Closer to the Ground: An outdoor family’s year on the water, in the woods and at the table, by Dylan Tomine (Ventura, CA: Patagonia Books, 2012), 230 pp.
Outdoor writer Dylan Tomine recounts his family’s experiences being connected to the land through the seasons at their home on an island in Puget Sound, Washington. The book is organized by season, beginning appropriately with new beginnings in the Spring. Dylan, his wife Stacy, and two children Skyla and Weston, though not “off the grid,” make an effort to glean what they can from their natural surroundings. They garden, chop wood, forage for mushrooms, fish, crab, and sweat through the hard work to include oysters and clams on their dinner table. As a father, Dylan stresses to his children the importance of knowing where they live and the nature that abounds in their neighborhood, be it the types of trees or species of birds. Beautifully enhanced by minimalist papercut art from Nikki McClure, Closer to the Ground is about being warm and being cold, getting dirty and getting cleaned up, and most important, being rewarded with the fruits of their labor. Feeling the warmth of fire only possible because of dad’s back-breaking work of splitting and hauling wood. Enjoying a plentiful and varied dinner only because mom tends her garden and the kids help their dad forage, fish, clam, and crab. In the end, however, it does not matter if they caught any fish, or found any mushrooms. What matters is that they tried together.
This is a wonderful book. As a parent who loves being outside with my kids, I found much to enjoy in Tomine’s words, although I don’t think I could find the time to do all he does with his kids. Tomine was in Portland recently to read from his book at Powell’s in Beaverton, and I was sad to have missed it.
To enter for a chance to win a copy of Closer to the Ground, please comment on this post telling me what your favorite activity to do outside with your kids is/was or what you remember doing outside with your parents or grandparents. From the entries I will randomly pick a winner. The contest will be open until Sunday, December 23rd, midnight PST. If you would like to enter without commenting, you can send me an email at darwinsbulldog AT gmail DOT com. Good luck!