Ugly Ducklings, Lent, French translations and counting birds

Some news about Cudzoo Farm and The Forest Unseen:

Sarah has opened a new page on her soap website for sales and specials. These special prices on organic goat-milk soaps will be offered only intermittently, so I encourage you to investigate them now. Currently, she has a Five-for-four Special and an Ugly Duckling Assortment. Great soaps, fabulous prices: from our hard-working herd of goat princesses.

From soaps to books. The Times (London) has published a list of recommended reading for Lent. I was surprised and delighted that Jane Shaw, Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, chose The Forest Unseen. She writes that the book “is not a religious book, but [Haskell’s] careful observation of a one-square-metre patch of Tennessee forest over a year teaches us something vital about training our attention on the world around us, to see what we usually miss. That sense of attention and focus is central to all Lenten practices.” Is there a parallel between the study of natural history and the Lenten disciplines? This is an interesting idea. Within their own traditions they are both seen as practices that help us to pay attention to what matters: snails on one hand, the divine on the other (and a few of us think that some snails are themselves simply divine). Both practices are also often misunderstood as dour and outdated (Lent? Names of birds? How Victorian…), yet they have within them the potential for unrivaled connection to the world beyond and within ourselves (if such worlds exist, of course…). I’m intrigued by this Lenten connection and honored to have The Forest Unseen highlighted as helpful to those engaged in meditative practices.

I’ve also received some other good news about the book. A French translation will shortly be underway, joining ongoing translations into Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. I grew up in France and I’m especially happy that the book will be available to French readers. Schools in France used to (and maybe still do) celebrate the work of Jean-Henri Fabre, a close observer of the ecology of his home and prolific author. So I hope that my approach might fall on some ready ears, even if mine is a vastly more modest contribution (in many ways) than that of Fabre.

Last, readers of Ramble might be interested to know that this is the weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count. From Feb 15-18 we’re all encouraged to submit checklists of the birds that we see in our neighborhoods. Last year the count collected over one hundred thousand checklists (!) comprising 17.4 million individual bird observations: a rich source of data on the populations of North American birds. This year the project has gone global and is connected to, an amazing site that “crowd-sources” data (hundreds of millions of observations to date) about birds. So our bird sightings are now both rewarding for us as individuals and they can contribute to a better understanding of global ecological patterns. I encourage you to participate. The count is set up for non-specialists including beginning birders, so do not feel that you have to be an “expert” in order to join the project.

6 thoughts on “Ugly Ducklings, Lent, French translations and counting birds

  1. njmyers

    I put your book on my Christmas wish list but nobody gave it to me. I think I have been waiting for Lent to buy it for myself. My patch of woods in SW Michigan is graced with a lake-effect snow today. Glorious.

  2. manayunkia

    Wonderful news about the book, David. As for backyard birds, they find my car wonderful target practice here in South Carolina. I’m not so talented as to identify species by scat splat, but based on abundance of splats, they are well-fed here.


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