Monday, April 7, 2008

May Theilgaard Watts, and the thread that runs through it

It has long been a comfort to me that things easily relate to other things in ways we would not immediately expect. But then it happens, and the light goes off in the head. I want to develope this idea within the context of three books, and through the fullness of time. It would be great if readers of this blog would contribute their reactions and ideas to not only these specific books and authors, but share similar reading experiences. Seth's offering of Godfrey's "Field Guide to the Piedmont" was on the mark.
My story starts with the term 'Wolf Trees', which are trees formerly allowed to grow in pastures for various reasons, and then rediscovered within a wooded area, in full spreading of branches among the neighboring straight trunked. Though I had always noticed this and wondered, I did not grasp the reason until I lucked upon the book "Reading the Forested Landscape" by Tom Wessels. I recommend this book.
Then, as I was preparing to share a walk in the woods with some kids, I decided to Google 'wolf tree', and came upon Anne Whiston Spirn's book, "The Language of Landscape", which is one of the most amazing books I have ever held in my trembling hands. She is a landscape architect with a keen interest in deep history.
As it turns out, an early and abiding inspiration for her is an earlier writer, May Watts, who also is mentioned in Wessels book.
I have only begun to look into Watts' classic "Reading the Landscape", but have already fallen in love. Allow me digress a moment. Last week, while delivering some books to a WONDERFUL used book store, "Books 'N Friends", in Sparta, N.C., I took a glance at their nature section, and found Watts' book, for 50 cents, signed by the author no less.

What we have here is not simply a coincidence. It is about paying attention, becoming involved with the thread of learning. For any naturalist, I can whole heartedly endorse all three of these books. When I finish Watts' book, and go back over Spirn's, I intend to offer a more in depth comparison of these three books. Meanwhile, my hope is that some of the rest of us can compare our notes after looking at one or more of my suggestions.

Yes, winter is over, and it is time to be outside, learning from our own observations, and books can wait. And that is what I will be doing for the near future.

Scott Jackson-Ricketts
Grayson County, Va.

1 comment:

douglas said...

Hi there

Over here in south central British Columbia wolf trees are usually Douglas Fir. This fire tolerant species often persists as a solitary remnant of an ancient forest centuries after all or most of its confreres have returned to the soil. Bluebunch wheatgrass is sometimes called wolfgrass for a similar reason though the time scale is lesser.