Ryerson Reads celebrates 10 years

Ryerson Reads 1491

New season starts September 10

For 10 years, book lovers with an interest in ecology have enjoyed lively discourse at a unique book club held at Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods. The 11th season starts this fall.

Longtime participant Dick Ettlinger of Highland Park said the leader Ben Goluboff guides the group in a thought-provoking way that stimulates fascinating discussions. Goluboff is a professor of English at Lake Forest College.

“He asks questions and invites responses,” Ettlinger said. “He gets the discussion going. He doesn’t want to make a lecture out of it.”

Goluboff said that’s his intent: To invite comments and encourage readers to delve into issues and themselves.

“I really try to make it a dialogue, like a good literature class,” he said.

One of Goluboff’s selections this season is Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition by Robert Pogue Harrison.

Ben Goluboff - Ryerson Reads
Ben Goluboff, a professor of English at Lake Forest College, leads the Ryerson Reads book discussions.

“This is a powerful book, a delightful, challenging wonderful book, “Goluboff said. Participants will likely discuss whether the author is truly talking about gardens or something else, he said.

Over the years, Goluboff has been fascinated and excited about what participants say and observe about themselves and the environment.

“One book, The Creation by E.O. Wilson, elicited a wide-ranging discussion,” he said. “One participant talked about how Wilson’s writing caused her to re-examine her faith,” he said.

“I thought that was extraordinary. It makes people around the table recognize the power of the writer. It’s been one of the many experiences in my life that reminds me how literature can make a big difference in peoples’ lives.”

Brushwood Center Executive Director Sophie Twichell said, “We are thrilled Ryerson Reads has thrived for 10 years. This is a truly wonderful way to discuss literature in a beautiful setting with a thoughtful, knowledgeable and well-read leader.”

Copies of the books chosen for the 2014/15 season of Ryerson Reads will be set aside and available at the Deerfield Public Library, 920 Waukegan Road as well as the Vernon Area Public Library, 300 Olde Half Day Road, Lincolnshire. Books are also available for purchase at the Lake Forest Book Store. Limited copies are on hand at Brushwood Center. The fee is $15 per session, $10 for Brushwood Center members. The entire series is $45 or $30 for members. Discussions are held from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. on the dates below.

Ryerson_Reads_Fall_2014_final_frontSept. 10, 2014:            When the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle
Nov. 12, 2014:             The Paradise of Bombs by Scott Russell Sanders
Jan. 14, 2015:              The Last Animal by Abby Geni
Mar. 11, 2015:             Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition by Robert                                                                Pogue Harrison

To register for Ryerson Reads or for more information, call 847.968.3308 or visit http://www.brushwoodcenter.org/Programs/Discovery/RyersonReads.html.

Brushwood Center is located at: 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL 60015.  www.brushwoodcenter.org.

 

Ryerson Reads is partially sponsored by a grant from:

Rosborough

 

 

 

WHAT TO READ: Identifying Plants

Glenn Adelson, PhD, leading an Introduction to Botany class at Ryerson Woods in the spring of 2014.
Glenn Adelson, PhD, leading an Introduction to Botany class at Ryerson Woods in the spring of 2014.

We recently invited our friend and frequent nature seminar instructor Glenn Adelson, chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Lake Forest College, to share his favorite books for identifying plants in our region.  Here are four books he recommends you have on your bookshelf and with you in the field to get familiar with our region’s flora.

 

PCRjacket_blowupFloyd Swink and Gerould Wilhelm, Plants of the Chicago Region, 4 ed.

We are very lucky to have a book like this dedicated to our region. The habitat and plant associates information is essential. It will be frustrating for a beginner to try to key plants out, but it is well worth the effort to learn. Make ample use of the glossary while learning.

 

Sunflower-FamilyThomas Antonio and Susanne Masi, The Sunflower Family in the Upper Midwest

The Compositae (also correctly called the Asteraceae) is the flowering plant family with the most species in flower in our area in the summer and fall. This book provides an easy to use set of symbols, based upon inflorescence color and presence or absence of disc and ray flowers to get you to the species you’re trying to figure out. Excellent photographs and nice natural history essays.

 

wildflowers_of_wisconsin_and_the_great_lakes_region_by_merel_black_emmet_judziewicz_0299230538Merel Black and and Emmet Judziewicz, Wildflowers of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes Region

A very good companion to Swink and Wilhelm, as you can often talk yourself into believing you have the right plant when using a key. I often check the pictures and descriptions in Black and Judziewicz immediately after keying out a plant in Swink and Wilhelm, because it’s far more difficult to talk yourself into a mistaken identification when you have a picture in front of you.

 

Carol Gracie - Spring WildflowersCarol Gracie, Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast

An astonishingly beautiful and deeply researched book treating many of our woodland spring wildflowers. Its strength is the amount of depth given to each species it treats, which leads, of course to its weakness, which is how few species are accommodated. The macro photography is the best I’ve ever seen in a botany book.

 

IMG_8376Glenn will be teaching “Flora of the Autumn Prairie” this fall.  Classes will meet three consecutive Tuesday evenings (5:30-7:30pm) starting September 9. Participants will explore the profusion of yellow and purple wildflowers dominating the late summer prairie. We’ll learn plant biology, as we investigate the wide range of aster, goldenrod, mint and sunflower species, as well as the prairie grasses.  We’ll also explore the relationship between plants and their environments. Includes field trips to other preserves.  To register, click here (scroll down to Sept. 9).  Glenn will also be teaching a nature seminar on “Endangered Species & Endangered Languages” in October.

 

 

Glenn Adelson leading a Summer Flora class in summer 2014.
Glenn Adelson leading a Summer Flora class for Brushwood Center in summer 2014.

Glenn Adelson is the chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Lake Forest College, Chicago’s national liberal arts college. He teaches several field botany courses, as well as Evolution, Ecology, and Environment; Endangered Species and Endangered Languages; The Environmental Connections between Chicago and New Orleans; Introduction to Environmental Studies; Troubled World Geography; Botanical Imperialism; and Poetry and Nature. Glenn taught for fifteen years at Harvard University, where he became the only Harvard teacher to twice win the campus-wide Levenson Award for teaching. Glenn has a Ph.D. in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School.

Learn Spring Wildflowers

Close up of wild geranium from Ryerson Woods.
Close up of wild geranium from Ryerson Woods.

NATURE SEMINAR

LEARN SPRING WILDFLOWERS . . . ALL THE

MERRY MONTH OF MAY

 Tuesdays, May 6-27, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Join Glenn Adelson, chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Lake Forest College, for this nature seminar that focuses on learning all about our spring wildflowers.  We’ll learn plant biology, as we walk the woods searching for trout lily, trillium, hepatica, wood anemone, marsh marigold, spring beauty, wild geranium and more.  We’ll also explore the relationship between plants and their environments. Four sessions. Dress appropriately for walking in the preserve.

WHEN:             Tuesdays (May 6, 13, 20 & 27), 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. 

COST:              $250 ($225 Brushwood Center members)

LOCATION:   Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd.,                                          Riverwoods, IL   

Registration required. Click here to register or call 847.968.3308.

In honor of Earth Day, some thoughts on environmental literature by Ben Goluboff

A dense "Atlantic White Cedar swamp" in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. These habitats are characterized primarily by dense stands of Chamaecyparis thyoides, which grow tall and narrow in close proximity to one another. Image by Famartin from Wikipedia.
A dense “Atlantic White Cedar swamp” in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. These habitats are characterized primarily by dense stands of Chamaecyparis thyoides, which grow tall and narrow in close proximity to one another. Photo by Famartin from Wikipedia.

 

by Ben Goluboff

Sophie Twichell was kind enough to invite me to submit a blog post for Brushwood Center, and to share, in anticipation of Earth Day, some thoughts on Environmental Literature. Even though this means tearing myself away from Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary, a book I find extraordinarily compelling, I am more than happy to do so.

Founding Fish coverYesterday, in the company of a room full of students who were polite enough to act interested, I indulged myself in a medium-long digression on the environmental writing of John McPhee, whose The Founding Fish (2002) veterans of Ryerson Reads will remember as a natural and cultural history of the American Shad. McPhee, I wanted my students to understand, is the environmentally-inclined member of a group of writers remembered now as Sixties New Journalists. These writers, in response among other things to the Vietnam-era distrust of government and media, produced non-fiction prose that abandoned traditional journalistic objectivity, in favor of a subjective, sometimes novelistic reportage in which strict fidelity to fact was abandoned. In his Encounters with the Archdruid pine barrens(1971), for example, McPhee joins David Brower, then president of the Sierra Club, and Floyd Dominy, then Comissioner of the U.S.  Bureau of Reclamation, in a rubber raft on the Colorado River not long after the completion of the controversial Glen Canyon Dam.  The dialogue McPhee reports between the conservationist and the dam builder was certainly invented or adapted (the three of them were in the middle of a deafening rapids after all) but nicely dramatizes the clash of two opposing philosophies about the natural word.

Elsewhere, as in his The Control of Nature (1989) and Annals of the Former Word (1998), a collection of his writings on geology, McPhee writes with a more traditional objectivity.  My favorite of his books, and the one I am most interested in re-reading is The Pine Barrens (1968), a survey of the landscape, ecology, history and folkways of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, a wilderness of more than a million acres in one of the most populated corners of the nation. McPhee writes:

The Pine Barrens are so close to New York that on a very

clear night a bright light in the pines would be visible from

the Empire State Building.  A line ruled on a map from Boston

to Richmond goes straight through the Pine Barrens.

The halfway point between Boston and Richmond — the

geographical epicenter of the developing megalopolis —

— is in the northern part of the woods, about twenty

miles from Bear Swamp Hill.

Mullica River in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Photo by Mwanner courtesy of Wikipedia.
Mullica River in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
Photo by Mwanner from Wikipedia.

I am nostalgic about the New Jersey Pine Barrens. As a kid growing up in the seventies, first as a camper then as a counselor at a Quaker-Hippy summer camp in Jersey, I became confirmed as a nature nut on a series of excursions into the pines.

ArcadiaCoverSM-webAnother book on my mind right now is an anthology of very current environmental poetry edited, with G.C. Waldrep, by my wonderful colleague in Lake Forest College’s English Department, Joshua Corey. The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral (2012) is a collection of challenging poems that repurpose the ancient mode of pastoral writing for a moment when not only is the environment in crisis, but when, to the artistic and philosophical imagination, the line between the natural and the man-made has been decisively breached. Corey writes:

 

Postmodern pastoral retains certain allegiances to the

lyric and individual subjectivity while insisting on the

reality of a world whose objects are all equally natural

and therefore equally unnatural. Celebrity websites

and abandoned factories and telenovelas and the New

Jersey Turnpike are all eligible objects of postmodern

pastoral’s dialectical nostalgia, sites in which the human

and the unhuman mix and collide, as much as in any

mountain peak or jungle or wetland.

To learn more about the book, visit: http://arcadiaproject.net

gardensOne of the environmental titles that I am looking forward to reading in the near future we will take up as a group next year at Ryerson Reads. Robert Pogue Harrison, a scholar of Italian literature at Stanford, was first known to me for his powerful work of environmental history, Forests: The Shadow of Civilization (1992).  In his new book, Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition (2008) Harrison offers, as I understand it, not a survey of garden history, but a series of philosophical reflections on what gardens – from Eden to Versailles – reveal about being human both today, in the shadow of environmental collapse, and throughout the long history in which our species has sought beauty, calm, even enlightenment from the artistic manipulation of natural materials.

Let me close by offering Brushwood Center’s readers a small specimen of my own writing – a poem on an environmental theme that is set in a landscape Brushwoood regulars will find familiar.

The Vegetation of Wisconsin

August corn

grows right to the doors

of the Adult Superstore.

Burdock and Mullein

live among the

Ho Chunk burial mounds.

At the Aviation Museum

in Oshkosh,

where they keep a shrine

to the Doolittle raids,

Loosestrife and Chicory

blaze by the parking lot.

A well-kept lawn

covers the landfill.

At its base,

and at a little distance,

they fly the flag.

From the Hamilton Stone Review, Issue #30, Winter-Spring 2014.(http://www.hamiltonstone.org/hsr30.html#poetry).

 

Ben Goluboff - Ryerson Reads
Prof. Ben Goluboff leads the Ryerson Reads book discussions (four per year) for Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods.

Ben Goluboff is a professor of English at Lake Forest College.  He has led vibrant discussions for our RYERSON READS book group for 10 wonderful years.  Here are the selections for the 2014-2015 season. Hope you’ll join us!

Sept. 10, 2014: When the Killings Done by T.C. Boyle

Nov. 12, 2014: The Paradise of Bombs by Scott Russell Sanders

 Jan. 14, 2015: The Last Animal by Abby Geni

Mar. 11, 2015: Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition by Robert Pogue Harrison

 

Poetry & Nature

Image

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, 
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
Emily Dickinson
flourish

NEW NATURE SEMINAR: Poetry & Nature

Interested in learning more about haikus? What about idylls?* What about a deeper appreciation of classic American poets such as Wordsworth, Dickinson, Frost or Sandburg? Brushwood Center is delighted to offer a new seminar on Poetry & Nature.  Taught by Glenn Adelson, chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Lake Forest College, this course explores the long history of poetry and its relationship to the natural world, from its roots in Classical Asian and European poetry to its postmodern manifestations. Understanding the natural processes that served as inspiration and subject matter of nature poetry will enrich your understanding of the poem as work of literature and also the poetry-writing process.  Hope you will join us!

​WHEN:    Tuesdays, January 21 to February 11 (Four sessions), 6:30 – 8:45 p.m.

WHERE:  Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL                   60015

COST:    $250 ($225 Brushwood Center members)

Registration required. Click here to register, or for member discount call 847.968.3321.

* a short poem, descriptive of rustic life, written in the style of Theocritus’ short pastoral poems, the Idylls, according to Wikipedia.
*  *  *

Project Passenger Pigeon – From Billions to None

Artists conception of mural being installed in downtown Cincinnati that features John Ruthven’s mural of passenger pigeons flying over the Cincinnati Zoo in the 1870s.
Artists conception of mural being installed in downtown Cincinnati as part of P3 that features John Ruthven’s mural of passenger pigeons flying over the Cincinnati Zoo in the 1870s.

Do you know about Project Passenger Pigeon (P3)?  It is an international effort to mark the 100th anniversary of the passenger pigeon’s extinction in 2014. Friends of Ryerson Woods is a P3 partner.

The passenger pigeon was once the most abundant bird in North America and likely the world, with a population that likely exceeded a billion as late as 1860. But because it was the cheapest terrestrial protein, it was subjected to unrelenting exploitation that drove it to near extinction by the first few years of the twentieth century when the last wild birds were shot. All that remained were a handful of individuals in captivity, the last of which (Martha) keeled over in her cage at the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914.

Passenger pigeon specimens from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum's collections.
Passenger pigeon specimens from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s collections.

The story of the passenger pigeon has great relevance to us today. There is no better cautionary tale to the proposition that no matter how abundant something is, be it inanimate ―water, oil, etc.―or alive, it can be lost if we are not circumspect in our use. P3 seeks to familiarize the public with the story of the passenger pigeon and then to make the connections with current issues related to extinction and our place in nature. P3 intends to do this through its web-site, social media, curriculum, a book, and a variety of exhibits and programs.  Friends of Ryerson Woods has adopted the centenary as its 2014 theme, and we are developing a rich slate of public programs for 2014 that explore the themes of extinction and species survival.  We are partnering with other Lake County organizations to present a wide range of activities, exhibitions and presentations for you to enjoy throughout the year.

One program you won’t want to miss is a book talk by natural history historian and author Joel Greenberg. Joel has written the first comprehensive book on the passenger pigeon in 50 years.  It is being published by Bloomsbury USA and will be released early in 2014.  We’ve secured Joel for an author event on Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 7pm.  This event will be held at the Greenbelt Cultural Center and is being presented in partnership with Lake County Forest Preserves, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest Open Lands and the Wildlife Discovery Center.  Copies of Joel’s forthcoming book, Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction, will be available for sale and signing.

Filming for the documentary with author Joel Greenberg and senior curator of urban ecology Steve Sullivan of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in the museum collections.
Filming for the documentary with author Joel Greenberg and senior curator of urban ecology Steve Sullivan of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in the museum collections.

The single element that can reach the most people is the documentary being made by director David Mrazek, “From Billions to None.” It is also the most expensive element. As such, P3 recently launched an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign and has already raised $22,000 of its $65,000 goal. These funds will allow for additional animation, trips to significant sites, production assistance, and other important tasks.  We’d love to be able to screen this film for you in 2014.  Would you be interested in supporting the production of this important film?

Here is the link:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/from-billions-to-none-the-passenger-pigeon-s-flight-to-extinction