Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book review: Closer to the Ground

I am, by choice, a city girl.  I don't particularly like nature, other than the odd pretty patch of flowers. I dislike dirt to the point of being phobic.  Being around too many trees at once makes me nervous.  So I'm not sure what possessed me to say yes when offered the chance to review a new book called Closer to the Ground. Perhaps it was because the author and his family live in my region. Or perhaps it was just the idea of getting a glimpse into a life so different from my own.  Regardless of the reason, I am SO glad I accepted the chance. Closer to the Ground is not only the best non-fiction book I've read all year, it rivals most fiction books as well. This is a gorgeous, amazing book. Here's a bit about it, from the Patagonia website:

A newly published book from Patagonia Books™, Closer to the Ground is the deeply personal story of a father learning to share his love of nature with his children, not through the indoor lens of words or pictures, but directly, palpably, by exploring the natural world as they forage, cook and eat from the woods and sea. Closer to the Ground captures the beauty and surprise of the world – and the ways it teaches us how to live – with humor, gratitude and a nose for adventure as keen as a child’s. It is a book filled with weather, natural history, and many delicious meals. Dylan Tomine, formerly a fly-fishing guide, is now a writer, conservation advocate, blueberry farmer and father, not necessarily in that order. His work has appeared in The Flyfish Journal, the Drake, Golfweek, the New York Times and numerous other publications. He lives with his family on an island in Puget Sound.
Where to begin on listing the reasons why I love this book. Hard to know. But here goes.  First of all, this isn't some diatribe about why we should all live a life that's close to nature. The author, Dylan Tomine, doesn't judge people like me who prefer to live surrounded by concrete.  He even talks about the challenges of living "green" and making it work financially (spoiler alert- even his family doesn't manage to be totally eco-friendly on a remodeling project).  Instead, this book is a exploration of the joys that the author finds in his daily life out in nature- whether it's crab fishing or hunting for mushrooms with his son.  It's a book about learning from the simple pleasures that his daughter takes from fishing.

Woven in with the stories of clamming and fishing and mushroom hunting is a funny storyline about the battle to have enough firewood for the winter.  We're moving in a few weeks from a condo to a townhouse with a woodstove, so I took notes regarding the "how to take care of your firewood" sections.  There is also an ongoing story of the importance and symbolism of birds. And there are a few surprising tales about his family members and the fact that they were in internment camps during WW2.

Mr. Tomine is a very, very talented writer who uses his words in a way that's more art than authorship.  I felt like I was experiencing the seasons on his island right along side him (without all the nasty exposure to dirt that I generally avoid). This book made me think and it made me smile and it made me happy. I was surprised by how sad I felt when I finished the last chapter. That doesn't happen often to me when I'm reviewing books, as I'm generally just glad to have one more thing checked off my to-do list.

Just buy this book. It's great. Trust me.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review, but was under no obligation to post a review, and especially not a positive one. Every word of opinion expressed in this review is mine and mine alone. 

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