A Natural Curiosity :: Category :: Books A Natural Curiosity - Geoff Wisner's Blog
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Coming soon: Thoreau’s Wildflowers

It’s been almost a year since I announced here that Yale University Press would be publishing my next book Thoreau’s Wildflowers. Now it’s scheduled for release in March 2016, and you can read more about it at Yale’s website.


Thoreau’s Wildflowers is a selection of observations from Thoreau’s Journal between 1850 and 1861, arranged by the day of the year. The text is illustrated with more than 200 long-unavailable black and white drawings by Barry Moser, first published in the 1979 book Flowering Plants of Massachusetts. The book also includes an introduction by myself, and Ray Angelo‘s classic essay ”Thoreau as Botanist.”

For a taste of what you’ll find in the book, follow me on Twitter at @ThoreausFlowers.

Posted by geoff on 10/13 at 02:31 PM
(0) CommentsPermalink
Categories: ArtBooksThoreau

A Natural Curiosity - Geoff Wisner's Blog
Sunday, July 26, 2015

Proust’s coffee maker

Proust will forever be associated with the scent of lime blossom tea, but he appreciated coffee as well. In fact, according to his housekeeper, he survived on “two bowls of black coffee, hot milk and two croissants when he woke in the afternoon, and then little else.”

In Chapter 2, “Holidays,” of Part II of his unfinished posthumous novel Jean Santeuil, he presents a glimpse of the coffee-making ceremony as it was played out during Jean’s holiday visits to his uncle and cousins in Illiers.

The passage below is from a paragraph more than a page long, and even this excerpt seemed to call for a break to make it more readable.

One might include among the simple attributes of agricultural kingship the extremely complicated, because very primitive, piece of machinery which, at this point in the proceedings, the maid set before Monsieur Albert and in which he made the coffee by virtue of a prerogative which he would never have dreamed of sharing with anybody else. If, by chance, he happened to be away, visiting one of his farms, and did not get back for luncheon, “Who’ll make the coffee?” became a question of almost national importance. Unless someone of outstanding importance, Monsieur Santeuil, for instance, was on the spot, this task was usually entrusted to the maid, who was looked upon as a kind of Secretary of State, so that the arbitrary appointment of a substitute was avoided.

This machine was made of glass and so contrived that one could see the water coming to the boil, the steam permeating the coffee, and covering the sides of the container with blackish deposit, the water passing through a filter and falling back into a second cylinder from which it was then drawn off. Monsieur Albert listened to the water boiling and that music, though less sophisticated than the military tunes which served to stimulate more distinguished digestions, but perfectly expressing the sense of well-being of which he was conscious, heralded the coming moment when the bubblng coffee would add to it an exquisite sensation of warmth, sweetness, liveliness and delicate savour and so complete his satisfaction.

This machine sounds similar but not quite identical to the early French coffee makers by Durant and Gandais. If anyone can identify it more precisely, I’d appreciate it. 

Posted by geoff on 07/26 at 03:13 AM
(1) CommentsPermalink
Category: Books

A Natural Curiosity - Geoff Wisner's Blog
Sunday, July 19, 2015

Discovering Moore’s Swamp

Oh, bother. It seems that the swamp near Authors’ Ridge in Concord’s Sleepy Hollow cemetery is not Gowing’s Swamp, as I was told earlier, but Moore’s Swamp, as I learn from Cherrie Corey’s blog.

Moore’s Swamp is an equally fascinating place, and as it turns out is mentioned in Thoreau’s Wildflowers more often than Gowing’s. 

June 9, 1858. High blackberry, not long. I notice by the roadside at Moore’s Swamp the very common Juncus effusus [tufted rush], not quite out, one to two and a half feet high.

August 12, 1856. The Aster patens [late purple aster, Symphotrichum patens] is very handsome by the side of Moore’s Swamp on the bank — large flowers, more or less purplish or violet, each commonly (four or five) at the end of a long peduncle, three to six inches long, at right angles with the stem, giving it an open look. Snakehead, or chelone.

September 8, 1853. Roses, apparently *R. lucida*, abundantly out on a warm bank on Great Fields by Moore’s Swamp, with Viola pedata.

September 12, 1859. I stand in Moore’s Swamp and look at Garfield’s dry bank, now before the woods generally are changed at all. How ruddy ripe that dry hillside by the swamp — covered with goldenrods and clumps of hazel bushes here and there, now more or less scarlet

Posted by geoff on 07/19 at 10:18 AM
(0) CommentsPermalink
Categories: BooksNatureThoreau

A Natural Curiosity - Geoff Wisner's Blog
Friday, July 17, 2015

Discovering Gowing’s Swamp

Correction: This was actually Moore’s Swamp, also a worthy wetland highly valued by Thoreau.

While at the Thoreau Society Annual Gathering, I intended to join Peter Alden on one of his early-morning nature walks, to the Estabrook Woods. Due to a map-reading error I missed the carpool meeting by a few minutes.

After a short period of irritation and disappointment, I set off for Sleep Hollow cemetery to visit the Melvin Memorial and the little rounded headstone marked Henry on Authors’ Ridge. I had been there before, but this time I happened to look down a path down a slope that led to a marshy area. It was only after exploring it a bit, taking some photos and admiring the cattails and the lofty nests of the great blue herons, that I returned to the Hawthorne Inn and learned that I had been to Gowing’s Swamp, a place I had written about before and was especially eager to see.

In the passage below, from Thoreau’s Wildflowers, Thoreau describes his discovery of the wild calla lily. For much more on Gowing’s Swamp, visit Cherrie Corey’s blog Sense of Place – Concord.

July 2, 1857. Calla palustris (with its convolute point like the cultivated) at the south end of Gowing’s Swamp. Having found this in one place I now find it in another. Many an object is not seen though it falls within the range of our visual ray, because it does not come within the range of our intellectual ray — i.e. we are not looking for it. So in the largest sense, we find only the world we look for.

Posted by geoff on 07/17 at 06:26 PM
(0) CommentsPermalink
Categories: BooksNatureThoreau

A Natural Curiosity - Geoff Wisner's Blog
Sunday, July 05, 2015

Off to Concord!


I’m excited to be attending this year’s Thoreau Society Annual Gathering in Concord, Massachusetts! I’ll be chairing a panel on Natural Spaces (11 am on Friday), featuring the following:

Thoreau’s Views on Growth in Relation to His Observations of Nature (Michiko Ono)

Michiko Ono is associate professor of English at Iwate Medical University in Japan. She earned her Ph.D. in American Literature from Tohoku University, and she has published many papers on Thoreau. She is a member of the Board of Directors of The Thoreau Society of Japan. Michiko’s book Henry D. Thoreau: His Educational Philosophy and Observation of Nature is available from the Thoreau Society Shop at Walden Pond.

Thoreau’s Wildflowers (Geoff Wisner)

I’ll be offering a preview of my next book, Thoreau’s Wildflowers, coming next spring from Yale University Press. There will be pretty photos of Concord-area wildflowers and some of the more than 200 black and white drawings by Barry Moser that will appear in the book.

In Maine Wildness is the preservation of the World (Jym St.Pierre)

Jym St. Pierre is a lifelong resident of Maine, and he is the Maine Director of RESTORE: The North Woods, a conservation organization that was launched in Concord. He has been the chief advocate for the creation of a Maine Woods National Park & National Preserve, which would encompass the areas in northern Maine visited by Henry David Thoreau.

Jym is the editor of the Maine Environmental News website and an award-winning photographer. He has retraced many of Thoreau’s travels in the Maine woods and has visited scores of conservation areas in North, Central, and South America, as well as Europe and Asia. 

Posted by geoff on 07/05 at 02:25 PM
(0) CommentsPermalink
Categories: BooksNatureThoreau

Page 1 of 79 pages  1 2 3 >  Last »

Copyright © 1999 - 2015 Geoff Wisner. All rights reserved.
Designed and Built by Jenn Powered by ExpressionEngine.