Du Iz Tak? The last children's writer who's read this marvelous book by Carson Ellis. I just love it. The illustrations show wonder perfectly. They're also very funny! Love the little house in the hollow and the fort, complete with pirate flag! And the creatures are having a conversation in a made-up language (though it sounds suspiciously like Dutch to me) and I think kids must love figuring out what the words mean. It's no surprise this was a Caldecott Honor book! I share a few spreads to give a sense of the drama occurring right in our backyards. This is a book to read over and over, pore over the detailed illustrations, and inspire people of all ages to enjoy life at the pace of nature.
"A small pet is often an excellent companion." ~ Florence Nightingale, Notes on Nursing, 1912.
"Try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the question now." ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 1927.
I found this gem at the library sale in the food section (and no, I do not like to eat escargots, thank you very much) The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. The above quotes caught my attention, and as I began to read I knew I'd want it near my bed. This book is an account of the time Ms. Bailey was bedridden. She had a potted plant to keep her company along with a woodland snail. "It was not of much interest, and if it was alive, the responsibility--especially for a snail, something so uncalled for--was overwhelming." But she watched the snail explore its new environment. She discovered it liked to eat paper. It made square holes in it. She gave it some withered flowers. "I watched, transfixed, as over the course of an hour the snail meticulously ate an entire purple petal for dinner. The tiny, intimate sound of the snail's eating gave me a distinct feeling of companionship and shared space..." And later, "But the snail...the snail kept my spirit from evaporating. Between the two of us, we were a society all our own, and that kept isolation at bay." Her observations and comparison to her own state wrap us in the mystery of life.
"Under the microscope the translucent egg-envelopes present a beautiful appearance, being studded with glistening crystals of lime, so that the infant within seems to wear a gown embroidered with diamonds." ~ Ernest Ingersoll, In a Snailery, 1881. I learned quite a bit about snails and remembered the little glass cube we kept on the kitchen counter for a couple of years. It housed three fish, a snail, and a water plant. We would spend hours watching the fish swim, the algae grow, the snail feed on the algae and then making many, many baby snails! We marveled at this little ecosystem. I, too, have spent many hours in bed, and it's the pets who kept me company, quiet and steady, and gave me the chance to observe their varied habits. It slows me down, giving me the opportunity to be still and know God. "Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 1927.
My most recent purchase, Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, delves deep into the tiniest microorganisms that make some of the most interesting foods--bread, wine, beer, cheese, yogurt, kimchi, idli, dosa, and many, many more. Do you know we have trillions of bacteria that live in our gut and on our skin and keep us healthy? That's why antibiotics, though life-saving, can also really mess up your bacterial community and make you more susceptible to the really nasty bugs out there. A natural way to repopulate your gut with good bugs is to eat foods that have microorganisms in them--yogurt, sauerkraut, ciders--fermented foods. Last year we pickled our bumper crop of cucumbers. We also discovered we liked kombucha, which is fermented tea. Given that I still have chronic migraines, the kids still suffer from acne, we thought we'd include more fermented food in our diet. There's much evidence that many of the 21st century ailments happen due to disruption of the gut microbiome. So what better way than to cook, experiment, and eat our way to better health. I can well imagine guests looking at all the bubbling pots and asking, Du Iz Tak?