Monday, February 15, 2010

Following the Water

Often on impulse, I walk out by myself:
Magnificent scenes, I alone know;
Walk to the source of the stream
And sit down to watch the clouds rise.

Wang Wei

Somehow, I missed the fact that David Carroll, author of one of my very favorite books, A Swampwalker's Journal, published a new compendium of essays in 2009, Following the Water: A Hydromancer's Notebook.

Carroll, who won a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award in 2006 for his work as a writer, artist, and naturalist has assembled a series of reflections on the watery natural world near his home in New Hampshire. The essays document Carroll's expeditions into a complex wetland ecosystem, and are arranged to coincide with the seasons. The book's namesake essay is the longest and occupies nearly a quarter of the book; most of the rest are far shorter--sometimes only one or two pages.

The book is intensely personal and introspective, perhaps even more so than Carroll's earlier works. I also found it to be touched by more sadness. His laments about the diminution of the natural world by human activity and population growth are more explicit and disheartening than the asides that he included in previous books. Nevertheless, Carroll writes elegantly and lyrically, and he transported me into the heart of the alder carrs and vernal pools he knows so well. No fan of Carroll's--or any Northeast naturalist--should miss this book.

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