“We live with a myth about New England,” write naturalists Nona Bell Estrin and Charles W. Johnson: “that we have four distinct seasons here.” As careful and experienced observers of the natural world, Estrin and Johnson know that nature’s progressions are gradual, continuous, and interconnected. And as they demonstrate in their remarkable book, the close examination of nature—even unassuming landscapes close at hand—yields rich rewards on a daily basis. In Season combines the immediacy of direct field observations with broader perspectives on natural cycles. An accomplished field artist as well as a naturalist, Nona Estrin selects extracts from her rich journals to trace the sequences of natural events over the course of a year. From Toothaker Island, Maine to Kettle Pond, Vermont to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, her precise, lively observations, along with her lovely drawings and watercolors, reveal the lives of warblers and butterflies, deer and grouse, frogs and fiddlehead ferns. Occasionally, her records of the natural world are punctuated by charming asides about the difficulty of drawing bees or the rescue of a fledgling kingbird caught in a fishing line. In alternating chapters, Charles Johnson’s essays tell the “stories behind her scenes,” exploring such seasonal cycles as mating, migration, and winter survival. His wide-ranging knowledge of the natural world clarifies the continuity of life and the interconnections among species. Rather than focus on categorization and identification, Johnson explores the dynamics which shape the natural world in New England, not only for plants and wildlife, but for people as well. With its mix of detailed observation and overarching explanation, as well as the stunning color reproductions of Estrin’s on-the-spot watercolors, In Season offers an appreciation of the natural world in New England that is rooted in the specific experience of its ceaseless alternations.
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