I quoted recently from _Circle of the Seasons_ (The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year), by Edwin Way Teale
There is an entry for each day of the year, sometimes describing something he
saw that day, or something he did (once he brought home a swallow’s nest and
took it apart and counted all the things in it, there over a thousand items,
including 718 grass stems, 34 chicken feathers, 34 coal fragments, and 18
pieces of brick), or just things he’s thought about that day.
From the back of the dustjacket: Edwin Way Teale is a literary naturalist
who has been awarded the John Burroughts Medal for distinguished nature
Sometimes we’ve used it for copywork. We’d do part or all of each day’s
section on that day. Then we’d compare anything he said about the date to
what’s going on in our area that day. Or I’d read it aloud day by day at
lunch time, or over an afternoon snack out in the backyard. Or we’d utilize
the index to look up some nature journal entry and copy a quote or two into
I have another book by Teale, North With the Spring. I have had it for years, part of my ongoing legacy of family ‘stuff.’ I come from a long line of people who never have thrown anything away, and my bachelor uncle periodically managed to loosen his death grip on a few of these family possessions and send some to me, his favourite niece.
Sometimes they were just junk. Sometimes they were useful (he sent me my grandparent’s pasteurizer when we had dairy goats, and he sent me my grandmother’s
cast iron dutch oven still in the box when I mentioned I liked cooking with cast iron). Sometimes they are treasures, although it might be some time before I realize they are gems.
_North with the Spring_ is one example. I didn’t even know who Edwin Way Teale was when my uncle gave me a copy, so I gave the book an affectionate pat (a nod toward the giver), packed it away in a box under the bed and forgot about it.
A few years ago I noticed that when reading book recommendations from Charlotte Mason homeschoolers whose judgment I respected, I kept seeing his name pop up. I looked him up at the library and saw that he wrote one of those books gathering dust
under my bed. I pulled it out, dusted it off, and wrote down my thoughts about it. I said something like:
“So I have yet another precious little legacy from my grandmother, who died around my 13th birthday. My mother is ten years older now than my grandmother ever got to be. Grandma died young because her doctor told her the lump on her breast was nothing to worry about. He was wrong.
I miss my grandmother. She was a remarkable woman. She had studied botany and she taught school before she had children. She loved nature, and she was on a first-name basis with most of the plants and animals in her area. She was a kind and gentle woman, who read widely and thought deeply.
The older I grow, the more I value her, and the greater my sorrow that my children never knew her, nor she them. I am often bitterly grieved that a doctor’s carelessness deprived us all of her participation in our lives. But it occurred to me today that through her books, she still participates in my life, and contributes generously to our homeschool, even though she died over three decades ago.
By passing on those books to my children, I am doing what I can to put them in touch with the woman who was their great-grandmother. I am helping to pass on her passion for God’s creation, her interest in a wide variety of subjects, and her love of well-crafted writing. Through using the very books she held in her hands, savoured, and read, I am able to communicate something about her to her great grandchildren. They may never know the warm comfort of her hugs, but they will know something of the grace and elegance of her mind.