suggestion. j

Monday, April 13, 2009

Future book suggestions

Here are three suggestions from the last meeting that I would like to suggest again. They have the advantage of being available as used books and they are small in size and most importantly look interesting. You will need to copy and paste the links.

Beyond Your Doorstep by Hal Borland

Below is a link to excepts:,M1

Scratching the Woodcock – Nature on an Amish Farm by David Kline

Below is a link to excepts:,M1

Idle Weeds – The life of an Ohio Sandstone Ridge by David Rains Wallace
I could not find excerpts from this one but it is available at