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Katina's Pick: The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year by Margaret Renkl




The beloved New York Times opinion writer and best-selling author presents this stunning literary devotional that follows the creatures and plants in her backyard over the course of the year, tracing the passing of the seasons, personal and natural.


Margaret Renkl is in tune with the natural world.


She takes great joy in it and is more observant than many of us to its changing seasons, seasons that also seem to mark the time and its passing in our human world.


In The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year, Renkl, an essayist, poetically charts each week in the year, through all four seasons, her observations gleaned from the uncultivated natural world around her. In this case, it’s the half-acre yard in Nashville that she allows to be a home to all manner of living things, from birds and toads to spiders and snakes and more.


Whereas some might be tempted to expel the “less desirable” inhabitants from their yards, Renkl lets them be. She laments civilization’s encroachment into their habitat and welcomes them into hers, leaving “weeds” to grow and planting trees and wildflowers and more to provide both food and habitat for her animal neighbors amid dwindling numbers of some, understanding their vulnerability.


All the while, she studies them, drawing parallels between their world and hers, which are not mutually exclusive. In her yard, she can “remember how it feels to be a part of the world that reaches beyond me and includes me, too,” she writes.


Her essays are also reflective of the seasons of her own life and family history, of growing up in Lower Alabama along with her brother Billy – who has beautifully illustrated each of the 52 chapters in The Comfort of Crows – to raising three sons with her husband in Tennessee.


The Comfort of Crows is an unabashed celebration of nature, but it’s more than that.

It’s a celebration of life and an important reminder that all of it is frail and transitory – so we should tend it well while we have the opportunity.


- Katina, Area Librarian

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