Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist’s Memoir

Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist’s Memoir

Language: English

Pages: 141

ISBN: 0870207091

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In these times of technological innovation and fast-paced electronic communication, we often take nature for granted—or even consider it a hindrance to our human endeavors. In Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist’s Memoir, Jerry Apps explores such topics as the human need for wilderness, rediscovering a sense of wonder, and his father’s advice to “listen for the whispers” and “look in the shadows” to learn nature’s deepest lessons.
Combining his signature lively storytelling and careful observations of nature, Apps draws on a lifetime of experiences, from his earliest years growing up on a central Wisconsin farm to his current ventures as gardener, tree farmer, and steward of wetlands, prairies, and endangered Karner blue butterflies. He also takes inspiration from the writings of Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard, Henry David Thoreau, Sigurd Olson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir, Barbara Kingsolver, Wendell Berry, Richard Louv, and Rachel Carson. With these eloquent essays, Jerry Apps reminds us to slow down, turn off technology, and allow our senses to reconnect us to the natural world. For it is there, he writes, that “I am able to return to a feeling I had when I was a child, a feeling of having room to stretch my arms without interfering with another person, a feeling of being a small part of something much larger than I was, and I marvel at the idea.”

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“Move the pole around so I can grab the line,” he said. I could tell from the look on his face that he thought Darrel’s pole was about to break, as cane poles are prone to do when too much is asked of them. Now Pa was pulling on the thick green fishing line, hand over hand. The line stayed tight, jerking occasionally. Pa kept pulling. My brothers and I peered into the depths of the lake to see what kind of monster fish was about to surface. After what seemed like a long, long time—but probably

a belowzero afternoon, I smelled wood smoke before I could see our buildings, and I knew I would soon be warm. The first thing I did when I got home on those frigid days was to crowd up to the cookstove, the warmest place in the house. At age four or five, I was old enough to accompany my father ice fishing—an activity Pa dearly loved but one I found mighty uncomfortable on freezing-cold days. Once our tip-ups were in place, Pa and I would hike to the nearby shore. There we would gather twigs,

Lake, a mile and a half from our farm. On shore we’d build a campfire, a warm place to sit and put on our skates and to gather and talk. The smoke would drift across the lake, permeating our skating spot with that wonderful aroma so full of mystery. These days I most enjoy a campfire when Steve and I take our annual canoe-camping trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northern Minnesota. With the canoe pulled up on shore and our modest supper finished, we sit by our fire, listening

light pollution, clear nights in the Boundary Waters provide a sky filled with stars from horizon to horizon—and the opportunity to see satellites streaming across the sky, reminders of how today and yesterday are colliding in the night sky. If we are fortunate enough to be there when a thunderstorm brews in the west, we witness a lightning show that surpasses any Fourth of July fireworks celebration. Jagged flashes of lightning cut across the sky and thunder rolls across the lake where we are

of beliefs and values related to nature. Together they comprise our philosophy of nature. We have held some of these beliefs since we were children, and very often they are buried so deep within us that we are not aware of them. Yet they influence our understanding of nature and our sense of its value in our lives. My father never spoke of values, but I learned about his values every day as I watched him and worked beside him. Many of those values became mine. From my father I learned the

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