Closer to the Ground
by Martha F. Barkley
Dylan Tomine's Closer to the Ground, a 2012 family story of outdoor living by the water and in the woods, keeps returning vividly in my life years later. Have you ever read a book like that? Maybe a walk in the woods or a conversation with a friend reminds you of something in "that book."
Yvon Chouinard who founded Patagonia clothing and outdoor gear comments, "*Closer* is a good-humored guide to teaching our kids how to learn from nature as teacher and mentor…You can see in Dylan's kids, the more time they spend foraging and fishing with their dad, just how different their relation is to the food they eat, and how they develop a confidence anyone of any age could envy."
All four seasons are covered in well organized chapters to dip in and out of. Summer recipes included are strawberry ice cream, Stacy's crab cakes, cucumber salad, etc. The book tastes good already, especially since Stacy and her brother and sister are active cooks with ingredients fresh from outdoors. Every member of the family is shared up close and personal with something interesting happening. After all, they are outside enjoying nature closer to the ground everyday together.
"Dad…they're really biting now. Can't we please stay longer? I just want to catch one more…(trying to look stern) Well…okay. But just one more". Aren't six-year-olds wise?
I just love the flash of pink petals on p. 152: Light in the Forest for the autumn section. My flash of pink appears by Great Pond in the spring when lady slippers curl out of the brown leaves and sometimes even fragile white slippers sneak through the winter dark leaf ground cover.
One glorious May day neighbor Sandy Cobb and I counted hundreds in special spots that she has watched far longer than I have by Camp Runoia along the dirt road and down the hill towards the lake. Sandy knew where to look for the delicate lady slipper blooms and we found them together. Such a spring surprise!
There are four chapters on the "Significance of Birds," one for each season. I certainly agree. Birds awake me in South Carolina with their early calls, even when windows and doors are shut for Winter. Owls hoot at night by our cypress garden swamp backyard. Maine camp is open and bird calls are more easily noted if motorboats do not dominate close to shore.
Just look at p. 172 and wonder at the motionless tall fisher that "slowly lifts a foot and takes a cautious, halting step, illuminated by warm light". "My grandfather was an artist, a forager of spring fiddleheads and forest mushrooms…" I love watching fiddleheads unfurl by the lake in May. If you sit quietly, you can almost hear them grow and uncurl. The mushrooms appear on our hillside later on in July. Belgrader Pal Tripp told me which ones were good to eat. Be careful.
Ragweed waves its yellow flowers about a month before the first frost. Oh no, is winter coming so soon? Every August/September brings this closer to the ground experience around the Belgrades.
Even though Maine is three thousand miles from the Pacific tales told in this precious outdoor book, I find common ground sitings and feel ever so close to their family life of sharing this good earth. Even at the dinner table with kids cooking yummy dishes. Are you hungry? Go find this book and recipes for every season of the year, easy enough for kids to cook.
"Owl calls boom back and forth through the velvety night air. Achoir of frogs and crickets swells, suddenly falls silent, and swells again on some mysterious cue. To the east, the starry black sky fades to deep blue; it's going to be light soon. Summer is here." SUMMER, welcome!
For more information, visit Dylan Tomine's website.
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