Jan 22, 2012

Swampwalker's Journal

A Wetlands Year
by David M. Carroll

So far the Burroughs list has been hit or miss for me; out of the three books I've read specifically from the list, one was great, one was just okay and one was blah. This was another fantastic one, though! I've really been taking my time reading it, it's the kind of book you have to slow down and just carefully, methodically absorb every page. I don't think I ever read more than five or six pages in a sitting.

Swampwalker's Journal is full of the writings of a man who likes to walk through all kinds of wetlands. He makes the same rounds every year and keeps a beautiful notebook (sample pages included) recording his observations. Makes the most delicate, wonderful drawings of the plants and animals he finds. Sees how nature is playing itself out, how the habitats shift and change, how the creatures go about their lives. Things like noticing which tree species are overtaking a certain area, at what date the first salamanders emerge in spring to mate, how the water level has changed in a certain pool and what that does to the life around. His particular passion seems to be turtles; he makes notes of every one he finds and rejoices at coming across the same turtle again- usually just once every few years. Most of the book is a description of places. I had no idea what the difference was between a marsh and a swamp before, but there is a particular difference. Also fens and bogs, I though the terms were interchangeable but they're not. He also wanders the flood zones of rivers, searches for vernal pools (in many different habitats) and wades across wet meadowlands. He writes so eloquently about these places- it's almost like poetry. And such a deep concern for the wildlife. His stance, quite often repeated, is that man would do better to just leave nature alone- even the efforts of various groups to protect or restore threatened areas often do more harm than good (in his opinion).

I really enjoyed reading this book, it opened my eyes to a lot of animal life and places I hardly knew existed, much less wondered about before. It's not likely I'll ever go wading up to my hips through a swamp to find out myself, so it's wonderful to read about someone else's forays into these places, especially when its written so beautifully. Upon turning the last page I was immediately eager to find more of Carroll's works; this is just one volume of his "wet-sneaker trilogy." I'm glad to find that his Year of the Turtle is at my library, so I'll be reading that one as soon as the dare is over!

rating: 4/5 ......... 292 pages, 1999

more opinions at:
Willowhouse Chronicles
A Good Stopping Point


  1. This sounds like such a beautiful read. I've always loved nature writing. Am adding this to my TBR.

  2. This one sounds lovely and my library has it. So it's on my list for after the TBR Dare.


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