VIDEO: Columbia Gorge geology

This is a fantastic overview of the geologic history of the Columbia Gorge!

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Wednesday photo of the week: immersed


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Monday thought of the week: all the world

A thought:

Whatever landscape a child is exposed to early on, that will be the sort of gauze through which he or she will see all the world afterward.

– Wallace Stegner

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Nature-based camps for Spring Break 2016

The Portland area has much to offer for kids to learn about many aspects of nature and be active outside. Here’s a list of organizations that offer nature-based camps for Spring Break 2017 (March 27-31). Be sure to contact each place to find out about availability and prices, and please comment below if I have missed any…

Audubon Society of Portland
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (Spring Break at Hancock Field Station, grades 4-8)
Oregon Zoo (no info online yet)
Rewild Portland
Trackers Earth PDX
Tryon Creek State Park
Tualatin Hills Nature Park (Beaverton; p. 166)
Zenger Farm

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Monday thought of the week: attention is the beginning of devotion

A thought:

Teach the children. We don’t matter much. But the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin flowers. And the frisky ones – inkberry, lamb’s-quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones – rosemary, oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms. Attention is the beginning of devotion.

– Mary Oliver, Upstream (New York: Penguin Press, 2016)

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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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