If you are still searching for a nice holiday gift for your favorite environmentalist, then “Eureka,“I have found it,” as I reveal this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere ”
The Greek phrase of “Eureka” is perhaps best known as the motto of the state of California, But I echo it here to lend emphasis to my enthusiasm for the “The California Field Atlas,” a uniquely designed book explaining, displaying and celebrating the state’s distinct geography and ecology.
It is an engaging trip along the state’s sandy beaches, up fresh water rivers, across verdant valleys and dry deserts, and into the deep forests and towering mountains beyond.
Published by Heyday Books of Berkeley, California, it is not the usual dry atlas of maps and facts. To be sure, it has a wealth of these visuals, but much more, thanks to an obviously happily obsessed writer, Obi Kaufmann.
He admits that despite having worked on the book his whole life, he still feels like a novice, “an infatuated child, lost and humble beggar, “ asking for the natural wisdom rising out of the state’s unique geography.
Kaufmann is very much a romantic, and writes as if he is far, far from civilization, looking up at a clear, glittering sky and making a wish on the brightest star he sees.
Quote “I want to hold the whole of California in my hand, like a diamond or spinning top; I want to coax this single piece of the universe into opening up its secrets.” Unquote
By writing, he seeks “to participate in the wild reimagining of this place, past the scars inflicted over the last 200 years, to reveal a story about what has always been here and what will remain long after our human residency here is through.”
It is “a new portfolio of invented geography that balances ecology and aesthetics as driving and orienting forces.”
Depending on your curiosity, you can jump from chapter to chapter, like rock to rock, in a white water river. Just expect to be distracted, occasionally slip, get wet and be refreshed, as I have.