This nature journal/inspirational memoir follows the seasons on a Midwestern homestead.
In her first book, Countryman explores the natural rhythms of her land outside a small town in Ohio through a decidedly Christian perspective. Beginning in spring, Countryman observes animals from her porch or along her drive home, focusing her attention on the interactions among smaller woodland creatures, such as chipmunks and blue jays, as well as observing seemingly menacing animals, such as raccoons and vultures. In these small moments, she distills a parallel experience for Christians, anthropomorphizing the robins chattering in a forsythia bush as husband and wife, struggling to love their neighbors. Her musings on the first flight of a nest of baby crows under the watchful eye of a larger crow segues into a comparison with our struggles as witnessed by a vigilant God, who seems vindictive but in fact “waits upon our failings in the same way as the mother crow” does, ready to encourage his followers when they falter. In another incident, Countryman finds empathy for snakes, despite her initial dislike for them; she uses this instance as a metaphor for prejudice, when people label others without seeking to understand. As the narrative stretches into winter, Countryman equates the magic of the season’s first snowfall to the divine gift celebrated each winter on Christmas. Though each anecdote could stand alone, this contemplative digest has a seasonal progression that unfolds into a larger conversation about how nature can reflect tenets of religion. Countryman draws clear allegories that present recognizable situations on universal themes such as perseverance, generosity, and love. Each episode ends (and is usually dotted) with Scripture, often encapsulating a moral that relates to common struggles of religious believers. Though cutesy at times, Countryman’s impulse to see her relationships and spiritual path in the environment around her falls into the tradition of transcendentalists who dovetailed the study of nature with philosophy and spirituality. Believers, at least, will appreciate her ideas about the nature of human beings and the world at large.
Appealing religious affirmation born from a naturalist’s search for meaning.