Thursday, September 18, 2008


Mostly nature related, but some just for fun. Some numbers indicate preference ranking, some don't. Some are specific species, some are general genera. With apologies to fellow travelers such as snakes, turtles, mushrooms, spiders, insects, amphibians, and fish, many of whom I'm quite fond but lack enough knowledge and/or experience to make a list of favorites.

10 Favorite Mammals
1) Wolf
2) Humpback Whale
3) Raccoon
4) Cat
5) Squirrel
6) Snow Leopard
7) Red Fox
8) Porcupine
9) Bat
10) Fisher

10 Favorite Birds:
1) Raven
2) Crow
3) Bald Eagle
4) Red-winged Blackbird
5) Pileated Woodpecker
6) Turkey Vulture
7) Barred Owl
8) Blue Jay
9) Peregrine Falcon
10) Catbird

Favorite Nature Book Series:
1) Smithsonian Nature Books--each book covered a species, usually with a good mix of science and natural history anecdotes. Sadly, most of these are unavailable with some used copies listed at a high price at sites such as Amazon. I have about half of them and have read library copies of others. Fine books but very poorly organized publishing from this museum, with multiple series and most titles quickly going out of print.

2) There are two fine 3-book series published by Stackpole Books, written by John Eastman and illustrated by Amelia Hansen which cover birds and plants of Eastern North America. The series titles begin with "Birds of..." or "The Book of..." and remind me somewhat of Donald Culross Peattie's famous A Natural History of Trees. Entries include sections on behavior, ecology, and lore among others.

3) Seven books have a title beginning "Tom Brown's Field Guide to...", but they're not so much field guides as an emotional/spiritual guide to survival and connecting with the natural world. Written by Tom Brown, famous and somewhat controversial tracker and teacher.

4) Stokes Nature Guides--covering topics from bird behavior to observing insects to nature in winter, most of these very readable and enjoyable books are sadly out of print.

5) National Audubon Society Nature Guides--these attractive out of print books were ecosystem field guides. Rather than focusing just on birds or trees, they included a mix of plant and animal life found in a wetland or eastern forest (the two titles I've held onto). For standard field guides, a mix of the Audubon and Peterson series will generally do the job.

6) Sierra Club Naturalist's Guides--my favorite series despite having few photos and drawings. Nine titles covered different regions of North America ranging from coastlines to deserts to forests to mountains and attempted to provide info on everything in those regions--ecosystems, geology, weather, wildlife, plants. Unlike field guides, these are intended to be read as guides to ecology rather than individual species, and luckily I was able to get a full set of these at discount prices as they were going out of print long ago.

10 Favorite Trees:
1) Oak
2) Willow
3) Pine
4) Hemlock
5) Hickory
6) Cottonwood
7) Beech
8) Sycamore
9) Maple
10) Walnut

10 More Favorite Non-animals of Various Forms:
1) Skunk Cabbage
2) Pitcher Plant
3) Indian Pipe
4) Cattail
5) Jewelweed
6) Bluebead Lily
7) Jack-in-the-Pulpit
8) Marsh Marigold
9) Ferns
10) Mushrooms

5 Favorite Bob Dylan Albums:
1) Blood on the Tracks
2) Time Out of Mind
3) Oh Mercy
4) Highway 61 Revisited
5) Freewheelin'

10 Favorite "Nature" Writers:
1) Henry David Thoreau--What do I need to say? You'll find him at the top of my other writers list also. Possibly the most important American author and book.
2) David Quammen--Masterful columnist. His essay collections are as entertaining and educational as any book can be.
3) David M. Carroll--This artist/author/lover of wetlands was kind enough to write and send me a copy when I wrote to ask him about one of his out of print books.
4) Edward Abbey--Somewhat justly hated the "nature writer" label he earned with Desert Solitaire. Always more of a social critic, his Monkey Wrench Gang was an inspiration in the creation of Earth First!. Along with his books of essays, I've enjoyed the letters and journals which have been published since his death.
5) Rick Bass--Author of a wide variety of material, his books on grizzlies, wolves, winter, and his home in the Yaak are the ones I appreciate.
6) John Hay--Cape Cod writer; The Way to the Salt Marsh is a collection of pieces from his many books over a forty year period.
7) Robert Finch--Another Cape Cod author, The Primal Place is his most recent.
8) Paul Gruchow--I've only read one of his books, Boundary Waters, which he discussed with us at a book club meeting by the shore of Lake Superior. It has some wonderful sections such as one on dragonfly metamorphosis. He was painfully honest about the demons he struggled with, and died a year or two later.
9) Joseph Wood Krutch--Honestly, I've only intensely browsed the one collection I have of his writing, all out of print, but it looks wonderful.
10) John Muir--To round out the ten, for his place in history and his euphoria in nature.

10 Favorite Literary Writers:
1) Henry David Thoreau
2) William Shakespeare
3) Fyodor Dostoevsky
4) Mark Twain
5) D.H. Lawrence
6) Charles Dickens
7) Lawrence Durrell
8) John Steinbeck
9) John Dos Passos
10) Thomas Wolfe

5 Classics I Haven't Read:
1) Moby Dick
2) War & Peace
3) Don Quixote
4) Ulysses
5) Divine Comedy

5 Favorite Beatles Albums:
1) Rubber Soul
2) Abbey Road
3) White Album
4) Revolver
5) Let It Be

There Are Places I Remember:
1) The Porcupine Mountains and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as a whole--beautiful natural areas and a small human population: it's not just a coincidence.
2) Walden Pond, nearby Fairyland Pond and surrounding woods and bogs--history, nature, rebellion, friends.
3) French Quarter--twenty years after my only visit, the food, music, bars, and people remain strong in my memory. Hurricane Katrina resonates with a tragic sadness matched for me in my life only by the Challenger explosion and the 1968 assassinations of Kennedy and King.
4) Stellwagen Bank--site of many whale sightings.
5) Purgatory Chasm--It's not very big, but it's a lot of fun. How often do you get to squeeze through a boulder?
6) Green Circle--I almost moved to Stevens Point because of this 30 mile trail. Some of it is on neighborhood sidewalks, but most of it winds along beautiful rivers and wetlands and through forests and fields.
7) Emerald Necklace--I lived near the Arboretum and worked in the Back Bay and would often run between the two with my work clothes in my pack.
8) Northern New England--the Vermont towns of Brattleboro and Burlington, the New Hampshire mountain hikes, the Maine coastline and Portland
9) Moose Hill--My nature date. Over the years, several women joined me on a train from Boston to explore this diverse Mass Audubon sanctuary. I made an annual pilgrimage to see the skunk cabbage bloom, and standing inside a decaying tree took a close-up photo whose colors and textures always reminded me of looking across a canyon at the opposite wall.
10) Jacks Fork--College canoeing in the Ozarks.


Tracy H. said...

You've got a lot of men in those lists. :)

greentangle said...

Well, all the critters and trees could be female. ;-)

Actually, I noticed that and even thought about commenting on it but didn't really have anything I needed to say (but since someone asked, I've now written a lot). Some of it's for historical reasons I suppose.

The only reason it struck me as a little unusual is that I don't particularly identify or connect with men and have always had more women in my life. One of them was a woman who loathed women writers; I just didn't usually feel that interested in the subject matter they chose.

I got rid of almost all my fiction books recently. A few I kept: Ghost Dance by Carole Maso, Into the Forest by Jean Hegland, and Alexandra by Valerie Martin ... though I remember that when I had Martin sign it, I told her that I thought she'd done a very good job of writing from a man's point of view. She gave me the names of a couple male writers she thought did well in reverse but I don't remember who and don't think I was interested when I checked them out at the time.

Lisa Couturier wrote The Hopes of Snakes, a book of nature/animal essays I enjoyed very much. I've also hung onto A Country Year by Sue Hubbell, Living by Water by Brenda Peterson, and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. But--all single works as opposed to a body of work.

Finally in my defense, I loved Whoredom in Kimmage by Rosemary Mahoney and even went to a women's bookstore to see her do a reading and get it signed. :-)

Sonya said...

I grew up about 25 miles south of Stevens Point, in a tiny little town called Almond (which, despite the name that everyone thinks is charming, is actually a gross and inhospitable place to live). They were working on the Green Circle Trail when I was getting ready to move away, and I never got a chance to see any of it, but for some reason I was under the assumption that it was nothing too impressive, that is just went through a bunch of manicured city parks and the like. Glad to hear that's not the case. :)

greentangle said...

I on the other hand grew up in a town with no illusions--Plainville, which at the time was actually still a fairly nice place for a kid to get outside.

Living carfree affects my opinion of natural areas. The best thing about the Green Circle for me was that I could get to it by foot and bus. It's certainly no wilderness experience, or even as wild a setting as many of Duluth's trails, but I did think the sections by water in particular were really beautiful.