Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Prairie Spring

Second only to birding, reading is my passion. I got my first pair of prescription eyeglasses just three months ago and never realized that for the last two years, my waning interest in reading was only due to eyestrain. Once I got the glasses I could again read for hours (I can sit in one spot reading until the sun goes down and it is too dark to see).

Getting books in the mail from my book club or Amazon.com or eBay is like Christmas morning. Just before vacation, a package arrived at work with three long-awaited books to take with me to Las Vegas.

Prairie Spring, by Pete Dunne (my birding hero -- right up there with Julie Zickefoose), is an amazing journey into the midwest grasslands of North America during the season of rebirth (excitingly for all fans of his, Dunne is writing books about each season - can't wait until the next one). Not just about birds (although there is a passage about sandhill cranes that moved me to tears, pages 46 to 52), Dunne takes the reader on a learning journey, painting pictures with words, but gently teaching when you aren't even looking. The power of the prairies, their fragility and their place in the cycle of nature is all laid before us for our wonder and our education.

For longtime fans of his work (that's me, Pete!), there is no dearth of his wonderful sense of humor. But pathos, drama and all other elements of a season are also present. Dunne writes just like he talks - full of wonder, passion and energy.

An excerpt: "...I couldn't help but think how much a person's life is like a shadow. When we are young, standing tall as we can in the morning light, it stretches out in front of us, pointing the way toward possibilities that seem beyond reach. At noon, with the sun high above and life at its pinnacle, our shadow disappears, we think. Or maybe we're just too busy to notice it. Later, as evening gathers and we have time to reflect and more to reflect upon, we look back over our shoulder, and there it is again! Falling along the path we've taken and, if we are lucky, upong many wonderful experiences extending all the way back to.... Well, I think I'll leave it to you to fill in the blank. You have your shadow. I have mine."

I finished the book on the plane and now want to make plans to visit the vast prairies of the United States - for the bison, the cranes, the sparrows and the pronghorn, the wildflowers, the Native American stone paintings, the prairie chickens and the canyons, the prairie dogs, the vastness....Pete Dunne has put the prairie bug in me. Thanks, Pete.


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...


You want to see the prairies???

Prairies and Potholes festival in Jamestown North Dakota (2nd weekend in June I think).

I'm going. Tim Ryan is going. Julie and Bill and Birdchick are trip leaders there.


Think about it.

Now I have to buy that book. :)

How was Vegas?

Bird Girl said...

Hi Beth - Pete Dunne was one of the keynote speakers and workshop leaders at the Roger Tory Peterson festival I attended in June. Yes, he is a prolific writer and speaker!I really liked the excerpt you chose to post - food for thought for sure!

Beth said...

Hi Lynnie: Next June might be tough for me. Vegas in June and then a cruise to Canada in July for my mom's 70th birthday. But I would love to go to that festival. I will see what I can work out.

Vegas was awesome as usual. And you should definitely buy that book.

Hi Barb, thanks for the comment. Did you like hearing Pete Dunne speak?