We're going to take a little vacation, and along with getting house-sitters lined up, I've been thinking about what to take to read. Don't know yet, but I keep coming back to the best book I ever read while on a trip.
It's Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle. Now available as a free pdf, 35 years ago the edition I took along was a quality paperback that still is in one piece despite being consulted many times. It was just the right size to tuck in a backpack or to pull out at night in the twilight as we canped our way the US headed for California.
We hadn't been in Montreal very long, and this was our first trip back to visit family. We hiked quite a bit, and thought about what we were seeing. For example, I couldn't figure out the geography of the Colorado Plateau: how did all those layers of sedimentary rocks exposed by the Colorado river at the Grand Canyon come into being? I'd done some reading about the Sierra Nevada before we left California a few years befoe, so I had some idea about uplift and mountain building. The theory of plate tectonics was just being elaborated too, so there was much uncertainty about how things all happened. A couple of text books picked up once back in Montreal helped me make sense of things.
But Darwin had no textbooks to explain the many things he saw in the five year voyage around the world. His observations were his own, rendered with the enthusiasm of a young man (he was only 22 when he started out) and were pertinent enough to guide his thinking until the end of his life.
Charles Darwin was a young naturalist who was traveling on the HMS Beagle for several years, and he kept this journal of his researches and developing ideas. The excitement of Darwin, the young naturalist, is conveyed in passages such as, "This was the first of many delightful days never to be forgotten," and "What incalculable numbers of these microscopial animals!" One can see the development of his ideas, in passages such as, "Certainly, no fact … more
Mary Soderstrom is a Montreal-based writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her new collection of short stories, Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography, will be published by Oberon Press in November, … more
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