Monday, February 25, 2013

Janisse Ray

A friend of mine lent me “The Ecology of a Cracker Childhood” while I was still living in Georgia, working as a wildland firefighter and conducting prescribed burns in some of the very longleaf pine stands described in Janisse Ray’s book. In it she weaves together her childhood with the ecology of the vanishing longleaf pine forests that once carpeted the South. Either because the descriptions of the longleaf stands so vividly reminded me of my own time spent in the Georgia forests, or because I too, was hard at work to save the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW), but the book struck a chord with me. I jumped right into “Wild Card Quilt,” her second novel about returning to Georgia with her son after attending grad school at the University of Montana, then her third, “Pinhook,” which at that point in time was her most recent work. From these books I gained new-found inspiration for the work I was doing with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and it was with wonder that I visited sites such as Moody Forest Natural Area, the Nature Conservancy/Georgia DNR managed property on the Altamaha River. (Moody Forest is the only known example of an old-growth longleaf pine-blackjack oak forest left; the site is home to 200 to 300-year-old longleaf and slash pines, trees 600+ years in the cypress-tupelo sloughs, the endangered RCW, the gopher tortoise and Eastern indigo snake.) Magic was restored to my work in the southern pine forests after I had literally and figuratively burnt out from the southern heat, the fires, the attitudes of many a southerner/coworker and the hopelessness of trying to preserve anything from the sprawl of metropolitan Atlanta.

Source: here
It was in the Greenville Journal that I noticed a tiny blurb about the South Carolina Native Plant Society hosting Janisse Ray as special guest speaker, and I was ashamed to see she had published a plethora of new books during my absence from Georgia. I intend to make up for lost time, I’ve purchased her two newest works and am already fully immersed in “Drifting into Darien,” about the extraordinary biodiversity of the Altamaha River corridor.
My friend had urged, “If you have the chance to go to a reading, do it. She’ll get you really fired up!” And of course, I went. For two hours I wasn’t mom/cook/household manager, but again the idealistic girl who believed that our world can be saved, one tree and species at a time. Ms. Ray, I thank you for that, as well as the ceaseless work you do on behalf of all the creatures and places that have no voice of their own.

Source: here
I insist you read “The Ecology of a Cracker Childhood,” the recipient of multiple literary awards and honors, the book I chose to gift to my parents in attempt to explain The South to them. If you’re into the food revolution I suggest picking up her most recent work, “The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food.” If you celebrated the possibility of the return of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker from extinction, find “Drifting into Darien” and if you’ve ever (or wish to) canoed the Okefenokee swamp, then “Pinhook” is for you. I completely agree with the New York Times critic who proclaimed Janisse Ray the Rachel Carson of the southeast, and after hearing her speak I can’t wait to take my boys to Moody Forest so that they may pick up some magic of their own.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...