Author: John Bates
Illustrations: Terry Daulton
Softcover, 6 x 9 inches, 288 pages, illustrated
Manitowish River Press, 2008
Graced by the Seasons: Fall and Winter serves as a "Volume 2" to A Northwoods Companion: Spring and Summer, and offers a detailed and fascinating picture of the orderly timing and progression of natural events written for people who want a deeper understanding of all of nature. The book is chock full of phenological highlights and is organized so the reader who wants to study nature's coming attractions or plan a northern vacation can anticipate what will be blooming, crawling, singing, migrating, or croaking in any particular month.
Winner of the Ellis/Henderson Award for Outdoor Writing, Council for WI Writers
Mr. Bates' book is a 400-page compendium of entries from a column he's been writing for the Lakeland Times in Minocqua. Each entry is about a sighting or observation or anecdote from the north woods. He writes about everything from the alignment of the slar system to the call of the indigo bunting to the fury of the hundred-year storm. His prose is workmanlike but friendly; his observations are always interesting. I felt, reading the book, that I was getting wiser and more knowledgeable with every paragraph, so that every page felt like a gift to me. Much of the nature writing I encounter these days seems to be ultimately about the writer, a glimpse into his or her interesting mind. But with John Bates I feel the opposite, tht he genuinely treasures the outdoor world he writes about - and what at pleasure it is to see him disappear into his topic, until we are alone with the crickets and flowers - an apotheosis all writers ought to hope for.
--Michael Finley, Contest Judge
In appetizing, informative bits and pieces, Bates drops intriguing scientific morsels on every page without being the least bit stuffy or confusing about it. Though not shy about offering an opinion on controversial issues, he typically delivers a classroom lecture while the reader is largely oblivious that school is in session. High school biology class was never so interesting or entertaining.
--Jim Lee, Appleton Post-Crescent
A naturalist with an inquisitive mind, keen observation skills and unbounded enthusiasm for the outdoors, John Bates inspires his audience to relish the change of seasons in the Northwoods. His latest volume is a phenological collection of nature notes that leads readers through northern Wisconsin from March ice-out, through the height of the avian concert season in late May, on to peak berry time in August.
His exhaustive research answers the why's and how's of nature balanced by his simple philosophy, like this explanation of how humans fit into the puzzle of nature: "Maybe the most important thing to do is to remember that we are members of a biological community, and when we sign our names on our properties with chainsaws, lawnmowers, and the like, we are demonstrating what that membership means to us. Of all the membership cards we carry in our wallet, possibly none is more important than our God-given membership in the natural world.
--Kathryn Kahler, Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine
Bates takes on the role of "phenologist" to keep records of where and when events happen such as the first robin returning, the first ice out and the first mosquito buzzing. But he also goes beyond that to try and understand the whole array of relationships between living organisms and the non-living physical environment.
Bates is a trailside botanist who knows how to teach without forgetting the outdoors is also a place for relaxing and recreating.
--Mike Ivey, Madison Capital Times
Each excerpt from Graced by the Seasons is meaty enough to offer some food for the mind to mull over, and presents enough optimism about the human relationship with the natural world, that the book becomes a daily devotional for the nature lover's soul.
--Debbie Munson, The Lakeland Times