Something adorable for you.

Hello all!

First off, I’d like to thank you all for the wonderful comments left on my last post. It’s  fantastic to get such hearty support from so many different corners. I’m also grateful to have a few new followers. Hello and welcome, new folk! Please sit down and make yourself comfortable.

As promised, Erin will be posting about her new book soon. She’s a bit busy with some other projects at present, so while we wait I offer you these baby coyotes to keep you happy. Thanks to Peggy Moon Collins for the ridiculously awesome photo.
Baby Coyotes!

You may also want to entertain yourself with this curious article on the ecology of stinging nettles, one of my favorite urban plants.

Some real small talk: Boston’s weather is continuing to be very strange, oscillating freely between mornings of frostbite advisories and afternoons that are foggy and 65 degrees. This doesn’t happen in the span of one day – that would be far too weird – but there are only a few dozen hours separating the two extremes. Hello, climate change. Can you please keep this place nice and cold so that I can go ice skating in somebody’s backyard?

Some bits and pieces about my book-in-progress

Cows and elm

I have a confession to make: I’m writing a book.

I have been reluctant to write about it here, due to equal parts shyness and a desire to commit myself to blogging rather than advertising. However, my friend Lisa Taylor, a poet and the mother of naturalist Kira Taylor, asked if I would participate in a Q & A for authors who have either just published a book or on the cusp of doing so. I don’t want to disappoint an old friend, and I would like to start sharing this project with those outside of my family and Facebook feed. So, here we go! Lisa, by the way, also wrote of her up-and-coming collection of poetry, Necessary Silence, as well as a novel that’s in the works. You can read her words here.

* * *

What is the working title of your book?
My current working title is “Streets of Wilderness: A Song of the Urban Wild in Twelve Parts.” A bit redundant; I’m working on it.

Where did the idea come from?
Before I started living in Boston full-time I spent a growing season in rural Maine. It was difficult to make the transition from a wooded homestead to a residential neighborhood wrought with houses, asphalt, and the incessant ebb and flow of traffic. I quickly began to feel suffocated, but found hope in the plants and animals that I saw thriving in the city, domesticated and wild alike. I began writing little things about them in this blog, mentioned to a friend that it would be interesting to turn my observations into a book, and things bloomed from there.

What genre does your book fall under?
Nature writing.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
In my dream world Jacob Feiring directs the documentary and David Attenborough narrates it. I suppose that there would also be random glamor shots of, say, Scarlet Johansson walking seductively down a street while a raccoon scurries behind her, going after a bit of pizza crust.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A poetic exploration of a year in the urban wild.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About twelve months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
In writing of various wild species, landscapes, and situations one month at a time, I have adopted the format used by Aldo Leopold in his Sand County Almanac. My book is also akin to Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek for its examinations of place, natural phenomenon, and the blissful, life-quenched realities of day-to-day life. (That’s what I’d like to think, anyway!)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Though I’ve spent significant time in rural areas, the majority of my life has been spent in the post-industrial landscapes of Milwaukee and the brick and glass neighborhoods of Boston. After years of uneasy ennui in these cities, I finally had the realization that, in order to thrive, I had to seek out the organic among the man-made, the places in the cracks where cells were photosynthesizing, dividing, and driving new life. I found, by mindfully observing these pieces of urban life, from trees breaking concrete to coyotes moving silently through cemeteries, I became more resilient, more fascinated, more able to accept what the city brings. This book is both an ode of thanks to the tenacious things that have helped me to survive, and is also a way to keep me awake and alive with curiosity.

What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest?
People are drawn to the untamed, and because the majority of us live in cities, it is becoming increasingly common that we only experience the undomesticated through an urban lens. Humans are naturally intrigued by our surroundings and anxious to understand them. However, it can be challenging to see what is around us, either because we don’t know where to look or because what we seek is so ubiquitous that it slips by. Hopefully those interested in finding and appreciating the nature around them will enjoy this book.

When and how will it be published?

My book will be published as an e-book by an imprint of Village Earth Press, and should be out sometime this year. I will post updates as I complete it and continue to traverse the mysterious landscapes of the publishing world!

Please come again next Tuesday as Erin Therrien will be a guest blogger here, doing her own Q&A on the recently published Wild Dyes: Natural Dyeing in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest. She writes of many dye plants that just so happen to be found in lots of North American cities.

dandelions

The drawings in this post and at the site’s header are the work of Laura Grover, a prolific artist currently based just north of Portland, Maine. These illustrations are all works that Laura has done for my book. Laura is also currently working on a graphic novel about the history of her family.

Two words for snow: Swan Song

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From jacket-free overexposure on Tuesday…

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to thick wet rabbit tracking on Wednesday.

Two mornings ago I trudged through the front door, worn out and dripping. My hair, uncombed and restless from sleep, was tangled with snow, and the tips of my long underwear were damp from shaking the shrubs out back and standing too close. I beat away the cakey wet that had compressed itself against my plaid and polyester, sank into a chair, and stretched my calves along the footrest.

Continue reading

Coyote: the lithe, silent, and long-nosed huter

Here’s a wonderful little post from Coyote Yipps on the hunting habits of the coyote. It illustrates nicely the manner in which they jam their snouts into the earth (at, for example, 2:21) whilst attempting to root out rodents. (I never cease to be impressed by the strong schnozes of canines. I once met a dog, a wonderful border collie named Syd, who played basketball voraciously, using her nose to steal the ball from any human antagonist. I was always worried, but after seeing film of foxes, wolves, and now coyotes thrusting their faces into the earth, I can see that Syd knew that her lovely face was in no danger.)

Coyote Yipps

Note how gingerly this coyote initially pursues his prey in this video. He begins by listening for little scurrying sounds of voles in their vast tunnel network underground — he does not want to alert them to his presence. So he tiptoes around the spot, carefully positions himself and waits — all the while listening intently. He’s very smart about what he is doing: clever and shrewd.

The hunt then shifts from a mental strategizing to a more physical one — there is a pounce/punch with nose and forepaws, followed by digging, and then another punch of the forepaws, followed by more digging. Punching serves to force some activity below the surface — if the coyote is able to collapse a tunnel or scare the vole, the vole might move so that the coyote will either see or hear it. His last recourse is to stick his nose in a…

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January: Foxes, Open Windows, and Rain

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Well, it’s been awhile. As per usual I make lots of big promises to myself to blog as often as possible and then find myself, for example, swooning over netflix reruns of Downton Abbey and procrastinating on knitting projects.

Cynically, I decided to spurn all new year’s resolutions this year, thinking that if I didn’t make the promises to myself they couldn’t be broken. However, in spite of far too many hours spent playing video games in 2013, I’ve also realized that I am capable of cleaning the apartment, maintaining something that can be truly labeled organization and not merely a semblance of, and playing things besides video games (such as AGRICOLA, the best boardgame and Christmas present a person could ask for). I am unemployed. I have plenty of time. I can keep one promise.

So, dear readers, please help me maintain this one little resolution: a heart-crossed pledge to write. A motion to write in many many motions, from the relatively flat typing that turns my hands to leaping spiders, to the mad scribbles in the moleskine, to the soon-to-come pattering of a typewriter (currently being resurrected in a wonderful Cambridge shop).

I am encouraged to write by many things, but especially by some friends of mine who have recently published books – Carrot Quinn’s Ten Thousand Miles by Freight Train, Erin Therrien’s Wild Dyes:Natural Dyeing in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest, and Lisa Taylor’s upcoming collection of poems, Necessary Silence. It is good to have the work of these people reminding me that it is good to do something whilst sitting besides wasting time.

I am also inspired by the upsurge of ecological scenes unfolding before me both here and in my native Milwaukee, where I stayed for ten days during the turn of the year.

Some of these scenes yanking at my writerly desire are charming, like the fox that I saw running through the night beside the kite shop at Bradford Beach. Others are bizarre, such as reports of turkeys chasing down the residents of Brookline (a suburb sidled up beside Boston), and still more are blissfully unsettling, like the Reggaeton and air, 60 degrees at least, that is sighing through my open windows in this, the middle of January.

But, reader. A list is only a list. I am staring at myself and demanding more. If I seem to need nagging you may nag at me, and I ask you do so. In return you get to ask me for things. Tell me what you’d like to read about, what you’d like me to learn and investigate. If you are bored or brightened by this blog tell me, and I’ll do what I can to make it better. I’ll write, anyway, at least once every two weeks. I think that I made this promise in October but now I’m in the universe of the unemployed, leaving me hours and days and weeks to devote to sentences here and in my much greater work that I’m hoping to publish sooner than later. There will be bits of pieces of it here as time goes by, and any feedback about it will always be welcome.

Anyway, here’s a belated mason jar of champagne raised to a new year. I’ll keep my promises and hope you’ll keep coming back for more.

wild turkey!

Image credits: nj.com and wildwonders.com

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