In the 1950s, naturalist and writer Edwin Way Teale made a series of car trips with his wife Nellie across the U.S. from north to south and east to west. Along the way, Teale recorded his encounters with researchers, other naturalists, scientists, and particularly with the wildlife, both plant and animal, of the American countryside. The stories of these trips were published as a series of titles set around the seasons. In this entry in the series, Teale and his wife travel from Franconia Notch in New Hampshire to Pike’s Peak, Colorado, following the progression of the summer season. Along the way, the pair encounter birds, plants, flowers, insects, mammals, and reptiles and amphibians of all sorts. The book is filled with short vignettes of the Teales’s interactions with the abundant plants and animals along their 19,000 mile trek. Teale had an abiding interest in the “why” of things. His writings are filled with short essays on topics as diverse as “Why grass is not killed by mowing” and “Temperature and the flashing of fireflies.” In addition to his portraits of bobolinks, lemonweed, and fireflies, Teale also reports on the people he meets along the way. All of these people share Teale’s passion for wildlife and for the outdoors. The writing is both detailed and charming, and Teale’s informal style is well suited to his subjects.
Sadly, much of what Teale writes about is gone, the flora and fauna having succumbed to the pressures of development and expansion of towns and cities. It is hard to read these books without a sense of something important having been lost over the last 50 years. Nonetheless, it is worth going back to read these witty and lovingly crafted pieces. Perhaps they are the best argument to preserve what wild spaces we currently have left to us.
Check the WRL catalog for Journey into Summer