Mistress of her craft – Sally Carrighar

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.


Explore posts in the same categories: nature, nature writers, protected areas, Sally Carrighar, weasels

8 Comments on “Mistress of her craft – Sally Carrighar”

  1. rocksea Says:

    wow! I liked your blog from the first read. Thanks for introducing Sally Carrighar and her writings. I have been an avid reader of corbett, durrell and the sorts, but yes, never heard of sally. Let me read rest of your diary 🙂

  2. Shyamal Says:

    You may also like E T Seton ?

  3. Matt ?C Says:

    I enjoyed reading One Day at Beetle Rock. However, I was disappointed to read in her chapter on the lizard that the leaf hopper was chewing leaves. As a member of the Hemiptera (formerly Homoptera), the insect does not have chewing mouth parts, only a sucking proboscis. I don’t know if that error is her only one, but it causes me to wonder about her other observations and, for me, detracts from her writings. How good a naturalist was she and what else has she fabricated, rather than truly observed. Has anyone else noticed this or other errors? What is your opinion of my observation as it regards the writer and, perhaps, me. I will forget to check this web site, so send me a comment at: cormons@intercom.net.

  4. sandy p. Says:

    How important is that small fact, weather the insect chews or sucks; she was almost the first to write about animals in their natural world, she was following a new path and her writing is so wondrous and beautiful that I can forgive her that small mistake.

    • I agree, SandyP. The quality of her writing, which is art should be focussedon. Anyone can make a small mistake, especially as insects dont seem to have been a strong point with her.

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