I’m reading a book that I’ve had on my list a long time: Mary Austin‘s The Land of Little Rain. It’s an ode to the California desert, published in 1903, and feels much less antiquated than that date would suggest. If you’re looking to seriously goof off at work (but with something much more contemplative than Facebook) you could read the entire thing here.
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I love the book’s vibrant language and the way Austin includes human characters in her keen sketches of animals, weather and land. And I love how the book shows evidence of her years of looking at and being educated by the place where she lived.
"There are three kinds of noises buzzards make,—it is impossible to call them notes,—raucous and elemental. There is a short croak of alarm, and the same syllable in a modified tone to serve all the purposes of ordinary conversation. The old birds make a kind of throaty chuckling to their young, but if they have any love song I have not heard it. The young yawp in the nest a little, with more breath than noise. It is seldom one finds a buzzard’s nest, seldom that grown-ups find a nest of any sort; it is only children to whom these things happen by right. But by making a business of it one may come upon them in wide, quiet canyons, or on the lookouts of lonely, table-topped mountains, three or four together, in the tops of stubby trees or on rotten cliffs well open to the sky.
"It is probable that the buzzard is gregarious, but it seems unlikely from the small number of young noted at any time that every female incubates each year. The young birds are easily distinguished by their size when feeding, and high up in air by the worn primaries of the older birds. It is when the young go out of the nest on their first foraging that the parents, full of a crass and simple pride, make their indescribable chucklings of gobbling, gluttonous delight. The little ones would be amusing as they tug and tussle, if one could forget what it is they feed upon."
Would love to read a similar account of our local Piedmont/Blue Ridge environment. Anyone know of such a book?