Charkes (Outdoors With Kids—Philadelphia, 2013, etc.) shares a collection of countryside-inspired essays, many previously published.
This compilation opens with a thoughtful examination of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, history as seen through the art of 19th-century folk painter Edward Hicks and the writings of William Penn. In this essay, Charkes suggests an essential human need to connect with nature (“Through wildness comes peace”). Most people, she says, are disconnected: “For many of us, we have to take a car to get to a place that looks anything like…country.” She then suggests a course of action: “To know the wild, look from where you are, listen from where you stand. Here and now.” Each chapter begins with pretty, relevant black-and-white illustrations by artist Priestley, who also provided the color cover art. Each of four chapters is devoted to a particular season, followed by an epilogue featuring the haunting song of the veery, a small bird that the author notes is still audible in the increasingly urban landscape. She pays careful attention to natural elements in a world where small farms “still form part of the fabric of the landscape, but nowadays they are embroidery, no longer the warp and woof of a living rural culture.” The carefully crafted, engaging essays seamlessly interlace Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau quotations with the unforeseen and whimsical. Charkes links the legendary Boston Red Sox player Carl Yastrzemski with the lowly dandelion flower and describes butterflies as doing “the insect equivalent of a pub crawl from one flowerhead to another.” With its minute, local detail, Charkes’ musings and gentle queries will resonate with all readers who wonder about the value of flowers and birdsong in an increasingly urban world.
A charming, thought-provoking walk in the woods.