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.
“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.
Sept. 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
Shakespeare aficionados and neophytes alike can relax among the lush vegetation and sound of crickets at Ryerson Woods on August 1, 2 and 3 when Citadel Theatre performs “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” outdoors.
“The hour-long performance is perfect for those who already know and love Shakespeare as well as those who want to enjoy theater in a beautiful setting,” said Heather Meyers, the show’s production manager. “It’s a great introduction to Shakespeare, and we’re making it accessible to a modern audience.”
All the audience needs is a blanket or lawn chair, and a picnic if they like, as they watch a fully costumed production of Shakespeare’s bewitching tale of fairies, enchanted forests, and of course, lost lovers.
“The show has a little bit of everything: comedy, love and romance, mistaken identity, chase scenes, the magic of the fairies. It will be fun to watch,” said Meyers.
Sophie Twichell, Executive Director of Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, said she encourages families to attend. “Because it’s only an hour long, and because of all the fun characters in the play, it is a wonderful introduction to magic of theater,” said Twichell. “Attendees will revel in the outdoor experience, which ends just before sunset.”
Brushwood Center, along with the Lake County Forest Preserves, is partnering with Citadel Theatre (based in Lake Forest) for the first time to present outdoor theater at Ryerson Woods.
“This is our first outdoor Shakespeare theater ever, and we’re happy to be doing it at Ryerson Woods,” Meyers said. Meyers said the actors are being directed by one of the best: Frank Farrell, a Chicago director and actor.
“Bringing Shakespeare to Brushwood Center furthers our mission of nurturing art, nature and discovery,” Twichell said. “We are thrilled to be partnering with a theater company based right here in Lake County.”
Tickets are available for three shows beginning at 6:30 p.m., August 1, 2 and 3. Pre-registration is recommended. Registration deadline is July 31. In the case of inclement weather, the production will be held indoors, with limited seating available.
For more information and to obtain tickets, call 847.968.3321 or visit www.brushwoodcenter.org. Brushwood Center is located at: 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL 60015.
About Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods
Through innovative arts programs presented against a backdrop of stately woods where pre-settlement flora and fauna still linger, Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods seeks to build an environmental ethic in our region by offering multiple points of entry for the public to connect with nature. Brushwood Center is a nonprofit organization.
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.
Floyd 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.
Thomas 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.
Merel 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 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.
Glenn 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 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.
To curate Brushwood Center’s latest art exhibition Avian Spirits, Franck Mercurio began with a famous Emily Dickinson quote: “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers.”
“I used that as a starting point, how artists have been inspired by birds,” said Mercurio. He has gathered more than 40 pieces created by 14 artists, which include paintings, sculptures and photography for the exhibition that opens July 13.
The works will not only grace the walls of Brushwood Center in Riverwoods, but the scenic forested outdoors as well. Painted directly on the front lawn with environmentally safe products will be a work reflecting bird migration by the collaborative DOEprojekts. On the back lawn, visitors can view an unusual installation by Annette Barbier of waterfowl, feeding as they do with their bottoms up.
“I wanted to create something whimsical and explore why we give human characteristics to birds,” said Mercurio. “I chose artists who use bird imagery as metaphors for the human spirit.”
The Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods creates a theme each year used to unite its programs. This year, the theme is Extinction/Survival. Mercurio curated an art exhibition at Brushwood Center in spring entitled, Facing Extinction. “It was all about artists who respond to human-caused extinction and what people are trying to do to ensure survival,” he said.
“Avian Spirits is intended to be lighter, more whimsical, more hopeful,” he said. “I want to have some accessible works for the audience as well as some challenging works, and strike a balance.”
One artist he chose is Molly Cranch, who creates colorful oil paintings of birds. “The imagery is really accessible. You can tell what types of birds they are, but there’s an anthropomorphic quality to the birds. They are almost human-like in their expressions,” Mercurio said.
The outdoor lawn painting might need a bit more explanation, he said. Labels will be placed with the installation to explain the symbols that relate to bird migration.
In addition, artist and Brushwood Center staffer Julia Kemerer created a series of wearable sculptures featuring extinct and endangered species. She collaborated with photographer Helen Maurene Cooper to showcase them being worn.
What brings all these art works together is how the artists have responded to “our affinities with birds in different ways, but often with whimsy, humor, and joy,” Mercurio said. “Avian Spirits aims to celebrate our relationships with birds.”
Avian Spirits opens July 13 and runs through August 31. The show is free and open to the public during regular Brushwood Center hours. A free opening reception will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. July 13. Mercurio will present a tour of the exhibition on August 23, preceding the 2014 Film Festival in the Woods, an annual outdoor film festival hosted by Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods.
Participating artists include:
Sarah Belknap and Joseph Belknap
Helen Maurene Cooper
DOEprojekts (Deborah & Glenn Doering)
For more information, visit www.brushwoodcenter.org. Brushwood Center is located at: 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL 60015.
The exhibition is part of the extinction |survival series of public programs being offered by Brushwood Center over the course of 2014. The series seeks to promote a broader understanding of extinction and species survival. We’re exploring why extinction happened in the past and why it continues today, as well as celebrating success stories. Programs include book talks, art exhibitions, lectures and film screenings that will run throughout 2014.
About Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods
Through innovative programs presented against a backdrop of stately woods where pre-settlement flora and fauna still linger, Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods seeks to build an environmental ethic in our region by offering multiple points of entry for the public to connect with nature. Brushwood Center is a nonprofit organization.
BRUSHWOOD CENTER HOURS:
Monday to Thursday: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Sunday: 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Or by appointment: 847.968.3308.
Avian Spirits is partially sponsored by a grant from:
Join us for a celebration of the Summer Solstice. Watch the sun set over beautiful Middlefork Savanna while mingling with like-minded nature lovers on the patio of a private Lake Forest home with a truly breathtaking view. The evening will include a presentation by Jim Anderson, manager of the Natural Resources Division of the Lake County Forest Preserves. He’ll share information on the extensive work being done to restore this incredibly rare and beautiful tallgrass savanna – a gem in our community! Beer, wine, refreshments and hors d’oeuvres will be served.
The Birds of America: The Bien Chromolithographic Edition
When Joel Oppenheimer recognizes a bird, it’s not because he’s a birder, but rather because the renowned art dealer has been intimately acquainted with the quintessential avian paintings of John James Audubon for decades.
Now, Oppenheimer, one of the country’s foremost authorities on Audubon, has produced and written “The Birds of America: The Bien Chromolithographic Edition.” Oppenheimer has written text to complement the first complete reproduction of the Bien chromolithographs: 150 full-color illustrations in facsimile form of “The Birds of America,” which Audubon painted more than 150 years ago.
Oppenheimer, a Chicago-based art dealer and art conservator, will give a free talk about this seminal project at 7:30 p.m., June 18 at Brushwood Center, 21850 Riverwoods Road, Riverwoods, Illinois.
Through his seven years of research and working with publisher, W.W. Norton and Co., Oppenheimer discovered some intriguing information, not so much about John James Audubon himself, but about his wife, Lucy, and their son, John Woodhouse Audubon.
After Audubon’s death, his son commissioned Julius Bien in 1858 to produce a new edition of his father’s works with a revolutionary chromolithographic process that omitted the painstaking steps of hand coloring each piece as had been done previously.
The family still owned the original paintings and all the original copper plates.
“The family put everything into this,” Oppenheimer said. “Lucy Audubon mortgaged their estate to finance the project. When the Civil War came, however, the project could not be completed and the family suffered a devastating bankruptcy.” Audubon’s original watercolors were sold to the New-York Historical Society in 1863.
Only 150 plates were produced in the Bien collection. They are among the rarest and most sought-after Audubon prints. When Oppenheimer secured a complete folio of the Bien collection about eight years ago, he was inspired to produce the new book.
“There was something about the quality of this printing that captured my imagination,” he said. “In previous writings, the Bien edition had been cast aside and much maligned as being a poor quality reproduction. I bought this set and it was an exquisite example of chromolithography and Audubon’s work.”
Oppenheimer said his new book “is a very specific treatment of one particular edition of Audubon’s work that had never been examined in depth at a scholarly level. There’s a lot of new information in the book, a lot of discovery from original research.”
The June 18 event is presented through a partnership between Brushwood Center and Lake County Forest Preserves. A limited number of books will be available for purchase ($350) and signing. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Brushwood Center. To reserve your copy in advance, call 847.968.3308. Registration is required. To register, call 847.968.3321.
WHEN: 7:30pm, Wednesday, June 18
WHERE: Brushwood Center, 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL
Registration required. To register, call 847.968.3321.
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.
Although it may seem that winter will never let go of its tight grip, the forests and fields of Lake County are about to bloom with force. Spring is here despite the dusting of snow and below freezing nights. Over the next month, many wildflowers will poke out of the leaf litter and continue their cycle of life. Many of these flowers have very short adult lives, often only living for a brief amount of time. These spring ephemerals are an exciting part of our local ecology, but we are not the first generation to take note of their beauty and usefulness. Native american tribes, as well as the first European settlers, used the flowers both medicinally and spiritually. Although you may recognize the spring beauty or bleeding heart, there is a storied past behind each spring flower.
One of the first flowers to show itself after the snow melts is spring beauty (Claytonia virginica). The flower of each plant is open for an average of three days, and within that time it is pollinated by a plethora of insects. It is the perhaps the most abundant flower seen during the spring as it grows in a variety of habitats. Many woodland Indians used spring beauty as an immediate food source after long winters. The root is a tuber and is said to have a nutty flavor. The leaves were also eaten.
Perhaps one of the most commonly seen spring flowers is the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). It is a weed, growing in backyards, along roads and everywhere in between. The flower is actually made of hundreds of florets, each being pollinated during the dandelion’s life. The dandelion has a fascinating history and has been associated with humans as early as 300 BC. Both the Europeans as well as many American Indian tribes, including the Potawatomi and Ojibwa, have used the dandelion for myriad medicinal purposes. The leaves of the plant have diuretic properties and can be used in salads or tea. Native Americans used the plant in order to help ailments such as kidney disease and swelling. Today, specialty winery’s still make dandelion wine from the flowers.
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) may already be up in the forests, as they are also one of the early bloomers. The plant gets its name from the “sap” it expels when the rhizome, or root section, is sliced. It is in fact not sap, but a form of latex. This plant, like many spring ephemerals, follows the Doctrine of Signatures, which states that plants were most useful through association. Because the plant secretes this red liquid, it was thought that it could cure blood related illness. The reddish liquid that comes out of the plant, in fact, had many uses by both settlers and Indians. Due to its strong color, it was used for dyes, both in painting one’s body as well as for coloring baskets and decoration. Bloodroot also has many medicinal properties. It was used to stop bleeding, treat the symptoms of fever and cure a sore throat. The Winnebago tribe used Bloodroot as a digestive aid and a way to sooth a toothache.
These are just some of the early spring flowers that will be showing up at Ryerson Woods and other local woodlands. Please remember that you cannot extract anything from the woods, so just enjoy the intrinsic beauty of the flowers. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, which will feature flowers during the later portion of the bloom. Spring is here, go enjoy it!
This blog post was written by Luke Buckardt, who assists Brushwood Center with social media. Luke graduated from Northland College in 2012 with a degree in biology. He grew up in Riverwoods and has roamed Ryerson Woods since he was young, knowing the preserve intimately.
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.
Yesterday, 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(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.
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.
Another 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
One 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.
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
On the heels of the release of his highly anticipated second edition of The Sibley Guide to Birds, David Sibley will speak and sign books from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., April 9 at Ryerson Woods. The book talk will take place in the Welcome Center, 21950 Riverwoods Road, Riverwoods, IL. The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required.
Sibley, preeminent birder, author and illustrator, will talk about his work to expand and update his bird guide published in 2000. The second edition, just released, offers new paintings, new and rare species and copious updated information sure to astound bird lovers of all levels. The second edition also includes nearly 7,000 paintings, and all illustrations reproduced 15 to 20 percent larger for better detail.
Sibley will talk about his research out in the field and in museums to gather information he said has made his second edition more accurate and more useful to birders. The cover features the Magnolia Warbler, a bird Sibley recalls seeing first when his father, ornithologist Fred Sibley, banded it near the Point Reyes Bird Observatory in California. It’s one of many birds that will be migrating through the Chicago and suburban area in May.
Sibley’s book has been called “the finest guide to North American birds.” He is a contributing editor to BirdWatching Magazine and author and illustrator of many other books about birds. He last visited Ryerson Woods as keynote speaker of the 2003 Smith Nature Symposium. He spoke to a sold-out crowd.