|Once you are comfortable, begin reading. (photo by Shane V.)|
I started with Richard Horan's Seeds (Harper Perennial). Horan is a lover of American lit, which he also teaches. Bewitched by a vagabond's life of bumming around the U.S. and visiting the homes and birthplaces of famous authors--Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller to name a few, a cotyledon sprouts in his brain. Wouldn't it be cool, man, to collect trees from the estates of great writers?
So far, I am a hundred pages into Seeds and enjoying it immensely. In the prologue, Horan indirectly admits he knows little about how to properly cultivate woody plants, which has me wondering what will happen to all that contraband DNA once he gets home and tries to make them sprout. My ex-coworker Mary Frein gave me this book as a going-away gift. I was deeply touched by her thoughtfulness, plus it helped us avoid a teary scene on my last day at the office.
The Book of Leaves is a new reference from The University of Chicago Press, authored by Allen J. Coombes. I drooled over it at Borders when I was there with my friend Kevin Schalkofski and guess what Santa brought me? The Book of Leaves is a treasure. Simple, elegant, exceptionally well-designed. I've already spent some quality time with this one and am thrilled to have it in my collection for future enjoyment.
My sister Stacie gave me the following two books from my Amazon list. Weeds--In Defense of Nature's Most Unloved Plants by Richard Mabey (Harper Collins). How can I not look forward to reading a book with a title like this? Paradoxes are a blast.
Fifty Plant that Changed the Course of History by Bill Laws (Firefly Books). Since so many history books are about war, politics, or the economy, it's thrilling for me to access the past through subjects that fascinate me. This is an A-Z list. The plants chosen are mostly medicinal or edible, but of course the ornamental (tulip), the industrial (rubber) are included. Each selection is given two pages of text, inset with illustrations and interesting facts.
Seeing Trees by Nancy Ross Hugo; Photography by Robert Llewellyn (Timber Press). I found out about this book at least six months ago and it's been on my wish list ever since. Thanks, mom. Seeing Trees covers ten trees in detail, and provides additional information on tree traits. I haven't yet read the copy, but the photographs are mind-blowing. Llewellyn devised a special approach to capturing the images by taking multiple shots of the buds, leaves, flowers and shoots and combining them digitally into a single image. The result is deep focus, with crazy wow detail. Now, if only Lasik could do that for my eyeballs.
Finally, my friend Sue Stauffacher gave me the book Using Native Plants to Restore Community by Nancy Cutbirth and Tom Small. Sue and I are both idealists who fancy that the world can be saved with plants, so naturally we enjoy reading books by like-minded utopians. The authors, married, also teachers of English lit, began an important journey in 1995 to restore the native plant colonies of southwest Michigan. Using Native Plants to Restore Community combines personal observations of nature with advice on what to plant, and inspires the reader to engage in better stewardship of our precious land. Book sales go to the Kalamazoo, Michigan chapter of Wild Ones, a non-profit native plant group.
Next month I will talk a bit about foot candles, little nubbins of wicked wax applied to the toes in the 1800's to keep the feet warm on a cold winter's night.
(I will share with you some of the secrets of successful indoor northern hemisphere gardening).