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In these times of technological innovation and fast-paced electronic communication, we often take nature for granted—or even consider it a hindrance to our human endeavors. In Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist’s Memoir, Jerry Apps explores such topics as the human need for wilderness, rediscovering a sense of wonder, and his father’s advice to “listen for the whispers” and “look in the shadows” to learn nature’s deepest lessons.
Combining his signature lively storytelling and careful observations of nature, Apps draws on a lifetime of experiences, from his earliest years growing up on a central Wisconsin farm to his current ventures as gardener, tree farmer, and steward of wetlands, prairies, and endangered Karner blue butterflies. He also takes inspiration from the writings of Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard, Henry David Thoreau, Sigurd Olson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir, Barbara Kingsolver, Wendell Berry, Richard Louv, and Rachel Carson. With these eloquent essays, Jerry Apps reminds us to slow down, turn off technology, and allow our senses to reconnect us to the natural world. For it is there, he writes, that “I am able to return to a feeling I had when I was a child, a feeling of having room to stretch my arms without interfering with another person, a feeling of being a small part of something much larger than I was, and I marvel at the idea.”
About the Author
Jerry Apps has worked as a rural historian and environmental writer for forty eight years. For ten years he wrote a weekly column on nature appreciation for several central Wisconsin newspapers. He has written many books on nature and environmental topics, including Old Farm: A History, The Quiet Season: Remembering Country Winters, and Garden Wisdom: Lessons Learned from 60 Years of Gardening. In 2012, Wisconsin Public Television produced the hour-long documentary A Farm Story with Jerry Apps. He and his wife, Ruth, divide their time between their home in Madison and their farm, Roshara, near Wild Rose.
...his memoirs are what for me rise to, if not greatness, then at least exceptional goodness, putting Apps in the company of our region's finest nature writers: Sigurd Olson, August Derleth, Ben Logan, John Hildebrand and, dare I say, Aldo Leopold...These essays...radiate simplicity, one of the most complicated things for a writer to do. You can pretty much open the book at random and read something beautiful...Apps is what his father taught him to be: a thorough and thoughtful observer of the natural world. He describes not just Wisconsin, where he grew up and still lives, dividing his time between Madison and his farm in Waushara County, but other favorite haunts, including the Boundary Waters and Yukon Island in Alaska. He [Apps] describes the wildflowers he loves, the animals he watches, the nature writers who inspire him, the family excursions he cherishes. He makes the natural world palpable, as when he tells of how “dew hung heavy on the grass, the little beads of moisture reflecting the first rays of the sun as it climbed above the eastern horizon,” or his evocation of wood smoke as “a primitive smell rich with history and memory.” (Bill Lueders, Wisconsin State Journal)
His narrative voice is immediately familiar, like that of a gentle grandfather who smells of wood smoke and wears long-sleeve shirts year-round. His lively storytelling, anchored by exquisite attention to detail, profound discovery and an obvious passion for his subject, make this a pleasure to read — even if your idea of convening with nature is mowing the lawn once a week.(Michael Popke, Isthmus Magazine)
Exceptionally well written, deftly organized, impressively presented, Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist's Memoir is a superbly crafted series of absorbing essays that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf. (Paul T. Vogel, Midwest Book Review, October 2015)