- Paperback: 254 pages
- Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (March 12, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1933392789
- ISBN-13: 978-1933392783
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,090,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sippewissett: Or, Life on a Salt Marsh Paperback – March 12, 2008
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*Starred Review* Tim Traver has created a wonderfully unique piece of genre blending in his elegant rumination on Sippewissett, the Cape Cod salt marsh he has known since childhood. By including both a rich history of the nearby Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (along with fascinating profiles of the many scientists associated with it over the years) and stories about his family's long relationship with the marsh, he provides the reader with a work that is equal parts natural history and memoir. As he ponders the accomplishments and impact of naturalist luminaries Louis Agassiz, Spencer Baird, and Rachel Carson, he places their historic research in the context of the marsh's present condition. This transition is made easy by his family's deep connection to the region, which he shares in passages echoing George Howe Colt's National Book Award finalist, The Big House (2003). Traver has the same deep attachment to the land as Colt, but his scientific background and attention to the region's marine biology raises the book to a higher level. Sippewissett is a rare book, as it both informs and entrances. A delight from beginning to end. Colleen Mondor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Biologists (including Louis Agassiz and Rachel Carson) have long been drawn to the patch of Cape Cod marsh where Traver spent his boyhood summers and to which he still returns. His reflections on the fauna, flora, habitats, and human culture eloquently weave together ecology, history, and memory. He offers enticing discussions of tidal flows, spawning runs, eelgrass beds, clam hunts, and even the microbial communities in the muds. And his treatment of sometimes contentious conservation issues demonstrates his recognition of the challenges facing those who wish to sustain their sense of home.
Library Journal, Starred Review-
Traver, a third-generation Cape Cod salt marsh inhabitant, has the distinctive and wonderful perspective that comes from loving--and sometimes leaving--a place of true natural wonder. Spending near-idyllic boyhood summers in Sippewissett, MA, Traver grew up exploring the natural world around him. Revisiting those childhood memories, now tempered by marriage and fatherhood, he looks at many vital and potentially contentious issues from both sides of the proverbial coin--that of the scientist/environmentalist and the local--and speaks with understanding and empathy for both. In this wonderful blend of natural history and memoir, Traver details both the ecology and the history of Sippewissett, describing the people and creatures that he encounters, and chronicles the daily turning of the tides. Educational, touching, and highly relevant in today's changing ecological world, this marvelous book is highly recommended for public and academic libraries.
"In this wonderful blend of natural history and memoir, Traver details both the ecology and the history of Sippewissett, describing the people and creatures that he encounters, and chronicles the daily turning of the tides. Educational, touching, and highly relevant in today's changing ecological world, this marvelous book is highly recommended."--Library Journal, Starred Review
"Tim Traver has written not just about a salt marsh, but also about the experience of living near one. He reflects upon what others--scientists, poets, philosophers, relatives, local residents and even occasional visitors--tell him about Sippewissett marsh. And, while the book is focused on his marsh, it is really about a man's relation to nature on a large scale."--John Teal, co-author of Life and Death of the Salt Marsh
"This lovely book made me miss a bus. The sounds of the motor and the opening doors were lost in the ebb and flow of saltwater, migratory fish, and family, and in Traver's combination of humor and natural history with a deep meditation on the ecology of home."--John Elder, author of Reading the Mountains of Home
"Sippewissett is simply a beautiful piece of nature writing, an extended love letter for a particular place, a particular Cape Cod salt marsh."--Gary Lawless, Gulf of Maine Books
"Rarely can so much be so happily learned. Tim Traver takes us deep into the microcosm of Sippewissett, but more so, explores with us the idea of home. Traver leaps into his salt creek home and where it takes him is never dull."--Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood and Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land
"Tim Traver's Sippewissett is a brilliant accomplishment replete with insight, wisdom, understanding, and passion. The author marvelously combines natural history, science, culture, conservation, and enduring qualities of the human spirit. The reader is continually moved by Traver's eloquent blending of personal narrative and rational reflection; we find ourselves traveling with the author through his coming of age cum personal and professional odyssey. This is a book that is likely to endure, enrich, and inform for many years to come."--Stephen Kellert, Tweedy Ordway Professor of Social Ecology, Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
"Sippewissett is a salt marsh with history, and Tim Traver is an ideal guide who steers his readers through layers of birth natural and human, personal and expansive. The science of home is a noble pursuit, and Cape Cod has spawned some of our finest literary naturalists. With Sippewissett Traver joins the legacy of gifted seaside storytellers John Hay, Henry Beston, Henry David Thoreau, and Robert Finch."--Ted Levin, author of Liquid Land: A Journey Through the Florida Everglades, winner of the 2004 Burroughs Medal
"Tim Traver's Sippewissett speaks to us about matters of extreme urgency and does so in a voice we want to hear. It's a powerfully smart and likable book."--David Huddle, author of The Story of a Million Years
"The road home leads through dirt, mud, saltwater and sand in this wonderful, storytelling book about a man and a salt marsh. It is lovely to read a book in which deep reflection on self, science and community are woven with direct, lived experience. Traver conjures with portraits of scientists and naturalists like Louis Agassiz and George Perkins Marsh, for whom science pointed to truths deeper than calculation can reveal. And he himself gently enacts their wishes, drawing truth from a girl who sees a pipefish or from a family expedition in a boat that floated in on the tide."--William Bryant Logan, author of Oak: The Frame of Civilization and Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth
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This book is ostensibly about life, memories and ecology as it relates to the Massachusetts' salt marsh Sippewissett. Those of us who are tyros when it comes to salt marshes get some instruction in an understandable way. We learn about the grasses, birds and other life but we learn a lot about Traver. It is very personalized as he relates events and people that were important to him as he grew up in the marsh.
The book is broken into twenty four essays that are only marginally sequential. It is written as if while musing, Traver remembers an event or wants to opine his views. This is not to say that he is sentimental or finger wagging, quite the contrary. Traver is confident that the battle to save swamp marshes will come from science when it comes to the ecology. The people and culture though require something less reductive than that.
When I received the book in the mail the other day, I set aside my current reading to browse it. I hardly put it down. The essays that I found to be the best were the ones on birds, microbes, fences and daughters to be the ones I enjoyed the most.
Beloved. Be loved. The tradition of American nature writing might be said to ever and again utter this adjective and this injunction. American places have been celebrated by nature writers because they are beloved by the writer, whose words then invite us readers to love them as well. The act of loving a place is usually in nature books a wholly affirmative undertaking, risking at times and often succumbing to a saccharine sentimentality. Traver's Sippewisset keeps us listening to a muted but undeniable voice of negation as counterpoint to the author's reveling in beauty and slack-jawed marveling at biological process. There is a bit of the ascetic monk in Traver; the lean voice of the desert haunts his reveries about making a home on this good green earth of ours.
One hears in Tim Traver's voice a relentless questioning of the ways that natural science knows this well-studied wet spot on the sand margin of Cape Cod. Along with the lively pictures he gives us of scientists past (like Louis Agassiz & Rachel Carson) and present (John Teal, Lynn Margulis, and others) at work in the field, Traver constantly communicates his own inner landscape as he seeks to answer the driving question of the book: "How do we save both the soul of a place like Sippewisset and our own souls?"
Soul is a quality more endangered on this marshy planet than even the most fragile wetland, and the beauty of this book is that as deeply and intelligently as it penetrates the microbes in the mud of Sippewisset, Traver always puts the smelly stuff in service to the messy muds of our modern alienated minds. And as serious business as this soul-making search for sacred stewardship gets, we feel him always at play. The ten-year-old hunter of crabs and clams is never far away from the seasoned chronicler of biological process.
Seasoned. Sipewisset's seasons -- carried particularly by its animal denizens -- are of course here. And so are the seasonings of tasty prose inspired by the sheer fecundity of the place. But the reader will quickly come to feel that for all of his boyish wonder and playfulness, Traver is fully seasoned, his reflections upon Nature and Life warmed by the practicality that mature humanhood will convey upon any earnest participant in the mystery of life. Go walk and talk and play with him in his favorite place on Earth.
Department of History
Plattsburgh State University
author, Lewis Creek Lost & Found; Across the Great Border Fault; Traces on the Appalachians
Such a delightful book!