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The Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great…

The Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes

by Jerry Dennis

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THE WINDWARD SHORE, by Jerry Dennis.

In this book, Dennis continues his study of the Great Lakes that he began in his very important earlier volume, THE LIVING GREAT LAKES. This time, however, he studies the lakes at a more leisurely pace, and makes it a bit more personal. Dennis, a Michigan native, grew up near Lake Michigan and came back there to raise his family in an old house where he has now lived for nearly a quarter of a century.

An active outdoorsman and sports enthusiast, Dennis sustained a knee injury which forced him to slow down, so he used the time to live in various borrowed homes situated on the shores of the Great Lakes and spent a winter this way. Part of this time was alone, and part with family and friends, but Dennis was pretty consistent about considering, in depth, the history that surrounded him, whether it was in the old copper-mining country on the Keweenaw peninsula, or Cat Head Point at the top of Leelanau County. And, while he had plenty to say about the physical nature of the land - the geology, the botany, the topography and terrain - what I found most interesting here were the books and writers he mentioned, authors he studied to try to get an even better understanding of nature and man's place in it. There was Thoreau, of course, and Henry Beston and Italo Calvino, and also Rousseau, who, after spending a couple months studying botany on a lake island in Switzerland, commented: "I could have spent two years, two centuries, and all of eternity there without a moment's boredom."

Studying these big lakes, the earth and the night sky, Dennis writes: "... all we know for certain about the universe is that it is big. And we are small and temporary."

Reinforcing this theme, he later writes -

"Nature helps us recognize our lives for what they are: small and temporary. That's good. It's a good place to start. We're small, but not insignificant. We're temporary, but we have enough time."

In a leap of imagination that only a booklover could make, Dennis also writes -

"Books are epitomes of nature. If we think of words as organisms - vital, evolving, living within a community - then a book is the ecosystem in which they live, and a library is a world for books. Or, to take a larger measure: a book is a world, a library is a galaxy, and all the libraries together are a universe."

This is not the normal observation one might expect from a naturalist or an environmentalist, or from an avid outdoorsman. And Dennis is all of those. Ah, but he was also an English major, and is now a very fine writer. So of course he loves books.

If you enjoyed THE LIVING GREAT LAKES, then you will most certainly like this book. I did. Highly recommended. ( )
  TimBazzett | Oct 27, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0472118161, Hardcover)

"Our country is lucky to have Jerry Dennis. A conservationist with the soul of a poet whose beat is Wild Michigan, Dennis is a kindred spirit of Aldo Leopold and Sigurd Olson. The Windward Shore---his newest effort---is a beautifully written and elegiac memoir of outdoor discovery. Highly recommended!"
---Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America
"Come for a journey; stay for an awakening. Jerry Dennis loves the Great Lakes, the swell of every wave, the curve of every rock. He wants you to love them too before our collective trashing of them wipes out all traces of their original character. Through his eyes, you will treasure the hidden secrets that reveal themselves only to those who linger and long. Elegant and sad at the same time, The Windward Shore is a love song for the Great Lakes and a gentle call to action to save them."
---Maude Barlow, author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water

"In prose as clear as the lines in a Dürer etching, Jerry Dennis maps his home ground, which ranges outward from the back door of his farmhouse to encompass the region of vast inland seas at the heart of our continent. Along the way, inspired by the company of water in all its guises---ice, snow, frost, clouds, rain, shore-lapping waves---he meditates on the ancient questions about mind and matter, time and attention, wildness and wonder. As in the best American nature writing---a tradition that Dennis knows well---here the place and the explorer come together in brilliant conversation."
---Scott Russell Sanders, author of A Conservationist Manifesto

If you have been enchanted by Jerry Dennis’s earlier work on sailing the Great Lakes, canoeing, angling, and the natural wonders of water and sky—or you have not yet been lucky enough to enjoy his engaging prose—you will want to immerse yourself in his powerful and insightful new book on winter in Great Lakes country.

Grounded by a knee injury, Dennis learns to live at a slower pace while staying in houses ranging from a log cabin on Lake Superior’s Keweenaw Peninsula to a $20 million mansion on the northern shore of Lake Michigan. While walking on beaches and exploring nearby woods and villages, he muses on the nature of time, weather, waves, agates, books, words for snow and ice, our complex relationship with nature, and much more.

From the introduction: “I wanted to present a true picture of a complex region, part of my continuing project to learn at least one place on earth reasonably well, and trusted that it would appear gradually and accumulatively—and not as a conventional portrait, but as a mosaic that included the sounds and scents and textures of the place and some of the plants, animals, and its inhabitants. Bolstered by the notion that a book is a journey that author and reader walk together, I would search for promising trails and follow them as far as my reconstructed knee would allow.”

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:16 -0400)

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