Just off Main Street: A Naturalist's Almanac,
by Steven Mulak
The Rural Life,
by Verlyn Klinkenborg
Cabin fevered, I've been relaxing with two recent nature books. Just off Main Street: A Naturalist's Almanac is Steven Mulak's year-long observations out his own backdoor. His new year dawns with the vernal equinox as he starts in spring and tracks the seasonal lives of animals, plants, farmers, the skies; all promise rebirth. His thoughts turn to fixing an old shovel with a branch of well chosen ash. He notes there was a time when homemade was the best way, and not only because it was the only way. Usually, he says, the maker carved his name and often the date is his work of craftsmanship. He spends a good deal of time studying the sky and its seasonal changes, noting that once everyone knew what the Milky Way was. It hung above Main Street as clearly as it does over Moosehead Lake where he camps each year. Verlyn Klinkenborg celebrates the rigors and wonders of nature in The Rural Life. The farm of his Iowa childhood, excursions out west, and the gratification he derives working his upstate New York farm fill his pages. His writing is poetic and almost magical. And you believe him when he says "it's tempting to think of winter as the negation of life, but life has too many sequences, too many rhythms, to be altogether quieted by snow and cold."