In rustic cabins far away from here there live some happy people of the woods. With ruddy cheeks, they're exemplars of cheer. They never visit cities selling goods. They live on what the forest can render, and that's not so much, but it is enough. They tune themselves to nature's vast splendor. In cold, they don skins, but when hot, go buff. Or, perhaps, I lie, and no such people exist in this world or any other. And woods people fuss on matters, fecal -- just like you, I, and all our grandmothers. These cheery, simple woods folk must exist, if only in the mind of this fantasist.
Tag Archives: wilderness
BOOK REVIEW: How to Read the Wilderness by the Nature Study Guild
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Release Date: November 22, 2022
This illustrated guide is designed to help readers learn some of the most prolific trees, plants, animals, birds, coastal life forms, and night sky constellations of North America. For plant [and in some cases animal] identification, the book uses a handy flowchart method that asks questions, sending the reader to an appropriate marker depending upon the answer. For wildlife identification, it uses descriptions of not only the animal, but skeletal remains, scat, and tracks. It also gives alternate names and asterisms for constellations.
The pros of this book include: 1.) it focuses on the most common elements and doesn’t get bogged down trying to be all-inclusive; 2.) it uses a flow charts, diagrams, and drawings successfully to do much of the heavy lifting.
The downsides of the book are: 1.) it seems be much more Western US-centric, and often treats everything East of the Rockies as a single zone (not to mention minimal discussion of Canada or Mexico – so maybe it should be thought of more as a US guide;) 2.) in trying to be text-minimal, it occasionally states things in a way that lacks clarity.
If you want to get a basic understanding of the elements of nature for the United States, this book is worth investigating. It’s young reader friendly, but not exclusively so.
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BOOK REVIEW: Forest Walking by Peter Wohlleben & Jane Billinghurst
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Out: April 26, 2022
Wohlleben’s “The Hidden Life of Trees” was one of those rare books that profoundly changed the way I looked at the world, and so I was eager to read his forthcoming work. This book is at once narrower in focus (i.e. intended to appeal to the North American market, specifically,) but also much much broader (i.e. reflecting upon not just the trees but the other species that reside among them as well as how humans can best get around within the forest.) It might seem strange for Wohlleben (a German forester) to do a book on the North American forests, and I suspect that’s one reason that his one-time translator / editor (Jane Billinghurst) became his co-author. [I don’t know where Billinghurst is from, but she does add many North America-specific vignettes to the book.]
Like “The Hidden Life of Trees” this book is packed with intriguing insights into woodland environments. The twenty-one chapters aren’t explicitly divvied up, but there’s a clear logic to the grouping of chapters. An opening chapter focuses on the importance of having a multi-sensory experience in the woods, and then chapters two through five are concentrated on trees and their various parts.
Chapters six through eight explore species that work on, with, and against trees, with particular focus on fungi and other species that break down and recycle forest material. Chapters nine and ten turn the attention to how to help kids get the most out of their forest experience. The next couple chapters consider how to get the most of seeing the forest at unconventional times, i.e. night and during varied seasons. Then there are a few chapters investigating how to observe other lifeforms of the forest, particularly animals and insects.
Several chapters follow that explore how humans can survive and thrive in wooded ecosystems, including everything from wilderness survival / primitive living skills to dressing to save oneself from ticks and chiggers.
I learned a lot from this book. As I mentioned, it’s full of intriguing little tidbits about the forest.
The opening sentence of the book’s Introduction did mention it being intended as a book one would take into the forest with one, and I would say it’s not that book at all. It’s the kind of book one reads before going out (and probably returns to after coming back) but it’s just not organized in such away to make it worth lugging around (i.e. it’s not like a field guide – set up to allow one to rapidly find what one is interested in on the fly.)
That said, you’ll learn a lot from reading it, and I’d highly recommend it.
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cabin in the woods is grown over and into -- forest digested
Digesting Civilization [Haiku]
swallows, and digests
once proud buildings
DAILY PHOTO: Mountain Lakes
DAILY PHOTO: Baobab
10 Tips for Averting Tiger Attacks
I was working on a short story that involved a tiger attack, and–knowing almost nothing about the subject–I did a little research. I found some fascinating factoids. Here are some important tips to keep in mind in tiger country:
1.) Avoid squatting postures as it’s thought that many tiger attack victims are cases of mistaken identity. That is, sometimes an individual crouching to do his business or whatnot is mistaken for a tastier species. Apparently, tigers don’t realize that humans are the only creatures that wear clothing. Despite attempts by missionaries to educate tigers on biblical stories such as that of Adam and Eve, tigers continue to see themselves as god’s favorites.
2.) Avoid wearing leather, it makes you smell and taste like cow. While cows are sacred in India, tigers have denied receiving that memo. Or perhaps tigers are like members of PETA and are attacking those wearing animal hides to make a bold statement… but I doubt it.
3.) Avoid carrying meat in your pockets. Enough said.
4.) If one is attacked, don’t immediately counter-attack. Some tigers are just trying to express their passionate feelings on the subject of breakfast cereal, and one would not like a needless fight to ensue. One should only partake in needless fights when one has a good shot at winning– no offense to any one who has ever fought Manny Pacquiao.
5.) Don’t leave your dead out and about. Apparently, human is an acquired taste that tigers will find a fun exotic treat once they get used to it. We are the Rocky Mountain Oysters of the tiger world.
6.) Be aware of your surroundings, and–as with Zombies–CARDIO-CARDIO-CARDIO. Tigers can run at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour (56km/hr.) for short bursts, but have the stamina of a pack-a-day smoker. If you can keep them from getting close to you, they’ll lose interest.
7.) Stay in the city. Tigers almost never go into the city because they tend to attract unwanted attention. The average tiger weighs about 400 pounds (180 kg.) and the orange and black stripe pattern that camouflages surprisingly well in wild sticks out everywhere except Paul Brown Stadium or the lingerie section of an inner-city K-Mart.
8.) If you are attacked, the tiger will leap up and put its fore paws on one’s shoulders to push one over onto one’s back so that the cat can leisurely crush one’s neck in his or her mouth. When the tiger rears up on its hind-legs you may either try a kick to the crotch or to engage the predator in a foxtrot. The former offers a 1 in 10,000,000 chance of success. The latter has never been tried before, and so no one can rightly speak to its likelihood of success, though it’s suggested that one not try to lead (You must recognize that–at that point– you are the tiger’s bitch.)
9.) Because humans aren’t ideal tiger food but we are slow, weak, and are skilled in disciplines like “managerial analysis” rather than hunting or survival in the wild, man-eating tigers tend to be the old and infirm cats that find gazelle and antelope both too fast and jungle savvy. Because only the oldest of cats tend to attack, a sure strategy is to get your attacker talking about how things were back in his day and how the current generation of tigers are all misfits and hooligans.
10.) If you’re attacked, make loud noises and violent “shooing” gestures with your arms. You’ll still be eaten, but you will appear quite brave on the video in comparison to those who go fetal and poo themselves.
Best wishes and be safe out there.
DAILY PHOTO: Chanterelle
BOOK REVIEW: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Nature is a harsh teacher. That was the last lesson Chris McCandless ever learned. A recent college graduate, McCandless struck out for the Alaskan wilderness with minimal resources, his body was found by a party of moose-hunters several months after he’d begun his Alaskan adventure.
Into the Wild gives us a well-researched explanation for how McCandless died, but it also tells us a great deal about how he lived– and that story is fascinating in its own right. Many thought McCandless must have been crazy, but refusing to acquiesce to the work-a-day world is often incorrectly diagnosed as insanity.
McCandless had an obsessive desire to find out whether he could make it on his own, not just separate from his parent’s wealth but from all the trappings of modern society. McCandless’s most iconic indicator of insanity-by-way-of-thwarting-convention was when he gave away the entirety of his $25,000 savings account and burnt all the money in his wallet. He wanted to know whether he could survive if he was returned to the state of nature from whence mankind came. Sadly, the answer was no.
It would be easy to dismiss McCandless as a dumb kid who got in over his head. Though he certainly was that. On his deathbed, in a bus carcass in the remote Alaskan wilderness, McCandless likely had a revelation that most teenagers pass into adulthood without ever realizing, that he was mortal.
However, McCandless was more than a kid with an underdeveloped sense of his own mortality. He was a kid with the courage to confront a question that most of us just let nag in the back of our minds. That question being,do we have what it takes to live not as a cog in a machine but as a human in the natural world.
I know many are intrigued by this question in part because there are entire TV channels that are practically devoted to survival shows. Yet most people don’t take it beyond sitting on a couch contemplating whether they could survive. Will thinking man (Homo sapiens) be replaced by doing man (Homo effectus)?
There was a movie based on this book. I didn’t see it, but here is its trailer.