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If there can be any solace from the year 2020, from its viral and political plagues, from its injustice and acrimony, I’ll probably find it somewhere outside in nature and in the sanctity of ideas and the written word.

Which is why I’m finding respite in the pages of the newly published Vermont Almanac, which I suggest you buy right away (even if you don’t live in Vermont).

Whether you are connected to the working land, to wild places or even merely to your own backyard, you probably agree that there is little more real, more precious, than our being in those places. A book is hardly the only proxy for being there, but it can be a damned good proxy. And in this era of the glowing screen, this time of distraction, the Vermont Almanac, a testament to slowing down, is next best thing to being there.

Yes, this is an actual almanac of a year, month by month, in the life of natural events and the human experience. For December an essay on the slow falling to earth of a treasured basswood, for example, and a lesson in how to get a pig down a set of stairs. For January a meditation on sharpening a chainsaw and a portrait of wild winter bird seed. And those dispatches are but fractions of the Vermont Almanac’s offerings for those two months.

In these 286 pages you will find poetry and photography, bears and butterflies, timber and syrup, and recipes for everything from compost to bear grease to wild turkey. But mostly, every month, you will find time to read and dwell and think … away from those glowing screens.

The almanac is brought to you by one of the founders of Northern Woodlands magazine, Virginia Barlow, and two of its former writers and editors, Dave Mance III and Patrick White. They have assembled a community of other writers who care about the land and its rewards.

In the Vermont Almanac, the word pandemic occurs 21 times (including in my own essay about not finding little brown butterflies at spruce bogs in May). But the words hope, future, light and health occur more than a hundred times combined. And I can think of fewer better words than those as we reflect on 2020 and look onward toward 2021. Check it out »

Elsewhere in Print

Safe as Lightning

Among the many other treasures on my reading list this year and next are this debut collection of poems from Scudder Parker. At various points in his life, Scudder was or still is a Protestant minister, an activist and organizer for justice, a Vermont state senator, an energy policy expert, a hard-core gardener and a friend of mine. That alone would make him worth reading. But his prose — elegant, humorous, bound to nature and the many dimensions of the human character — make Scudder a true poet; he thinks and speaks in ways that the rest of us cannot. Purchase your copy »

My Tribute to Field Guides

If you must buy more things for people this season, here is my exaltation of the field guide as a means for learning nature, my case against nature apps for your gadget. Hardly a polemic against electronics, this essay and buyer's guide will reveal how you can find harmony and greater learning and discovery on the printed page. Find your guides »

  1. georgeann kuhl says:

    Thanks again, Bryan. I find myself breathing easier when I read your beautiful offerings. Peace and Joy to you for the new year!

  2. Robyn Cook-Hubner says:

    Bryan, you are the highlight of my pandemic coping strategy! thanks so much.

  3. I’m sure I speak for many when I say that your writing and photos have been an oasis for me this year for which I am deeply grateful. I’ve enjoyed sharing your work with my wife and daughter as well. Thank you, Brian. You make a wonderful difference!

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