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SAVING GRACES by Roger B. Swain

SAVING GRACES

Sojourns of a Backyard Biologist

By Roger B. Swain

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 1991
ISBN: 0-316-82471-2
Publisher: Little, Brown

 More brief encounters in the wild and not-so-wild outdoors by Swain, Horticulture magazine's science editor (Field Days, 1983, etc.). Swain's topics run from childhood reminiscences of horse chestnuts and dime-store turtles to on-the-scene descriptions of leatherback turtles coming to shore in Costa Rica to lay eggs. There, the turtles are observed by the watchful eyes of biologists, but also by local natives eager to snatch the booty for its touted aphrodisiac powers. The author's approach to all this is sort of laid-back gentle. While he is clearly an avowed conservationist who sees the threat of development and exploitation laying the world to waste, he is not about to lecture the natives on their superstitions. He is ecstatic about the birds and the blueberries on the New Hampshire hill that proliferated once the trees were cut down. His admonition is to ``take time out to see what is happening''--``change cannot be halted, but it can be redirected,'' he says in an essay on walking the boundaries of his New England farm. Elsewhere, he glorifies bogs, with their richness of peat to be harnessed; cites the virtues of bats (and why they like attics) and the charms of honeybees as pets; and muses about the comfort of coming back to America and why we like high places and slow boats. Probably one of the oddest pieces is about making a comb; Swain delights in detailing how the process started with the felling of two trees, a black cherry and a red maple. All in all, comforting reading for the hammock or the back porch.