Klinkenborg also avoids sermonizing, as if he trusts the quality of his noticing to convey its moral undercurrents. Some things he notices especially well: horses, trees, bees, galaxies, words, weather's pivotings. Of a January storm, he writes, ''The falling and blowing snow stole color right out of the air, turning a cardinal in a mock-orange bush into an indistinct rose-gray blob. View all New York Times newsletters. This a brilliant book to dip into for those times when we yearn to shuffle the seasons, sampling what lies ahead or lingering, later than the calendar permits, in a time of year just gone.
In his essays for The Times, I've relished the way Klinkenborg varies the locales of his observations, reporting from southern Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, the Bighorn Mountains. But in book form, this variety sometimes allows his readers to lose touch with the local seasonal thread. A Sonoran Desert February and a February in upstate New York feel too distinct to be compressed into a single chapter. From the opening pages, Klinkenborg's farm emerges as a pivotal part of his story, and I was happiest when he stayed close to it, allowing me to follow his property's ever-changing, weather-inflected moods.
Klinkenborg may not be as deeply involved in agriculture as his Iowa father and grandfather, but he has a superb instinct for how, over the years, a farmer's personality and the character of his land shape each other through a kind of mutual friction. For that reason, I loved watching Klinkenborg at work -- preparing next winter's woodpile, reseeding a pasture, driving fence posts, stacking hay -- and through that labor altering the contours of both his farm and his own view of life.
A ''private watcher of a small patch of ground,'' Klinkenborg doesn't so much describe his world as meditate on it through the fused powers of observation and activity. In a way, he seems to have much in common with the sort of distinguished amateur naturalist who flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. Between the lines, ''The Rural Life'' reads as a paean to the value of the attentive amateur, whose stake has fallen in our age -- an age dominated by scientific specialties and opportunistic ''experts.
Image from page 9 of "Pastoral days; or, Memories of a New… | Flickr
So much so that in a world more tolerant of page reviews, I'd be tempted simply to copy out the whole book right here. As a compromise, let me offer something more measured than a sentence or two, a sample of Klinkenborg's ability to watch the world he's in and then subtly turn that watching outward. The month in question is November:. Dawn swells until noon, and then, after a brief hesitation, twilight takes over. The sun edges around the day like a fox making homeward tracks along the margin of a snow-covered field.
Image from page 145 of "Pastoral days; or, Memories of a New England year" (1881)
Summer, in memory, seems almost like a plain of sunshine, without undulation. There's an astronomical explanation for it all -- the sun cuts a much lower angle across the sky in late autumn and sets farther south.
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You must select a newsletter to subscribe to. This peculiar color of their hair made them quite different from most twins, and led to a great many strange circumstances, some of which are described in this story.
The father of these Twins was Aurelius Pickle, an innocent and good man, who for many years was known as a very skilful chemist. Like many other chemists, he wasted a great deal of time in doing things which did not bring in any money.
For instance, he worked many years on a compound intended to change a person's hair from any color to a rich, dark brown or to a deep and shining auburn, at will. Aurelius Pickle was a poor man, and hence did not have the means for his researches that he desired. He often told his wife that it was fortunate they had Twins with such long hair, for thus he could make all the experiments for the Twofold-tint Compound, which was what he intended to call the hair-coloring fluid on which he was working.
Whenever he made a new kettleful of this, he would try it on the long rich hair of the Twins.
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At last he hit upon two new mixtures, one or the other of which he felt sure would be just the thing. He tried one on the hair of Lulu and the other on that of Zuzu. To his great surprise, the hair of Zuzu became a fine pale green, while that of Lulu turned at the same time to a pale blue, much the color of the ribbons around the neck of a new baby.