Home is where the compost is

  • ISTOCK; JOHN PITCHER
  • Sky Time in Gray's River: Living for Keeps in a Forgotten Place

 

Robert Michael Pyle has synthesized three decades of life in a small community in southwest Washington into this exquisite portrait of place. Each chapter of Sky Time in Gray’s River represents a month of the year in Gray’s River Valley; each brims with vivid moments and vignettes.

Pyle, a renowned butterfly expert, has 14 books to his credit and a regular column in Orion magazine. This down-to-earth book hums with the details of country living, the intersection of the wild with the domestic: A coyote ventures near Pyle’s house, bees reside in his walls, he excavates a wood-rat nest in the attic.

Pyle delights in phenology, declaring that “the progression of seasons as told by its animal and plant appearances” is the ideal way to know a place’s heart. His pages are alive with the seasonal arrivals and departures of birds, insects and blooms, and shifts in what the animals, trees and neighbors are doing.

Although the details are striking, the book as a whole sometimes feels formless, as if the chapters are not quite knitted together. At its best, though, Sky Time follows in the tradition of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. Pyle’s observations often harbor a lively humor, as in how he came to hold “a record king salmon in a slimy bearhug.”

Pyle’s engagement with phenomena such as compost piles and copulating slugs alerts us to wonder’s quiet residence in the ordinary. The book opens and ends in the compost heap, and compost is an appropriate metaphor for the mindful living committed to his home-place that shines throughout the book: “My daily walk to the compost heap is the closest thing I know to sacrament.”

Sky Time inspires us to look for possibilities of grace close to home. Pyle’s unusual backyard sighting of a rustic bunting (far from its Siberian breeding range) happens two years in a row. The bird’s return reminds us of the “sweetness of chance in any place, and the certainty of wonder in all places.”


Sky Time in Gray’s River: Living for Keeps in a Forgotten Place

Robert Michael Pyle

256 pages, hardcover: $20.

Houghton Mifflin, 2007.

High Country News Classifieds
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Mountain Lion Foundation is seeking an Executive Director. Please see our website for further information - mountainlion.org/job-openings
  • WASHINGTON DC REPRESENTATIVE
    Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Washington, DC Position Reports to: Program Director The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) is seeking a Washington, DC Representative...
  • REGIONAL CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER
    Position Title: Regional Campaign Organizers (2 positions) Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Preferred Billings, MT; remote location within WORC's region (in or near Grand Junction...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....