Archive for the ‘Lives to Inspire’ Category

young Rachel Carsonrachel carson photo

Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature by Linda Lear
By age 11, Rachel Carson was a published author, with the appearance of A Battle in the Clouds in St. Nicholas Magazine. She always wanted to be a writer, though her subsequent life pulled her in many other directions. Linda Lear tells a compelling story of Rachel Carson’s early career as a marine biologist, and her sudden emergence as a bestselling author with the 1951 publication of The Sea Around Us.
But the most dramatic period lay ahead, culminating in the landmark book, Silent Spring, and her ensuing battles with the pesticide industry. She bore these responsibilities well, despite a series of health setbacks that made Silent Spring an excruciating labor. (Paul Brooks, Rachel’s editor, counted it as a miracle that the book was ever published).

Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature recounts the trials of Rachel Carson’s life, but also the great joys: her love of nature and the sea — and her constant sense of wonder (and obligation) that never diminished.

Silent Springsea around ussense of wonder

Rachel Carson will always be an indispensable author for the Rocky Mountain Land Library. We have a complete set of her books, along with several biographies for readers of all ages!

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Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature by Linda Lear, Rachel: The Story of Rachel Carson by Amy Ehrlich & Wendell Minor, Rachel Carson: Preserving a Sense of Wonder by Thomas Locker & Joseph Bruchac

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elder obataobata's yosemite

One of the most moving parts of Ken Burns’ recent PBS series on the National Parks, focused on the Japanese-American artist Chiura Obata, and his life long devotion to Yosemite and the High Sierra. Obata’s first trip to Yosemite in 1927 marked the rest of his life’s work. If you have five minutes to spare please take a look at the PBS clip posted below. It swept us up with feelings of hope and a real admiration for people who fall head-over-heels for a particular landscape.
Seeing Ken Burns’ sensitive portrait had us reaching for a few books off the Land Library’s shelves. For more on Chiura Obata, an excellent volume (full of his sumi ink paintings, watercolors, and woodblock prints) is Obata’s Yosemite: The Art and Letters of Chiura Obata from his trip to the High Sierra in 1927.

In some ways, perhaps even more remarkable is the following book, which tells the story of the Obata family’s internment during World War II. Not to be undone, Obata organized Art Schools in each camp he was sent to, and personally produced a remarkable body of work:

internmenttopaz moonutah desert & mts
Chiura Obata’s alien registration card, Topaz Moon: Chiura Obata’s Art of the Internment, edited by Kimi Kodani Hill, Moonlight over Topaz, 1942.

And here’s a very special book, from our Waterton Canyon Kids Library:

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Evening Glow of Yosemite Falls, 1930, Nature Art with Chiura Obata by Michael Elsohn Ross, Death’s Grave Pass & Tenaya Peak, 1930

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Obata teaching a children’s art class, Tanforan Detention Center, California, August 1942.

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Upper Lyell Fork, near Lyell Glacier, Lake Basin in the High Sierra.

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Chiura Obata sketching in the High Sierra, along with untitled painting.

It’s hard not to be inspired by Obata’s life story, and the work he produced. We also love what he wrote in 1965: “You must always see with a big vision, and if you keep your mind calm there will be a way, there will be a light.

Please enjoy this wonderful clip!

Haruko & Chiura

Haruko & Chiura Obata, San Francisco, 1912.

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bring me some applesedna portrait

As a child in Virginia, I thought all food tasted delicious. After growing up, I didn’t think food tasted the same, so it has been my lifelong effort to try and recapture those good flavors of the past.” — Edna Lewis

Edna Lewis (1916-2006) had a remarkable career as a chef and writer of several best-selling cookbooks. Perhaps her most lasting contribution was her lifelong celebration of traditional southern cooking. She kept the tradition alive, and along the way inspired the next generation of cooks to make fresh magic from the local foods of the south.

As many of you know, the Land Library has a 3,000 volume Kids Nature Library in Waterton Canyon, southwest of metro-Denver. One of our most treasured books at the Kids Library is Robbin Gourley’s beautifully illustrated picture book, Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis.

Edna was born on a small farm in Freetown, Virginia — a farm that had been granted to Edna’s grandfather, a freed slave. Robbin Gourley’s lyrical tale (and her lush and vibrant watercolors) follows Edna and her family throughout the growing season. Gathered fruits, vegetables, and nuts quickly make their way to the family’s table, with the surplus canned for the winter ahead. Every family member is involved, but it’s Edna who shows an early genius for making fun recipes from the simple foods at hand. The New York Times had this to say about Edna Lewis’ upbringing: Growing, gathering and preparing food was more than just sustenance for the family; it was a form of entertainment. Without fancy cooking equipment, the family improvised — measuring baking powder on coins and cooking everything over wood.

It was Robbin Gourley’s wonderful kids book that inspired us to learn more about Edna Lewis, and to slowly gather her cookbooks for the Land Library. After all, if she could give so much to preserving a precious regional tradition, we wanted to reciprocate a tiny bit by keeping her work alive on our shelves!

Somewhere along the way, we came across this inspiring documentary, Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie: Keeping Traditions Alive, written, produced, and directed by Bailey Barash. There’s much more to Edna Lewis’ life than you might imagine. This is a wonderful film!

In 1995, Edna Lewis was awarded the first ever James Beard Living Legend Award, for her creative years in the kitchen, and for books such as these:
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In Pursuit of Flavor, and The Taste of Country Cooking, of which, Craig Claiborne wrote that it “may well be the most entertaining regional cookbook in America“.

Food traditions have long been a happy obsession at the Land Library. Here’s two of our favorites volumes:

high on the hogsouthern foodways
High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey From Africa to America by Jessica B. Harris, and The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook, edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge.

Edna Lewis was the co-founder of the Society for the Revival and Preservation of Southern Food, a precursor to the Southern Foodways Alliance. For more on their ongoing work be sure to visit their website!

And for more on the great topic of food traditions, here are a few of our earlier posts!

Recalling Voices, Tastes, and Traditions (on the great variety of ethic kitchens)

From the Bronx Seedless Grape to the Paiute Tepary Bean: The Food Nations of North America (featuring one of the best books we know!)

The Taste of Place (Rowan Jacobsen’s American Terroir, and more)

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biblioburroboy & book burro

The latest addition to our Waterton Canyon Kids Library is Jeanette Winter’s Biblioburro: A True Story from Columbia, a picture book about one man’s never-say-never passion for sharing stories and books. Jeanette Winter has written and illustrated many books for children based on true-life stories, including Wangari’s Trees of Peace, and The Librarian of Basra. Here’s what she has to say about her latest book:

Biblioburro is based on the true story of Luis Soriano, who lives in La Gloria, a remote town in northern Columbia. An avid reader, Luis understood the transformative power of reading because of his experiences as a schoolteacher. He wanted to share his collection of books with the children and adults in the isolated villages in the distant hills, where books were scarce. Most houses had none.

Luis and his two burros began bringing books to the villages in 2000. He started with a collection of 70 books that has grown to over 4,800, mostly from donations. Now the Biblioburro travels to the hills every weekend. Three hundred people, more or less, look forward to borrowing the books Luis brings.

A small corner of the world is enriched.” — Jeanette Winter

People around here love stories. I’m trying to keep that spirit alive in my own way.Luis Soriano

And here’s another fun picture book, Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown and John Parra. For more information be sure to visit the Biblioburro blogspot!

Being the book-people (book-nuts?) that we are, we especially love the following three titles from our Waterton Canyon Kids Library — each one affirms the power and value of books across the world:

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Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt & Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer, My Librarian is a Camel: How Books are Brought to Children Around the World by Margriet Ruurs, The Library Book: The Story of Libraries from Camels to Computers by Maureen Sawa & Bill Slavin

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encompassing nature

Although the Land Library has thousands of titles focused on the American West, we have long sought a global reach, believing that lessons of land and community knows no boundaries. The Land Library has especially strong collections of books focused on Africa, China, Tibet, Mongolia, Latin America, Canada and the boreal zone worldwide — along with all-things-Arctic.

We’ll continue to grow our global collections, and we hope to have more world-wide postings in the future. In the meanwhile, here’s an excellent book to start us on our journey!

Encompassing Nature: A Sourcebook, edited by Robert Torrance. This is a truly massive anthology (1,224 pages), as well as a sweeping history of the human response to nature from ancient times to the dawn of the Modern Age. Robert Torrance casts a wide net, including selections of children’s stories, tribal myths, sacred scriptures, poetry, philosophical and scientific writings. Gary Snyder writes, “What is encompassed, on a scale vaster than we could have imagined, are the many ways in which human beings have understood and represented the natural world. There are themes of gratitude, playfulness, and intimacy with the wild, running through most of it…”

Here’s a few more thought-provoking books that we’ll return to in the months ahead:
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Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai, Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China, translated by David Hinton, Buddhism and Ecology by Mary Evelyn Tucker, et.al., Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe by George Schaller
islam & ecologyann morrisancient futures
Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust by Richard C. Foltz, et al, Houses and Homes by Ann Morris & Ken Heyman (from our Waterton Canyon Kids Library), Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World by Helena Norberg-Hodge

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reimaginingterra incognita

Much has been written about America’s declining industrial cities, and Detroit never fails to come up early in that discussion. Once a city of two million, after recent de-industrialization and middle class flight, Detroit’s population has fallen to approximately 700,000. It’s estimated that perhaps forty square miles of the city are vacant — a level of emptiness that creates a landscape unlike any other big city.

Urban blight, or a rare opportunity? That’s the question raised in John Gallagher’s recent book Reimagining Detroit: Opportunities for Redefining an American City. Gallagher gives us an inspiring look at innovative community-building projects filling the gaps in Detroit — including urban farming. He also shows how this fresh entrepreneurial spirit has made Detroit leaner, greener, and more self-sufficient.

Also pictured above: Terra Incognita: Vacant Land and Urban Strategies by Ann Bowman and Michael Pagano — a book that shows how vacant land can be used as a valuable strategic asset for cities and towns. And here’s two excellent companion books that will help you reimagine any city you might find yourself in:

small grittyrich

Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World by Catherine Tumber, and Urban Farms by Sarah C. Rich — one of the Land Library’s favorite new arrivals — a book that examines sixteen well-established urban agriculture projects across the country — including two in Detroit!

The sense of autonomy that comes from growing food and raising animals is a welcome experience at a time when the forces of the world often feel beyond individual control. Whether motivated by health concerns, environmental issues, financial constraints, or simply the creative challenge of a DIY endeavor, farming in the city is an affordable, accessible way to contribute to a healthy urban future — and to eat well along the way.” Sarah C. Rich, Urban Farms

Director Mark MacInnis has created a wonderful documentary on Detroit’s food revolution, Urban Roots. Here’s a sneak peek:

The Land Library is more devoted than ever to establishing an Urban Homestead Library for the people of Denver. We’re charged up and ready to go — and thankful for the inspiration of existing urban farms and related community projects across the country. Help us make this happen for Denver!

urban roots poster

In many ways, the urban farmers in Detroit are like most of us in that we are all experiencing the painful transition from the industrial, centralized world to a post-industrial world in which jobs are changing, the economy is changing, the neighborhoods are changing and it seems like we have no control over the outcome.
Well, enter urban farming, a way in which individuals can take control over something so critical as food that in the very act of growing it, they not only feed themselves, they also become healthier, more self-reliant and in some cases they become entrepreneurs. And most remarkable, they create a new approach to community, the economy and life overall.
” — Leila Connors, producer of Urban Roots

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Buffalo Bird Woman's Gardencatlin

Buffalo Bird Woman was born in an earth lodge in 1839, along the Knife River, in present day North Dakota. She grew up to be an expert gardener of the Hidatsa tribe, growing corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers along the fertile bottomlands of the Missouri River. In 1917, anthropologist Gilbert L. Wilson published Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians, a faithful transcript of his interviews with this remarkable woman.
In this book (since retitled Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden: Agriculture and the Hidatsa Indians), Maxidiwiac (as she was known in Hidatsa) talks of field preparation, planting, harvesting and storage — along with the songs and ceremonies that lead to a good crop. You get a sense of what a social occasion gardening was. When the first green corn was plucked, the women and children would gather, breaking off a piece of stalk, sucking the sweet juice — “merely for a little taste of sweets in the field.

Reading this book brings back a lost world, especially life beyond the garden rows:

Little girls of 10 and 11 years of age used to make dolls of squashes. When the squashes were brought in from the field, the little girls would go to the pile and pick out squashes that were proper for dolls. I have done so myself. We used to pick out the long ones…squashes whose tops were white or yellow and the bottoms of some other color. We put no decorations on these squashes….Each little girl carried her squash about in her arms and sang for it as for a babe. Often she carried it on her back, in her calf skin robe.” from Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden

sd nelson

Brand new to our Waterton Canyon Kids Nature Library is S.D. Nelson’s Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story — a faithful telling of Buffalo Bird Woman’s childhood. Full of historic photos, maps, and Nelson’s own artwork, this book beautifully captures Hidatsa life on the edge of change.

tool Buffalo Bird Woman

Digging sticks are still used in my tribe for digging wild turnips; but even in my grandmother’s lifetime, digging sticks and bone hoes, as garden tools, had all but given place to iron hoes and axes.” — from Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden

And here’s a few more excellent volumes on Native American foodways. There are many, many more on the Land Library’s shelves!

native amer gardeningpueblo
Native American Gardening: Stories, Projects and Recipes for Families by Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac, Pueblo Indian Agriculture by James A. Vlasich.
Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources by M. Kat Anderson, Enduring Seeds: Native American Agriculture and Wild Plant Conservation by Gary Paul Nabhan.

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