Book review: Revealing nature closer to home

“Still Speaking of Nature” by Bill Danielson is an agreeable, insightful and well-written collection

“Still Speaking of Nature” by Bill Danielson is an agreeable, insightful and well-written collection of essays about nearby nature.

This is the second book by Danielson, a resident of rural Albany County. He is a high-school science teacher, has a nature website and is a former park ranger and wildlife biologist.

Writing about nature and the environment is a challenge. In a thousand words or less, a writer must clearly explain complex details or unfamiliar concepts from the natural world. If the subject is familiar, the writer must find something new to draw in the reader.

Danielson treads this challenging literary ground with wit, insight and aplomb.

His love of nature came from being immersed in it as a child and young adult, growing up in Amherst, Mass., and having the chance to roam in open space near his home.

Childhood experience

From these childhood experiences and his work since then, he concludes, “You cannot care for something that you don’t know about.” He offers “stories of events occurring right outside their windows, and I always encourage people to get out see things for themselves.”

‘Still Speaking of Nature: Further Explorations in the Natural World’

Author: Bill Danielson

Published by: State University of New York Press, 164 pages

How much: $19.95

More info: Danielson will appear the Open Door Bookstore, on Jay Street in Schenectady, for a signing from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The book has a seasonal format, starting with spring rains and ending at Christmas. The 28 essays offer a nice balance of flora and fauna. With reasonable effort, a reader could find practically every experience described in the book somewhere nearby.

From an appealing description of how spring arrives on its own schedule (“Spring is a diva and will not be rushed”) to a closing essay with white-tail deer and reindeer at the holidays, Danielson generally keeps the writing and insights strong and consistent.

At the end of an essay on trillium wildflowers, he offers the following tonic: “Just remember that there is no better medicine for a gloomy day than spending time with a friend and looking for wildflowers.”

He ends his discussion of bullfrogs by saying, “I encourage everyone to turn off the TV, step out into the moonlight and enjoy the quiet this summer.

“Shut off the air conditioner, open up the windows,” he continues, “and let the bullfrog songs that float in the nighttime air be your summertime lullaby.” This passage inspired me to go out more at night and will help me hold on to summer as winter approaches.

Because of slow reflexes with binoculars, I do not know as much as I would like to know about birds. After reading these essays about the bobolink, bluebird, common redpoll and juncos, I am curious enough to want to improve my birding skills.

Photos sharp

The black-and-white photographs are sharp and generally support the text. The picture of fallen leaves at the beginning of the fall essays is noteworthy.

By going with black-and-white, some of the pictures are not as helpful as they could be for identifying the birds. But some capture their spirit and attitude, and Danielson is one of the only photographers I know who can make a snake look cute.

His advice about looking out the window will pay off for his readers. As I was finishing this review, I looked up and saw an immature hawk flash by my back window.

Categories: Life and Arts

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