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For almost thirty years, Merrill Gilfillan has written outdoor columns devoted primarily to describing and creating moods about the world of nature. These columns are informed by a rural background and field notes from more than sixty years of outdoor experience. In Gilfillan’s words, “Observation is more of the mind than of vision; our attitude is the secret of original observation. I choose the subjective approach to outdoor enjoyment. I did this after training in zoology and twenty years of field work as a wildlife biologist....We should learn to seek our own original ‘view’ of what we observe....The scientific method is necessary to gain facts, but the manner in which one experiences the facts is what will determine their final value to the individual and, perhaps, to society.”
Moods of the Ohio Moons is the product of this subjective method of observation, balanced with scientific knowledge and intended to encourage readers to explore their own individual appreciation and understanding of nature. Twelve essays, one for each month, relate incidents and events―weather, diagnostic events, vegetation and wildlife, agriculture, trends of land use, and the wild harvest―that contribute to the mood of the time. As Gilfillan demonstrates, each month has its mood established primarily by nature and only secondarily by humans.
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Here is an intriguing concept for a book--understanding nature by observing the rhythms of the moon--that never quite lives up to its promise. The volume has the choppy, shorthand quality of a personal journal and the author's penchant for aphoristic comments does not help: 37 ``Any boy who has ever fished on a spring day knows more about hope and high expectations than one who has never enjoyed this experience.'' This clumsy didacticism undermines the author's goal of exhorting readers to remember their own experiences of nature and pass on a sense of wonder and respect to future generations. More effective are his descriptions of the seasonal behavior of animals and birds, such as a family of cedar waxwings that picks cherries in June ``in a gentle, polite ceremonyp. 63 ''; and of human activities such as gathering wild morels and cutting the bark of the sassafras tree to make tea. Contemplations of the origin of terms like swan song 27 and the meaning of deja vu, though interesting, are too digressive to be satisfying. The reader wishes for a stronger editorial touch, particularly if one has read Gilfillan's lyrical Magpie Rising: Sketches from the Great Plains . Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1991 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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