Opening up the "Great Nothing"

I wrote “Deadly Trespass” to entice readers onto a field trip, a journey into a rich and threatened world. I want to be a writer-guide who’s also firmly in a story-teller tradition. Someone who has folks lean too close to the fire on a dark night and say, “Don’t stop. What happens next?”

In “Deadly Trespass,” the narrator, Patton, thinks some city folks see natural vastness as the “Great Nothing.” Not so.

To that end, I want to share things that make “getting out there” easier, better, and more meaningful.

This time it’s author and naturalist Dorcas Miller’s “Track Finder, A Guide to Mammal Tracks of Eastern North America.” This small book (fits any pocket) has helped me figure out tracks that disappeared up into trees, were mingled as a large, obviously fun party in mud, or just a slight hint of paws in the snow.

Officially it is a “pocket guide to mammal tracks, for identifying tracks in mud or snow. It includes keys to print shapes and track patterns, discussion of scat and other signs, habitat information, range maps, and drawings of the animals and their tracks. The guide covers the eastern half of U.S. and Canada.

This small treasure has opened up forests, fields, shores, and thickets to me. Children and beginning trackers will find it easy to use; experienced folks will marvel at the efficiency of Miller's simple classification systems as well as the delicate drawings by Cherie Hunter Day.

Pick one up and enjoy!