May 26, 2012

Frozen Planet: Review and Giveaway

If you haven't noticed, I like nature. So it's probably not surprising that I like the BBC's most recent nature documentary series Frozen Planet. Yes, like. Trying to avoid obnoxious adverbs and exclamation points here.

The truth is even if I was only ho-hum about the natural world, these carefully crafted episodes would have entranced me. Such. Gorgeous. Images. From massive glaciers to intimate animal videography to time-lapsed ice crystal formation, when watching the series it feels unfortunate to blink. And then there is Sir David Attenborough, the man behind the sage, spirited voice I've come to associate with the narration of these programs. It's a fantastic series. One I'll view many times over.

What differentiates Frozen Planet from its BBC predecessors like Blue Planet and Wild China is its dedication to the last true wilderness on earth. The Arctic and Antarctic are, as Attenborough says, "places of superlatives." In the dark months, the temperature in these polar regions can reach -70' F, resulting in improbable places for life, and yet millions and millions of migrating birds fill their beaches come summer and rear young on their cliffs. There are fish with bodies full of anti-freeze. Polar bears that walk in each other's footprints. Beautiful arctic poppies. Monstrous elephant seals. Ice sheets that move mountains, literally. And a woolly bear caterpillar that, because of the short growing season and its annual cocoon of ice, requires up to fourteen years of freezing and unfreezing--rising from the dead--to become a moth. Crazy stuff. In my opinion, the best kind.

During one episode, Attenborough mentions that the Antarctic ice cap contains 70% of the world's fresh water, and that once you reach the continent, you can travel 700 miles and see nothing but ice. Thankfully, we are at the doorstep of summer here in Minnesota, so that chilling fact does not make me shiver like it would if this were November. But even then, perhaps especially then--a blizzard raging out my window, the gusting wind carving stacks of snow into shapes both mysterious and beautiful--it is humbling, this Great Whiteness. Its delicate balance. All the ways that it is not just snow and cold.

Frozen Planet is wonderfully, stunningly, masterfully done. If you appreciate nature, you'll treasure this series. And use lots of exclamation points when the penguins waddle on.

May 21, 2012


on thick days the rhododendron, the azalea shrubs in blush are too much concluded praise, 
so I slip into the quiet of green woods and green air and say nothing

May 14, 2012

Where We're Going

A few updates all at once:

  • For one month starting in early June I'll be traveling through London, Switzerland, eastern France, and southwest Germany. Why? Twenty-five or so high school students. I'm chaperoning the German trip. Yes, I know. But I think it's going to be great fun. And the stories, my friends, THE STORIES.

  • A new essay about my father and me and our fishing exploits is up over at The Backcountry Journal. Check it out? Here's a little tease:
    • "Water. A boat or a bit of shoreline. A rod, bait, maybe a net. That perfect fish. I'd place my bets that you're already seeing it, that time when you pulled a slick, silvery body in. That time a surge that felt a lot like love came up with the end of your swallowed line. Your fishing story. And the people you turned to first to tell it."   [more]

  • Some publicity folks asked if I might like to review the BBC's most recent nature documentary series Frozen Earth. Since they promised free DVD packs of the film for two of my plucky readers/followers/subscribers, I said hell yes with an iceberg on top. Watch for that review and giveaway.

  • And here's what I've been soaking in for a month: The Loft Literary Center is hosting it's first annual Nature, Outdoors, and Environmental Writing Conference this September just north of the Twin Cities. Good enough news all on its own, right? I could hardly believe my down-the-road luck. But what's more is that I'll be presenting there with a handful of talented writers and thinkers, including Scott Russell Sanders. It was Sanders' essay "Writing From The Center" that first got me thinking about flyover country, flyover fiction, place-related words, all of this.
  • So where I was motivated before to put together a great presentation, now it is what I think about. And since my talk's topic will be blogging--how it can both enrich your connection to the natural world and your writing practice--I want and need to be 100% transparent here. I will keep posting on what inspires me, when it inspires me, of course. That's been the whole point from the beginning, and that's probably why you've stuck around. But in the next several months, I'm going to need your help, friends. For experience's sake, I'm going to try some new things (giveaways), reach out to other networks (guest blogging), curate and edit an online newsletter (Nature-Talk), and ask you, dear reader, some basic nature/blog/photography/writing related questions. Any feedback you'd care to share with me will be gobbled up with heaps of appreciation. I'm planning to create a Prezi that includes names and links and a whole mess of goodness. I'd love for your voice to be a part of the mix. 

  • In the mean time, if you have books or articles I should read, questions I should be thinking about, or whatever, please let me know. We're one big community, right? If I've learned anything from this bloggy venture, it's been that the world really is small after all.

To the road!

May 1, 2012

The Lake

My appreciation for place comes most directly from my parents, but I also have to thank Grandpa and Grandma Longstreet for scouting out the piece of southwestern Minnesota lake land that has become the one consistent spot on earth I've returned to since the year I was born. I visit Lake Shetek and Keeley Island and the Longstreet Lot less now that I'm older and farther away and--that too-easy word--busy. But its greens and blues and laughs and grill-roasted turkey dinners feel no less vivid.

My essay "The Lake," out this month in Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, is a long-time coming. A long time, pre-me. It's a thank you letter, really. So: Grandpa Bud, I imagine your face with the smile I would have witnessed had you lived to meet me, and Grandma Mar, I miss you so much and sense the pressure of your hand around my wrist.

Keeley Island, Lake Shetek, MN