An entertaining account of a three-month road trip across the American landscape by the former editor-in-chief of Natural History magazine.
Stutz (Natural Lives, Modern Times, 1992) opens this homage to spring on a gray November morning, as he lies in a hospital bed awaiting heart surgery. While recuperating that winter, he ponders the rites and rituals of spring and begins to plan his pursuit of the season of renewal, a venture aided by a large network of friends and acquaintances in the scientific and academic world, including a Heidegger scholar who provides the great white 1984 Chevy Impala, dubbed “Moby Dick,” that Stutz will drive for most of his journey around the United States from April to June in 2004. In New York, he meets with a scientist studying the physics and chemistry of photosynthesis and a herpetologist surveying forest frogs and salamanders; in North Carolina, an ecologist studying the effects of carbon dioxide on forest growth; in Arizona, a botanist mapping desert vegetation and an ornithologist on a spring bird trip; and in Colorado, researchers who take depth measurements of Rocky Mountain snow. All share their expertise and take him along as they do their work, with the result that this is much more than a travelogue; it’s a gentle yet persuasive lesson in how spring happens and how climate change—i.e., global warming—is affecting that process. His account of migratory wild-mushroom pickers in the Pacific Northwest, mostly Southeast Asian immigrants and their children, is a gem of reporting, filled with history, sociology, economics, botany and the smell of drying forest morels. By June, the intrepid traveler has reached Glacier National Park in Montana, and by the middle of the month has left Moby Dick behind in Seattle and flown to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska, where, in hours of endless sunshine, he witnesses the last day of spring.
A captivating portrait of a beautiful, fragile and endangered world.