Interview with Metro

In the winter issue of Metro’s Our Big Backyard, I was interviewed for an article about nature and health. Check it out! (online article here; the whole issue PDF includes more photos, pp. 3-5)


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BOOK: Nature’s Day: Discover the world of wonder on your doorstep

I’ve had this book for a little while now, and just getting to posting about it. Geared toward early elementary-aged kids, Nature’s Day invites the reader to explore what can be observed in nature during each of the four seasons. This large format book is organized both by the seasons and where the observing will be done. So, one can decide to learn about nature in the backyard during the fall, or at the pond during the spring, or at the farm during the summer, or in the woods during the winter. The mix and match aspect to how the book is set up is great, as are the many soft and whimsical illustrations by Danielle Kroll throughout. I think this is a keeper on our bookshelf.


Kay Maguire, Nature’s Day: Discover the world of wonder on your doorstep (New York: Wide-Eyed Editions/Quarto, 2016), 80 pp. Illustrated by Danielle Kroll. Hardcover, $24.99.

Publisher’s description This first book of nature helps young readers to discover the world of wildlife on their doorstep. Beginning in spring, this book revisits nine different places, including the farm, the back garden and the woods, during each of the four seasons through the year and explores the changing scenery and animal life found there. Informative and fun texts teamed with gorgeous, decorative illustrations make this the perfect book to celebrate each season with. 

The creators of Nature’s Day also published an activity book, Nature’s Day: Out and About, organized the same way by season and location. Representative activities include collecting various nature items, observing and noting specific things in nature, or how to make something.


NOTE: The author is in England, so some of the plants and animals are representative of English environments. But I don’t think that takes away from people elsewhere being able to enjoy the books.

Purchase these books through the independent Powell’s City of Books or Amazon (affiliate links): Nature’s Day (Powell’s/Amazon) and Nature’s Day: Out and About (Powell’s/Amazon).

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Wednesday photo of the week: family time in Utah

For the holidays, my family and I drove to Houston, TX and back. On our way back we stopped at Arches National Park in Utah for a few hours as a necessary road trip put stop. What a beautiful landscape. Here are some family shots:




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Monday thought of the week: something rare and very beautiful

A thought:

It is important to me that my children can distinguish a vulture from a golden eagle by the cant of its wings. It reassures me to know that they can recognize the evening call of robins and the morning call of doves, that they know from its tracks whether a rabbit is coming or going, that they always know which way is west. I want them to go out into a rational world where order gives them pleasure and comfort, but also an improbable world, wild with sound and extravagant with color, where there is always a chance they will find something rare and very beautiful, something that is not in the book.

– Kathleen Dean Moore, “A Field Guide to Western Birds,” in Julie Dunlap and Stephen R. Kellert, eds., Companions in Wonder: Children and Adults Exploring Nature Together (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012), pp. 165-70, on p. 170

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BOOK: Through a Green Lens: Fifty Years of Writing for Nature

One of my favorite nature writers is the naturalist and lepidopterist Robert Michael Pyle, who is often quoted in discussions about children and nature, especially his insightful question, “What is the extinction of a condor to a child who has never seen a wren?” His book The Thunder Tree: Lessons from an Urban Wildland gives thoughts about children needing wild landscapes to be free to explore in. In an essay in Companions in Wonder: Children and Adults Exploring Nature Together, “Parents without Children,” he explores what it is like being an uncle who instills a love of nature in children that are not his own. And in his collection of columns for Orion magazine, The Tangled Bank, offers bit-sized reads about all sorts of natural history topics. A new collection brings together a half-decade’s worth of Pyle’s essays and articles that ponder humanity’s connection to nature.


Robert Michael Pyle, Through a Green Lens: Fifty Years of Writing for Nature (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2016), 304 pp. $22.95, paperback.

Publisher’s description Through a Green Lens presents a sampling of Pyle’s work over fifty years. Culled from notable magazines and contributions to edited collections, these essays range across broad topical, geographic, and textual territory. They grow out of near-lethal English brambles, vacant lots and ditches in suburban Denver, and railroad yards of the industrial Northeast. From commentary to criticism, polemic to profile—from the lyrical to the elegiac—Through a Green Lens demonstrates the qualities for which Pyle’s work is well-known: clarity, readability, sharp wit, undiluted conviction, and good-natured tolerance. Pyle’s half-century-long view, acute and uncommonly attuned to the physical world, gives readers a remarkable window on the natural setting of our life and times.

Included in this new collection are several essays that look specifically at the connection between children and nature. In “The Extinction of Experience” (1978), Pyle argues for the importance of protecting local nature along with more exotic species, which ends with the quote shared at the beginning of this post. In “I Was a Teenage Lepidopterist” (1996), he shares his passion for sharing the wonders of nature with others, children and adults alike. The importance of allowing children to engage physically with nature is discussed in “The Beauty of Butterfly Nets” (2006). In “Always a Naturalist,” Pyle shares his thoughts about one of his own inspirations, Rachel Carson, tying Richard Louv’s just-then published Last Child in the Woods to her posthumously-published The Sense of Wonder. His piece about mentoring other’s children in nature as an uncle that I mentioned above is included here as well. And finally, a more recent article, “Free Range Kids: Why Unfettered Play is Essential to Our Species” (2014), presents more fully-stated Pyle’s thoughts about the need to just allow children the time to explore their own environments. As he says, “Children still long to experience the freedom of the day,” like he was able to when growing up as a child in the 1950s.

While I focused on those pieces in Through a Green Lens that have a focus on children and nature, just like The Tangled Bank, this collection provides readings on a wide variety of natural history topics and what it is like to be a freelance naturalist and writer.

Purchase Through a Green Lens: Fifty Years of Writing for Nature through the independent Powell’s City of Books or Amazon (affiliate links).

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BOOK: Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks

2016 is almost over, and with it the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Columnist Mark Woods intended to write a book simply about visiting a variety of national parks over one year. Yet the book became much more personal than he set out to do, a story of the intertwining of life and land. I’ve enjoyed the first few chapters, and so far would recommend this book for anyone who appreciates connecting to our federal lands.


Mark Woods, Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2016), 320 pp.

Publisher’s description For many childhood summers, Mark Woods piled into a station wagon with his parents and two sisters and headed to America’s national parks. Mark’s most vivid childhood memories are set against a backdrop of mountains, woods, and fireflies in places like Redwood, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon national parks. On the eve of turning fifty and a little burned-out, Mark decided to reconnect with the great outdoors. He’d spend a year visiting the national parks. He planned to take his mother to a park she’d not yet visited and to re-create his childhood trips with his wife and their iPad-generation daughter. But then the unthinkable happened: his mother was diagnosed with cancer and given just months to live. Mark had initially intended to write a book about the future of the national parks, but Lassoing the Sun grew into something more: a book about family, the parks, and the legacies we inherit and the ones we leave behind.

Purchase Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks through the independent Powell’s City of Books or Amazon (affiliate links).

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Errand Time as Nature Time

Just a quick post to share with you that I’ve written a guest blog post for the non-profit Children & Nature Network – check it out:

Finding a Way to Give Your Kids a Daily Dose of Vitamin N


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Wednesday photo of the week: early winter

Winter has come early to Portland, cancelling school on Thursday and Friday last week. It then melted, and snow started again today. Here’s a hot from the first snow fall:


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Monday thought of the week: fabric of connectedness

A thought:

Public lands are part of our fabric of connectedness in this country; through our common ownership and appreciation of them, we are vested in one another, state to state, region to region, hunter to schoolteacher to tattooist to nation. They help unite us.

– nature writer David Quammen, “It’s Our Land. Let’s Keep It That Way.” The New York Times (December 10, 2016)

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Wednesday photo of the week: forest time


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