Spiegel & Grau, 288 pages, Published Oct. 24, 2023
New York Times columnist Margaret Renkl delivers a “literary devotional” that calls us to stop … peer … listen … ponder … consider — all as she describes the holiness of creation without religious language or beliefs. In 52 chapters, across a single year, Renkl follows the creatures and vegetation of her Nashville backyard. She sees metaphors for our unsteady nation and planet in the changing seasons and draws more hopeful comparisons with the rhythms of family, as well as personal aging and growth.
As she did with Late Migrations, Renkl collaborates with her brother Billy Renkl, who treats each reflection like an illuminated manuscript, filling an accompanying page with the rich colors of a sumptuous collage-like illustration. She breaks up her reflections with short “praise songs” — poetic bursts celebrating everything from a unique bird to a dog’s nose. There are occasional references to what some might deem “political,” as she observes changing weather patterns, chemically sustained lawns, and animals made sick by “living in a world where people crowd closer and closer.” Renkl writes the truth in love, hoping that if we pause and experience the wonder of creation, we will recognize what is at stake.
Although I read this on a Kindle, I cannot recommend that you do. You will want to hold this book in your hands, lose yourself in the gorgeous illustrations and re-read Renkl’s words all year long.
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