I’m on a Robert Michael Pyle jag right now, reading his intricate memoir of place, Sky Time in Gray’s River, whenever I take a break from Sense and Sensibility (Book 5 in my all-Austen quest). Previous encounters with Pyle’s butterfly books (notably Chasing Monarchs) primed me for his ambitious plan for 2008—the world’s first butterfly Big Year. Modeled after Big Years pursued by the world’s best (and best-funded) birders, Pyle’s butterfly year will seek to set a benchmark for how many butterflies a top butterflier could see in 12 months of intrepid continent-wide (but low-budget) hunting. He’ll of course be writing up his adventures behind the wheel of a 1982 Honda (aka "Powdermilk") in an eloquent book after January, 2009.
But why wait? Instead, you can follow along in almost real time through his unique blog. Pyle is eschewing the internet and mailing in entries to Orion Magazine (home of his delightful column, Tangled Bank, for years), which will be posting his cards, letters, and occasional audio recordings for our vicarious butterflying pleasure.
I do have one reservation about getting wrapped up in Pyle’s reports from the road. What if, after embarking with grand dreams of vast butterfly numbers and species, he discovers instead that populations and diversity are crashing? That would hardly be surprising, but in my melancholic mood (I just got home from a global warming rally), I’d much prefer a good-news only butterfly blog. I guess once again I’ll have to follow Austen’s Sensible advice. Her Mrs. Dashwood tells Edward, whose worries about the future are depressing his spirits and paralyzing his ability to act, “You want nothing but patience- or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.”
And while you’re clicking around the internet after Pyle’s blog, why not check out two of the best nature blog carnivals. The 21st Festival of the Trees is up, featuring a fruit tree and orchard theme. An eclectic selection of prose, poetry, and photos graces the 10th edition of Learning in the Great Outdoors Carnival of Environmental Education. With so much to read on the ‘net, we may lose our yearning to trade places with Robert Michael Pyle and side with Austen’s Emma: “Ah! There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”