Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dot's Summer Reading List

About Bottled Water
A number of us have been muttering that we Sustainability folks have been shooting ourselves in the collective foot with our penchant for getting serious and preachy, for our love affair with soapboxes.
This heavy-handed solemnity is NOT helping the causes we ardently love. And I would add, is not, in itself, a sustainable practice. If it isn't fun or fattening, humans eventually get bored or burned out and stop doing whatever it is. To wit: Katya sent around a link for this clever animated bit about bottled water--

Arsenic move over?
Gloria ran across this yesterday. Forwarding it to me, she said, "Beans, Oh My!"

One of my recent heroes, Amy Stewart [ ], just won an award from the American Horticultural Society for her book Wicked Plants. Did you know she paints, in addition to being a gardening maven and smart, prolific, successful writer?! I'm so jealous I could just spit! Where do I sign up to be her understudy?

Looking at this year's winners, I went ahead and ordered hers, then falling off the wagon--added The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf. While I was at it, I prowled through the listings for Richard Conniff. Bingo! Swimming with Piranhas has just been released in trade paperback (hah--into the cart). The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth is the one he is just finishing up--due out in November. >That explains the teaser article in Smithsonian magazine this past April, Mammoths and Mastadons: All American Monsters. Oh--Stewart finally gave a hint about her current work. The next book is about Wicked Insects!

Already coming in the mail: the $64 Dollar Tomato, A Country Year, and Garden Insects of North America (which I spied on the science library shelves... Gorgeous--should be fun.)

Sue Hubbell
This past week I grudgingly trekked to the basement of the Science and Engineering library, having resolved to pull A Country Year by Sue Hubbell off the shelf. Having been to a local bee-keeping workshop the previous week, her name kept popping up in my desultory searches for "bees." I didn't expect to like it: with a title like that it was probably too Hallmark for my taste. But since it was free, I judged it worth a lunch hour, if only to cross it off my reading list and dismiss her as insipid.

She had me with the cover leaf, which said simply, "The Wild Things helped." The preface was a lovely, wise, aching snip of Rilke:

...Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves... Do not... seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will...gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
-Letters to a Young Poet, Letter No 4.
Trans M.D. Herter.
Norton 1934, 35.

Needless to say I was late coming back from lunch, and delighted to have a library card that allowed me to leave clutching the book. Over dinner I read bits to Gloria. A week later, her photo is up on my bulletin board of writerly heroes. Her spring chapter on frogs is one of the most delightful things I've ever read. (It's very funny... they flump into bed with her one evening as she is reading. And she adopts a lame fellow of a different species as a pet/ mascot. Then talks about a near-miss with the very BUSY, somewhat officious health inspector. With a couple of Biblical references to plagues & brown frogs having camouflage problems on white bee boxes thrown in.) It closes with:

Today my life has frogs aplenty and this delights me, but I am not so pleased with myself. My life hasn't turned out as I expected it would, for one thing. For another, I no longer know all about anything. I don't even know the first thing about frogs, for instance. There's nothing like having frogs fill up my windows or share my bed or require my protection to convince me of that.
I don't cut up frogs anymore [college biology class], and I read more poetry than I did when I was twenty. I just read a couplet about the natural world by an anonymous Japanese poet. I copied it out and put it up on the wall above my desk today:

Unknown to me what resideth here
Tears flow from a sense of unworthiness and gratitude.

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