Category Archives: Non-fiction

Rivers of Oregon

On my trip to the library last week I picked up a beautiful new book called Rivers of Oregon, by photographer/conservationist Tim Palmer, and published by Oregon State University Press.  “Rivers are the essence of Oregon,” stated the author, and this book is full of beautiful photographs and interesting essays about these hundreds of waterways.

“Healthy rivers are not only essential to the abundance of life and a historically robust economy in both sport and commercial fishing, but to all we do. The livability of whole towns and regions would wither if i weren’t for rivers and the water they deliver.

Oregon’s rivers are likewise embedded in our history and culture, from the route of Lewis and Clark across the Northwest to urban greenways that brighten Portland, Pendleton, Eugene, Corvallis, Salem, Grants Pass, Bend, and other towns large and small. Whether in our backyards or in our most cherished wilderness, the rivers give us a refuge from the stress and clutter of our busy lives. At the stream’s edge, we can adjust our expectations in synchrony with the natural world.”

This book is filled with absolutely gorgeous photographs of an amazing number of rivers in Oregon with information about each one. Besides being a talented photographer, Tim Palmer is an excellent writer so this is a very readable book as well as a lovely photography book.

I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Oregon, the natural world, and in conserving the beauty of nature and our rivers in this challenging time in our nation when decisions are being made that put many rivers in peril.

 

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Currently Reading: March

 

img_2512On a trip to the library today I picked up two books that I think are very important right now. The one I started first is March, by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.  It is the first volume of a three part autobiography in graphic novel form. I’m already caught in the first volume and look forward to reading all three.

The second book I checked out and will read next is 1984, by George Orwell. When I first read it in high school it seemed so impossible (thank goodness!) and the year so far away. Not in today’s America, though. How sad to say that it seems chillingly timely right now!

Click here to read a NY Times article about 1984.

1984

 

In the Great Green Room

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In the Great Green Room, by Amy Gary, is the life story of beloved author Margaret Wise Brown. Her children’s book, Goodnight Moon, is a classic and lives forever in the hearts of my family. The book is dearly loved by both our children and our grandson. But as much as we love this little book, I really didn’t know anything about the woman who wrote it.

So when this book was released last week, I was very interested in reading it. I bought it immediately and read it in two days. I wish I could say that I loved it, but I didn’t. The book gave me an interesting look into the publishing world of the time and into the creation of her very special books, but I found Brown’s life to be sad and tragically short, and I’ve been haunted by it in the last few days.

Her childhood was difficult with the constant dissonance between her parents and her struggle to find her own identity and worth in a world that seemed to undervalue her. She acted out as a teenager and young woman, and was considered rather “wild.” But she had a tremendous talent for writing, and especially writing for children, and that gave her a little more stability and her livelihood.

She had a strength that I admired — she survived life with very difficult parents and without much guidance overall. And she found her voice as an artist in her writing, although because her books were all for children, she was not esteemed as highly at that time as she should have been. She was instrumental in the building up of the children’s book publishing world. She was in many ways a strong woman.

But she made very poor choices for herself, especially in relationships, and I found myself feeling very sad about her life. She died young, and that, too, was a sad loss for all of us.

It was an interesting read. I do recommend it, especially if you love her work. But…I found it sad and haunting, and I’m afraid I’ll look at Goodnight Moon now with a tinge of sadness that was not there before.

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Summer Heat and Reading

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We are in the middle of a rather miserable heat wave here in Oregon. Yesterday, the temperature rose to 104 degrees Fahrenheit in our town. Today will be “cooler”, perhaps only getting up to 102 degrees. That’s much too hot for outdoor activity, so I intend to stay indoors this afternoon, in a much cooler spot: my new reading/knitting corner.

Knitting project: taking out about six more rows of the project I’m working on after discovering that the second skein of yarn is actually NOT the same weight as the first!

Reading: Listening to the audiobook version of Jimmy Carter’s new book, A Full Life, Reflections at Ninety.

A Full Life

 

Mutiny on the Bounty

Mutiny on the Bounty was a book I first read as a young teenager and loved! The series was quite a story, quite an amazing true-life adventure! I remember being completely lost in the three books one summer long ago.  Mutiny on the Bounty was followed by Men Against the Sea, and then by Pitcairn’s Island, all written by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. Great summer reads! (There is also a children’s version of this story, called The Mutiny on the Bounty, by Patrick O’Brien. Click here to read my review.)

Mutiny on the Bounty

A Parliament of Owls

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My family and I have become fascinated by Barn Owls. We are enjoying watching a Barn Owl family on a nature cam located somewhere in Northern California. We found a YouTube channel called SVNature, with its ‘owl cam live,’ and we’ve been watching since the first owlet hatched. What an amazing way to learn about owls!  By checking in on them numerous times a day, we have become very attached to these fluffy little dinosaur-like owlets and their patient and attentive parents.

the_owl_papersWe also discovered an interesting program about Barn Owls on Nature – PBS, called “Owl Power,” and learned a lot more about these amazing birds. And then, because as you all know when you get interested in something you find all kinds of connections and information around you that you hadn’t noticed before, I remembered that I actually have a book sitting on my shelf with two beautiful Barn Owls on the cover. It’s called The Owl Papers, by Jonathan Evan Maslow, and it looks fascinating! I don’t know why it sat there unread for so many years, but it is definitely time to read it.

“With a naturalist’s eye and a poet’s soul, Mr. Maslow pursues owls through history, literature and myth. A superb and utterly fascinating book.”

~ The New York Times

It’s pretty obvious that the reason I became a teacher 30 years ago is because I love to learn. I do love finding new interests and then experiencing the web of connections to that new interest that surround us all. Who knows where this little parliament of owls will lead me?

owlet

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World

Endurance

Photo by Frank Hurley

January 1915. One hundred years ago, Ernest Shackleton‘s beautiful ship, Endurance, became completely locked in the ice of Antarctica. The story of this extraordinary expedition and the survival of the entire crew, despite being stranded for two years in one of the harshest environments in the world, is a fascinating story. All the men survived that experience because of the phenomenal leadership skills of Ernest Shackleton.

When I taught 6th grade many years ago, my teammates and I put together a January unit of study on the Shackleton story. We used Jennifer Armstrong’s book, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, as the basis of the unit, and the 6th graders became as fascinated by the story as we (the teachers) were!, It was a unit in which we focused on some very important life lessons–lessons and discussions about leadership, compassion, hope, and endurance.

So in the middle of January, I stopped everything I was doing and revisited that story in honor of my hero. I loved sharing that book and story with my students, and, if you haven’t read anything about Sir Ernest Shackleton and his ill-fated ship, Endurance, I urge you to pick up one of the many books about this expedition and discover why this man is one of my heroes. There are quite a few books to choose from, but I’m very fond of the little, nicely written book I used to introduce him to young people. It is also available as an audio download through Audible.

Shackleton