Natural Observers: Susan Fenimore Cooper, Mary Hunter Austin, and Nan Shepherd

By Karen Wills

Nature writing reaches my heart. It does that through poetic, detailed description of an outdoor setting. In the last months I’ve read three wonderful books by women nature writers. Let’s consider them from earliest to most recent.

Susan Fenimore Cooper,cooper James Fenimore Cooper’s daughter, founded an orphanage in Cooperstown, New York, a town established by her grandfather. She made a success of the enterprise in every way. In 1887 she also wrote Rural Hours, nature writing that covered a year in Cooperstown season by season. Much of it appeared as journal entries recorded after walks that ranged over the countryside. Both writer and artist, she also made watercolors of birds, coopers birdflowers, animals, and the lake near the town that drew her to its shores over and over. Her writing was accurate and poetic.  “Spring has a delicate pencil; no single tree, shrub, plant, or weed, is left untouched by her, but Autumn delights rather in the breadth and grandeur of her labors, she is careless of details. Spring works lovingly-Autumn, proudly, magnificently.”

Already sorry for the damage caused by the post Civil War increase in America’s population, she also conveyed a warning familiar to modern conservationists. “The rapid consumption of the large pine timber among us should be enough to teach a lesson of prudence and economy on the subject.”

Mary Hunter Austin wrote a collection of nature essays, The Land of Little Rain, in 1903. mary austinShe focused on the Mojave Desert including Death Valley. She considered Nature as an entity with a beneficial connection to Native peoples and recent arrivals alike. She mixed small matters of opinion in with the big themes.  “This is the gilia the children call ‘evening snow’ and it is no use trying to improve on children’s names for wildflowers.” She is poetic. “The origin of mountain streams is like the origin of tears, patent to the understanding but mysterious to the sense.”

Finally, there’s Nan Shepherd who wrote her best-known work, The Living Mountain, with a mountaineer’s authenticity. nan shephardHer setting is the Cairngorm Mountains of Northern Scotland. Writing in 1944, she shared her belief in nature’s grand unity. “The disintegrating rock, the nurturing rain, the quickening sun, the seed, the root, the bird—all are one.”

Each of these writers had a poetic respect and thorough knowledge of her most favored area of the natural world. We are the richer that each shared her love of nature with us.

https://karenwills.com

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October Book News

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2017 the Harvest Moon will occur October 5th.

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Lise McClendon here… from the far southwest tip of Montana. Not the end of the world but you can see it from here! I’m still letting people know about my new women’s fiction/suspense novel set in France, the fifth in the Bennett Sisters Mysteries. It’s called The Frenchman, a title so bland it’s been used a million times. Hence, here is the link: THE FRENCHMAN. If you haven’t had a chance to read any of the novels, start with Blackbird Fly.

October brings an anthology of riffs on conspiracy theories that roiled through the Obama years, edited by the talented Gary Phillips. I have a short story in The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir, set in a fictional Montana town called Forked Tongue. It is, needless to say, about Russian trolls and fake news (maybe not so fictional… 🙄) Walter Mosley is the big name in here but there are lots of fascinating takes on aliens, ninjas, and Michelle. Something for everyone, for sure. And, yes, Obama is blue on the cover!

From the publisher: “In an era where the outlandish and fantastic has permeated our media 24/7, where mind-bending conspiracy theories shape our views, THE OBAMA INHERITANCE writers riff on the numerous fictions spun about the 44th president of the U.S. Although Obama himself does not appear in most of these stories, contributors spin deliberately outlandish and fantastic twists on many of the dozens of screwball, bizarro conspiracy theories floated about the president during his years in office and turn them on their heads.”

It’s available for pre-order now. It goes live in ebook and paperback on October 10, and will be in Montana bookstores (or by special order.) Have a lovely, leafy autumn 🍂🍃🍁

Leslie Budewitz: Congratulations, Lise!

Christine Carbo and I just returned from the Montana Book Festival in Missoula, where we were part of a conversation about the contemporary mystery set in the west. In mid October, we’ll both be attending Bouchercon, the annual world mystery convention, being held this year in Toronto! And I’ll be leaving the board of Sisters in Crime, the international writers’ organization focused on the recognition, advancement, and professional development of women crime writers. It’s been an honor to serve — writing is a solo activity, but every opportunity I’ve had, and many of the joys, have come to me because of a group.

Wishing you the pleasures and joys of this sweet season!

 

November Book News

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What are you thankful for this year?

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This year has had so many blessings it is hard to think of just one. My family is going to grow by two more great grandchildren in the month of November. I still think of myself as a kid, so it is rather amazing I have nine great grand-kids and counting. Another thing is some family has moved back to the valley.  I know whose cooking turkey this year. I love to feed kids. Lastly I have to mention that Don’t Mess With Mrs. Sedgewick is finally released on Amazon and Create-space. It will be on a countdown sale beginning November 6th. Several days at $.99 and then $1.99 for a couple and then back to its usual $2.99. Early reports is that readers are loving it. I can now breathe.

Happy Thanksgiving, Marie F Martin

Lise McClendon:  Whew! What a year 2016 has been — so far! But we are women, we will survive… 🙋🏻  In book news I am happy to announce a giveaway of my very first novel, a mystery set in Missoula and on the Flathead Indian Reservation: The Bluejay Shaman. Yes, completely free! I love to hear from new readers so please share, respond, get social.

bluejay-instafreebieThis novel was inspired by a Salish man I met years ago. He wanted to tell some tales of his experiences with New Age groups — and some UM professors — who came to the Reservation to, well, go native. He conducted sweats for them and had a few opinions as well. I wrote up his stories then, with his permission, used them as a jumping off point for The Bluejay Shaman. The book introduces my first protagonist, Alix Thorssen, a Scandinavian Montanan and Jackson Hole art dealer. I went on to write three more novels about Alix. And lived in Jackson Hole myself later… life does imitate art.

Getting an e-book is easy over at InstaFreebie. Pick your favorite format, sign up, and you’re done. Here’s the link: THE BLUEJAY SHAMAN   •  Enjoy, and happy holidays