An appreciation of 7 good books
My father Edwin died in June, 2016 at age 96, in Rochester, New York. Four months later, Cathy Pohl and I left her Schenectady family home in Dad’s Ford, stuffed with mementos of my parents’ lives—destination Juneau, Alaska. It snowed the day we left, so we abandoned plans for the direct route through northern states, and swung southward through country we’d mostly never seen. On election night we camped beyond cell range on a mesa in the Ozarks, among the maybe 1% of Americans who wouldn’t learn what happened til next morning.
My 4-part journal for that journey is not really JuneauNature material until the home stretch on Alaska Marine Highway. But as an appendix, back home, I wrote an extended book review, about naturalists in cars (and one boat). Rereading it near the 4th anniversary of Dad’s death, with another election looming, makes me yearn to to reconnect with my fellow and sister America-lovers. I think there’s a lot to be learned from naturalists who travel, and pay attention. Here’s the opening paragraph:
On the road Any American naturalist embarking today on a continental road trip drives in the shadow of 3 great naturalists & one inventive novelist of my parents’ and grandparents’ generation who are no longer with us—who crisscrossed the country and wrote about it: Peattie (1898-1964), Teale (1899-1980), Peterson (1908-1996) and Steinbeck (1902-1968). 1 On our own drive, Cathy and I also replicated 3 replicators: 2 top-tier naturalists and a Brit sailor of our baby-boomer generation who published books partially about retracing those earlier travels: Weidensaul, Kaufman and Raban.
Dad would be 100 now but wisely passed on the last 4 years. The rest of us need to step up. Consider this essay my 8pm howl. I’ll be listening for you.
By the way, if you’re interested in the very unAlaskan story of our transcontinental drive, two thirds of it is streamable from my personal vimeo site: Part 1 is from New York to the Mississippi. And Part 2 continues to Death Valley. I never got around to Part 3, but on Richard Carstensen Vimeo you can find a few un-narrated pieces, such as our drive up Vancouver Island.