Making Memories in Nature
By Dylan Tomine with Illustrations by Nikki McClure
Patagonia Books, $29.95, 264 pages
Writer Dylan Tomine recounts his family’s experiences being connected to the land at their home on an island in Puget Sound, Washington throughout the seasons. The book is organized by season, opening appropriately with new beginnings in the spring. Dylan, his wife, Stacy, and two children, Skyla and Weston, make an effort to glean what they can from their natural surroundings despite not being “off the grid.” They garden, chop wood, forage for mushrooms, fish, crab, and sweat through the hard work of including oysters and clams on their dinner table. As a father, Dylan stresses to his children the importance of knowing where they live and understanding the elements of nature that can be found in their neighborhood, be they types of trees or species of birds. Beautifully enhanced by minimalist paper-cut art from Nikki McClure, Closer to the Ground is about being warm and being cold, getting dirty and getting clean, and most important, being rewarded with the fruits of one’s labor. Feeling the warmth of fire is only possible because of dad’s backbreaking work splitting and hauling wood. Enjoying a plentiful and varied dinner is possible only because mom tends her garden and the kids help their dad forage, fish, clam and crab. In the end, however, it does not matter if the family caught any fish or found any mushrooms. What matters is that they tried together.
Reviewed by Michael Barton