Welcome to Rayz Reviewz. Past editions are archived on my web page. This week’s photo is a Fence Lizard photographed at Cloudland Canyon State Park on the last Sunday of July, 2020. That story will appear in next week’s newsletter.
Swallow-tailed Kite viewing in Sequatchie Valley and online.
Thursday of last week, I crossed Signal Mountain from Chattanooga to the Sequatchie Valley in search of Swallow-tailed Kites. Finding the viewing spot on Stone Cave Road proved easy, with four vehicles pulled off and multiple people with binoculars close by. Nine birds circled over the fields and swooped for insects, which they are known to pick from vegetation while on the wing.
Although the Swallow-tailed Kite was once common in the southeast, they are now found primarily in coastal areas. The range map posted on the National Audubon Society web site shows these birds present in South Carolina, down the coast, and around to Louisiana and Texas. Though they may visit other inland locations after completing the nesting season, I have only heard of them in the Sequatchie Valley.
As part of the National Audubon Society’s bird mural project, the artist known as Lunar New Year painted a Swallow-tailed Kite mural on a building just off 155th street, New York, New York. The mural overlooks the grave of John James Audubon in Trinity Church Cemetery. Although the Kite is most prominently depicted, the artist included several species of birds.
Additional information about Swallow-tailed Kites is available on the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology web page “All About Birds.” This page includes an extensive collection of audio and video recordings as well a photos, maps, and descriptions.
The Missouri Review offers an editor’s prize for fiction, poetry and nonfiction. I have never published anything in this fine journal, nor can I name any acquaintance who has, but it is excellent reading. October 1 is the deadline for the Missouri Review’s annual contest. According to their web site, the 2020 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize awards $5000 and publication in the spring issue to winners in each category.
Opportunities abound for poets who wish to create poems inspired by works of art. The Chattanooga Writer’s Guild offers a weekly ekphrastic challenge. Look for information on their Facebook page. The online publication Quill and Parchment offers a monthly Ekphrastic challenge as does Rattle Poetry, a print publication with a strong online presence.
This review appeared in my column, “Nature’s Bookshelf” which was a regular feature in The Hellbender Press of Knoxville, Tennessee several years ago. I have gathered the columns into a booklet, also titled Nature’s Bookshelf. Hellbender Press is a publication of The Foundation for Global Sustainability.
Billy Watson’s Croker Sack, ISBN 0-8203-1999-6, University of Georgia Press
Reviewed by Ray Zimmerman in The Hellbender Press, Volume 7, Issue 7
“It is always dangerous to question a college professor. They are paid to talk by the hour.” So begins the explanation that Franklin Burroughs gives of the term “croaker sack.” The explanation is really a postscript originally written for an editor unfamiliar with the term. As used in Burroughs’ writing, the croaker sack is a large cloth bag containing the results of a day's foraging the bounty of low country wetlands.
Despite this warning of long windedness, Franklin Burroughs is an accomplished essayist. His writing is equally eloquent whether he is describing his homeland in coastal South Carolina or his adopted home in Maine. The two disparate lands are not so much contrasted as joined by the striking narratives contained in this book.
The contents of a croaker sack are surprising and unpredictable, but the contents of this book are surprisingly delightful. In his work, Burroughs includes descriptions of fishermen, duck hunters, one moose hunter, and an aging bird dog to which he pays his final respects. These stories are an engaging tapestry woven together on a loom, which is the landscape itself.
When Mr. Burroughs spoke at the Conference on Southern Literature in Chattanooga earlier this year (2005), he delighted the audience with his humor and his love of the subject matter which shines through his writing. This love of the land is clearly illustrated by a short piece about his recuperation from a childhood illness. Unable to accompany his father on a duck hunting trip, he looks forward to his daddy’s return when he will see the results of the days hunt, and he reads voraciously. Among his books is Audubon’s Birds of America.
About the picture of a wood duck in this book, Burroughs says, “Once in Sunday school we were asked what we would have presented to the infant Jesus in the stable if we had gone there. The right answer turned out to be a pure heart or something along those lines, but I knew in my heart that it would be a pair of wood ducks, bright and friendly as the ones Audubon had painted.”
Franklin Burroughs is a recipient of the John Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing and a regular contributor to Down East magazine, a publication devoted to his adopted home of Maine.
A brief biography and a critical description of his work appears on the web page Southern Nature.
You probably don’t have a croaker sack filled with oysters, eels and other low country bounty, but you may own a cloth bag (or several) filled with shopping day bounty. Look at the objects included and see if there is a story behind one of them. If you have herbs or spices, what memories do the aromas bring to mind. Tell us about them.
Shameless Self Promotion
Now that I am finalizing my booklet, Nature’s Bookshelf I am pleased to offer free copies in PDF format. This is a collection of articles I wrote for the Hellbender Press of Knoxville, Tennessee several years ago. You can request a copy by email from email@example.com .
This edition marks a transition for my newsletter. I have renamed the announcements section “Opportunities,” and will feature links to workshops and other opportunities for nature enthusiasts and writers. A writing prompt will follow the review. Opportunities for other art forms such as visual arts and music may be included as they come to my attention, but the primary focus is on writing and nature. Past editions will continue to be archived on my web page. Thanks, Ray Zimmerman
I continue to see Great Egrets, Green Herons, and Great Blue Herons along the Curtain Pole Road section of the Tennessee Riverpark. Ospreys continue to be active at Chickamauga Dam, fishing early in the day. Some lovely flowers are blooming at Renaissance Park. Observation is mor comfortable early in the day before the heat moves in (7 to 9 AM).
The Porch Writer’s Collective of Nashville continues to offer a weekly writer’s prompt. The Porch will release their list of online fall classes for writers next week. For sign up information, look at their web page: https://the-porch-writers-collective.square.site/
The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology offers an online Bird Photography class with Melissa Groo. They also have a Nature Journaling and Field Sketching class.
Rattle Poetry gives poets an opportunity to address current events with “Poets Respond.” Poets may submit poems written during the current week and the poems will be reviewed within the week. The winning poets will present their poems online during the Sunday YouTube program “Poets Respond.” Following these presentations, others who submitted work can participate in an online open mic. Rattle Poetry also offers a weekly Ekphrastic Challenge. Submission guidelines for Rattle are available through Submittable.com
The Chattanooga Writers’ Guild continues to offer a program on the second Tuesday of each month online. The August program is an open mic via zoom. The Guild offers additional programs, including a weekly Ekphrastic poetry challenge. Any member of the Chattanooga Writers Guild Facebook Group can participate.
The following is from the submissions page of The Sun
The next time you have work that’s ready to submit, why not send it to us?
The Sun is a reader-supported ad-free magazine. We’ve been described in many ways: celebratory, fierce, unflinching, thoughtful, truthful, dark, darkly funny, tender. Contributors tell us that after their work reaches more than 70,000 engaged Sun readers, they often hear from old friends and new admirers. To save your time and ours, we suggest you take a look at The Sun before submitting. We’ve provided some samples below. Several years ago, they published an interview on the Nature of Writing with National Book Award winner, Barry Lopez.
The following is from the submissions guidelines page of Orion magazine.
The editorial impulse of Orion lies at the nexus of ecology and the human experience. The magazine distinguishes itself from the din of common culture through its depth of inquiry, commitment to interdisciplinary thought, and an emphasis on insight and imagination alongside a big-picture approach to problem-solving
This review appeared in my column, “Nature’s Bookshelf” which was a regular feature in The Hellbender Press of Knoxville, Tennessee several years ago. I have gathered the columns into a booklet, also titled Nature’s Bookshelf. Hellbender Press is a publication of the Foundation for Global Sustainability.
Saints at the River ISBN 0-8050-7487-2
Reviewed by Ray Zimmerman in The Hellbender Press
Volume 7, Issue 7
“He was dying, and the farm was dying with him.” Maggie, the protagonist in Ron Rash’s novel, observes her father and his farm while visiting her home in South Carolina. Maggie is a newspaper photographer, sent to her hometown to report on the attempt to recover the body of a girl drowned in a wild and scenic river. The body is trapped in a hydraulic, a powerful eddy under a rock. The river is unwilling to give up its dead.
The focus of Maggie’s visit home is a hearing in which various parties debate the best course of action for recovery of the body. Many local people believe that a dynamite stick, tossed into the eddy, will free the body. Luke, a kayak enthusiast, is so in love with the river that he envies the dead girl, cradled in its arms.
Mr. Kowalski, a captain of industry from another state, is the dead girls’ father. He favors construction of a temporary dam to divert the water while his daughter’s body is recovered for proper burial. Meanwhile, a real estate developer is closely watching the proceedings to see if any precedent setting violation of the river’s wild and scenic status takes place.
Like the wild river and the surrounding mountains, the characters are rugged and unyielding. The dynamic conflict between varying interest groups, and between Maggie and her father, builds until much of the tension in this dynamic book is released by a surprise ending.
In a way that would only be possible for a person who calls such country home, Mr. Rash reveals these personalities in a tapestry of narrative and conflict perhaps best illustrated by his comments on Billy, a minor character introduced early in the book. This small portion of the book was well received when Mr. Rash read at the Conference on Southern Literature in Chattanooga, earlier this year. (2005)
“Billy had a degree in agriculture from Clemson University and his family owned the biggest apple orchard in the valley, but he’d decided after college that his true calling was playing Snuffy Smith to fleece the tourists. He swore if could find a cross-eyed boy who could play banjo, he’d stick that kid on the porch and increase his business 25 percent.”
Saints at the River is Ron Rash’s second novel. It joins his volumes of poetry and short stories as he rises to the top of Southern Literature.
Ron Rash continues to write and publish prolifically. He has an author page on the Harper Collins website https://www.harpercollins.com/author/cr-103756/ron-rash/ He also has a Goodreads author page which lists major works. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/24820.Ron_Rash
Billy is but one of the colorful characters Ron Rash depicted in Saints at the River. Others are briefly mentioned in my review. Pick a person you know who is similarly colorful and create a fictional character that could appear in one of your books.
Shameless Self Promotion
Now that I am finalizing my booklet, Nature’s Bookshelf I am pleased to offer free copies in PDF format. This is a collection of articles I wrote for the Hellbender Press of Knoxville, Tennessee several years ago. You can request a copy by email from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rayz Reviewz Volume 1, Number 14
This issue includes links to resources for nature and arts enthusiasts. The review focuses on The Lost Woods: The Discovered Writings of Rachael Carson. Previous editions of Rayz Reviewz are archived on Ray’s web page at https://www.rayzimmermanauthor.com/the-rains-come Please send your events and announcements to email@example.com
Barking Legs Theater has shown true innovation during trying times. Current offerings include a backyard concert by Ben van Winkle on July 23 https://barkinglegs.org/events/ On August 7, Barking Legs will offer a live stream with guitarist and composer Peppino D’Augustino. Drive in Dances are postponed for now.
Earth and Sky offers many features, including one on the Summer Triangle, not a constellation in its own right, but a pattern formed by the bright stars, Vega, Deneb, and Altair, each a star in Lyra, Cygnus, and Aquila respectively. Follow the link for a star map and look up (after dark, of course). Find full information at https://earthsky.org/ the Earth and Sky web page.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution continues plans for a virtual book festival this year. Their festival has been called the nation's largest independent book festival, with attendance as high as 80 thousand and taking place traditionally on Labor Day weekend. They are sponsoring several online author conversations https://decaturbookfestival.com/ this summer.
Bird Note https://www.birdnote.org/ offers a daily two-minute podcast with a brief story about birds. If you’re a real birdbrain, the web page has more in-depth information.
Poet Laureate Tracy Smith hosts a daily podcast on all things poetic. Visit “The Slowdown” https://www.slowdownshow.org/ for full information.
Star Date offers an informational web page https://stardate.org/ and a daily podcast for those who want to know more about astronomy.
Humanities Tennessee sponsors the Southern Festival of Books each year. The 2020 festival will be online, October 1-11. Expect a big reveal of the participating authors at their July 16 online event. .
Congratulations to The Chattanooga Writers Guild on receipt of a Cares grant via Humanities Tennessee. They have moved their meetings online for the present. See their web page for full information. They will announce winners of their recent writing contest on July15, Al winners will be included in this year’s edition of their anthology.
Shameless Self Promotion
I will present Nature’s Writing Workshop at Lula Lake on the morning of July 18. Attendance is limited to 10 participants with social distancing and masks required.
Not a Review
I am rereading portions of The Lost Woods: The Discovered Writings of Rachael Carson. Most of these works precede her publication of Silent Spring, and the book includes many lyric passages about oceans and shorelines.
Carson had studied at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and received a master's degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins before joining the U.S Fish and Wildlife Services and rising to be the person in charge of all publications. Her book, The Sea around us was the basis for a documentary film and launched her literary career, reviving interest in her earlier work Under the Sea Wind.
The Lost Woods includes the text of her remarks on receipt of the National Book Award and her speech on receiving the John Burroughs medal, the most prestigious award for a nature author. Carson later alerted the public to the dangers of the indiscriminate use of pesticides and was promptly attacked by representatives of the pesticide industry and their political allies. Those attacks continue today.
A few years ago, I wrote an article about Rachael Carson for the Hellbender Press of Knoxville, Tennessee. Following is a copy of the sidebar published with that article. It lists works by and about Rachael Carson.
Sidebar - Works by and About Rachel Carson
Under the Sea Wind
Simon and Schuster, 1941
Oxford University Press, 1952
This book was initially well received. Shortly after its issue, the United States entered World War II, and promotion of the book was cut short. It was reissued after publication of the Sea Around Us.
The Sea Around Us
Oxford University Press, 1951
This book established Rachael Carson’s literary career. Income from the book allowed her to resign her position at the US Fish and Wildlife Service and become a full-time writer. Some of her most stunning prose appears in this book.
The Edge of the Sea
Houghton – Mifflin, 1955
This book is a tour of the Atlantic coast. A chapter is devoted to each of three types of shorelines, specifically “The Rocky Shore,” “The Rim of Sand,” and “The Coral Coast. “
Houghton – Mifflin, 1962
This book alerted the nation to the dangers of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Business interests immediately attacked it, and an unrelenting smear campaign has continued into the present day. The book continues to sell approximately 25,000 copies per year.
The Sense of Wonder
Harper and Row, 1965 (posthumous)
This book began as a magazine article; “Help your Child to Wonder,” published in The Women’s Home Companion. Miss Carson’s death cut short her plan to expand the article into a book length text. The published book contains the text from the article and photographs by Charles Pratt.
Lost Woods: The Discovered Writings of Rachel Carson
Edited by Linda Lear
Beacon Press, Boston, 1998
This book contains speeches, articles, and letters, many of which are otherwise not currently available elsewhere.
Always, Rachel: The letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952 - 1964
Edited by Martha Freeman
Beacon Press, Boston, 1995
Turning the Tide, How Rachel Carson Became a Woman of Letters
William Louis Howarth
American Scholar, Volume 74, Issue 3
Not So Fast With the DDT: Rachel Carson’s Warnings still Apply
American Scholar, Volume 74, Issue 3
The House of Life: Rachel Carson at Work
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1972
Mr. Brooks was Miss Carson’s Editor, and well-qualified to describe the author and her work.
Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature
Henry Holt, 1997
This book is a biography by the editor of The Lost Woods. The depth of research essential for this project obviously involved a substantial investment of time and effort on the part of the author.
This issue includes links to resources for nature and arts enthusiasts. The review focuses on J. Drew Lanham’s book of poetry titled Sparrow Envy. Previous editions are archived on Ray’s web page at https://www.rayzimmermanauthor.com/the-rains-come Please send your events and announcements to firstname.lastname@example.org
Earth and Sky https://earthsky.org/ offers regular articles on the night sky and features of the earth. From the summer triangle to volcanoes and waterspouts this is a highly informative source.
Ecotone Magazine has released a new online issue https://ecotonemagazine.org/about/. According to their web site: Ecotone’s mission is to publish and promote the best place-based work being written today. … An ecotone is a transition zone between two adjacent ecological communities, containing the characteristic species of each. It is therefore a place of danger or opportunity, a testing ground. The magazine explores the ecotones between landscapes, literary genres, scientific and artistic disciplines, modes of thought.
Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center has an online video about attracting butterflies. https://www.facebook.com/ReflectionRidingANC/videos/276663113673755/?v=276663113673755¬if_id=1594310404902615¬if_t=live_video
The Xerxes Society, dedicated to appreciation and conservation of animals without backbones, has become concerned about the decline of fireflies in some parts of the world. Their website https://xerces.org/endangered-species/fireflies includes information about the decline and their conservation efforts.
The Creative Arts Guild of Dalton, Georgia https://www.facebook.com/creativeartsguild/
announces the return of exhibits to their galleries.
Orion Magazine https://orionmagazine.org/ may be the most important conservation magazine currently available. Articles range from stories about family grouping among whales to thriving during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
Shameless Self Promotion
I will present a Nature Writing Workshop at Lula Lake on the morning of July 18. Attendance is limited to 10 participants. Follow the link for full information. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/natures-writing-workshop-tickets-112985302080
J. Drew Lanham
Reviewed by Ray Zimmerman
On the journey through this book, the reader will also encounter coyotes as Dr. Lanham calls to mind “The cold night in the desert when I first heard the coyote cry.” (September Song). In another poem he refers to the coyote as the “song dog,” an appropriate name. Speaking in “Migration” he expresses a hope: “it’s my hope/that neither cat/nor glass/ will spell your odyssey’s end.”
“On Timberdoodle Time” speaks of the woodcock, a bird famous for its courtship ritual with strutting and flight ending in earth bound plummets, wings whistling. It is a story of a pursuit interrupted, including the line “In the quest called hunting, there is more to gather than venison.” Seeking deer, he found birds and was delighted with the find.
Dr. Lanham is also the author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature. He teaches at Clemson University and is active on the southeast advisory board of the National Audubon Society. He writes regularly for Orion magazine and is perhaps America's best-known black bird watcher.
His perspective is perhaps best revealed through two of the poems, Bohicket Road Ramble, and the final poem, “9 Rules for the Black Birder.” “Bohicket Road Ramble” takes place on John’s Island, a traditional Gullah homeland. The reader is confronted with gentrification and development described in way only possible for someone familiar with the land and the people.
In “9 Rules for the Black Birder,” he urges fellow black birders to carry three forms of identification “…to convince the cops, FBI, Homeland Security, and the flashlight toting security guard that you’re not a terrorist or an escaped convict.” He continues through the final sentence in rule 9 which contains a message to the rest of us, a message you will have to discover for yourself.
Please send your events and announcements to email@example.com
Scientific papers can be confusing if you are not used to reading them. This article provides some guidance on how to read coronavirus studies or other scientific papers.
The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology now has a dynamite online course in bird photography.
The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology presented 5 Lessons to take home from the first ever Black Birders Week. One resounding message from the participants is please do not label this effort as political. The label is a shortcut way of dismissing their experience.
If bugs don’t bug you, check out the Xerxes Society Webinars https://xerces.org/events/webinars
Book Festivals move online
AJC Book Festival – The Atlanta Journal Constitution Book Festival is generally considered the largest in the country. This year it will be online. https://decaturbookfestival.com/
Nashville has been called the fastest growing literary market in the country. This year, the Southern Festival of Books will move from War Memorial Plaza to an online venue.
The Southern Literary Alliance in Chattanooga has also decided to move to a virtual format this year. Programs are announced here. https://www.southernlitalliance.org/happenings
An Unspoken Hunger
Terry Tempest Williams
Reviewed by Ray Zimmerman
Williams presents great stories, well told, revealing her love of the natural world. The text is also filled with people she holds in her heart. Some agree with her views and others disagree, but all are well loved.
Her essay, “Mardy Murie, an Intimate Profile” presents a verbal portrait of a beloved mentor for whom she never mentions the formal name Margaret. William’s love for Mardy is much like the love for her own mother and grandmother, revealed another book, Refuge.
Murie was born in 1902 and lived until 2003. She married the field biologist Olaus Murie and raised a family on the move as Olaus pursued research projects in Alaska and Wyoming. As Olaus studied herds of elk, Mardy and the children spent time outdoors.
She built tables and chairs on the spot and prepared meals in the wild. She became a mentor to younger conservationists at the Teton Science School. She testified at public hearings for conservation. She embodied a spirit much like that of Tempest herself.
Another essay is an homage to Georgia O’Keefe titled “Consorting with Coyote,’ and yet another is a ‘Eulogy for Edward Abbey.” Coyote as trickster figure is a strong image for each essay. Coyote is a recurring symbol for Williams. Her book Coyote’s Canyon reveals more on that subject.
Along with these well-known figures, she reveals family members. There is an uncle who never lived independently and appears to her in a dream after his death. Another uncle, a former State Senator, joins her and his daughter in a protest opposing nuclear testing. His wife has undergone successful treatment for breast cancer, a disease of epic proportions in her clan. They are a family of downwinders. The Nevada nuclear bomb tests rained radiation on their homes.
Aside from these human characters, the reader will encounter mystic beings. There are women who dance with bears. There is a slain bear who becomes a woman. There is Artemis for whom the bear is a sacred symbol, and who, according to some myths, turned Callisto into a bear.
The myths revealed in this book are stories with a deeper truth, stories by which we may live.