Archive for June 2009

Mistress of her craft – Sally Carrighar

4 June 2009

scan0004She’s not an author most Indians come across. She lived a shade too long ago for most of us to have heard of her, she was a first-rate naturalist and observer of  behaviour when that field was still in its infancy. She is one of the best nature writer’s of America – Sally Carrighar.

When Corbett writes about the jungle, he takes you along with him. You laugh with Gerald Durrell as you accompany him around the world, collecting animals and looking after them. Similarly, one is at James Herriot’s elbow as he goes around treating his patients in the quiet Yorkshire countryside.

Sally Carrighar? There are no humans in her world. She writes of the animals of the wild. When you read what she writes, you live the life of the creature that she has written about. Inputs and insights abound, which can only come from years of keen natural history in the field. Indeed, she spent seven years in a tranquil wilderness in the Sequoia National Park before she wrote ‘One day at Beetle Rock’ .

‘One day in Beetle Rock’ tells of one day at this verdant clearing in the jungle over and over again, but each time from the viewpoint of a different animal.

If it sounds monotonous, its absolutely NOT. Each animal lives such a different life, looks at things so differently that each chapter finishes , leaving you unsatisfied; you wish for more. Here is where I am coming from. I have only one of her five or six wildlife books which is her lifetime work, and I am unsatisfied. Its a copy I picked up 22 years ago from a roadside pile in Ahmedabad for the princely sum of Rs 2/-. Old, pages loose, yellowed, but I never got better worth for my money.

Now trying to locate cheap second-hand copies in the US. Indian copies are very few and very expensive. But I definitely recommend this writer to you. Beg, borrow or steal; you must read Sally Carrighar.

A very sensitive review of this very book can be found here.

The book has a brilliant introductory note by Robert Miller, then Director California Academy of Sciences; it reads:

This is a dangerous book, full of disturbing possibilities. Should it fall into the hand of the young, it is extremely likely to make naturalists of them. even a hardened adult must read at his own risk…

At the risk of being lined up and shot by the copyright goons, here’s part of chapter two, the weasel being the first animal to tell us its story. She will be followed in succession by a sierra grouse, chickadee, black bear, lizard, coyote, deer mouse, steller jay and mule deer.