Have you ever snacked on goldenrod grubs? They’re slightly sweet, says my daughter, Emily, who HAS tasted them!
Crazy? Finicky folks might think so. But this sort of behavior is not a surprise to her parents – who proudly raised this “mud and water daughter.” We’re also proud of her new book, “Natural Connections: Exploring Northwoods Nature Through Science and Your Senses.”
As naturalist/education director at the Cable (Wisconsin) Natural History Museum, Emily now leads kids (and adults!) on forays to learn about goldenrod gall fly larvae, the life history of loons, or fascinating fall fungi. And she writes a weekly “Natural Connections” column that’s carried by about 20 newspapers in northwestern Wisconsin and nearby Minnesota. The book is a collection of some of her favorite columns.
Most of her writing follows the advice of Mary Oliver, one of Emily’s favorite poets, who suggested “Instructions for living a life.”
“Pay attention . . .
“Be astonished . . .
“Tell about it!”
Whether on ambles through the Northwoods, bike rides, commutes to work, or slogging through a bog, Emily is constantly distracted by small (or large!) natural wonders that pique her curiosity – and astonishment. Then – as an admitted science nerd – she calls upon her own knowledge, picks the brains of experts, or uses a Google search to learn “why.” (A goldenrod grub tastes sweet because of the glycerol concentration. Loons that “yodel” are ready to fight for their territory. The scientific name of a puffball is Lycoperdon pyriforme, Latin for pear-shaped wolf fart.)
One of her goals, Emily confesses, is “to see the world a little differently.” Thus, she sometimes shares the simplest things with her readers: “encountering a spider during my morning yoga, seeing the stars on a late drive home from a program, weeding my garden, or even being bitten by insects.”
“… the opportunity for nature connection is all around us, all the time,” she writes. “I’d like to inspire you to look a little closer and discover your own natural connections wherever you are.”
Always a teacher, Emily slyly enticed young people to learn even more, as she hosted a contest for kids to submit drawings to illustrate the book. The results were a delight. Kids as young as five drew squirrels, rainstorms, snakes, grasshoppers, warblers, dandelions – even ice fishing from the fish’s eye-view! Additional drawings by adults also capture the “connections” theme of the book.
Appropriately, “Natural Connections” is divided by seasons. Readers can help welcome spring’s “Furry Little Monsters” (red squirrels), summer’s “Mosquitoes,” fall’s “Woolly Weather” (woolly bears), and winter’s “Mythical Beasts (wolverines).
Although she writes from her home in the “Northwoods,” Emily’s enthusiasm for “natural connections” can translate into almost any environment. She’s not forgotten the mud puddles, anthills, prairie grass, and woodland flowers of her Iowa childhood, despite having explored wild rivers, mountains, and coastlines. She might even find a “connection” in the corner of your living room.
To order Emily’s book, “Natural Connections: Exploring Northwoods Nature through Science and Your Senses,” visit http://www.cablemuseum.org/natural-connections-book/ The cost is $25, including postage.
NOTE: Emily will hold a book signing at the Elkader Public Library from 10:30 a.m. until noon on Friday, November 25.