AN ALMANAC FOR MODERNS is a collection of essays on Nature entered journal-fashion, one for each day of the year. Some of the essays are complete on a single page, while others run on for several pages. At the time the book was being written, Peattie was living in Illinois, at the childhood home of his wife. Like Gilbert White, he has written a natural history of his own American Selborne, but unlike White, he observes Nature with the eye of a trained scientist, bringing into his book the accumulated scientific knowledge of the twentieth century. It is for this reason that the book is an almanac “for Moderns.” Modern science has answered many questions since White’s time and—what is more important—it has provoked more questions than it has answered, questions which could not possibly have occurred to the serene, clerical mind of Gilbert White.
The almanac is filled with descriptions of local plants and animals, with now and then a glance at the stars and planets. Although Peattie has a naturalist’s eye for all living things, his observations on plants, birds, insects, and amphibians seem to outnumber all the others. Each description is a gem of scientific accuracy plus poetic insight. Epithets and similes abound: “that tombstone world,” the moon; the “cold batrachian jelly” which unites us with the amphibians; the “silky, silvery and perpetually talkative needles” of the white pine; the “click of a seed in a...
(The entire section is 1379 words.)
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