“The piping plover is a pit bull of a bird…”

Yeah, I wasn’t expecting that either!

I wasn’t sure WHAT to expect when I picked up a copy of Curtis J. Badger’s Salt Tide: Currents of Nature and Life on the Virginia Coast; I knew it was about the coastal marshes of Virginia, and I knew that those were interesting, so I gave it a shot. I didn’t know that I was picking up a book of essays that in my opinion deserve to be ranked but slightly lower than those of Aldo Leopold in terms of perfectly balancing the specific and the sublime. Like Leopold, Badger is gifted at capturing the majesty of nature and the beauty of the human life connected to the land by dwelling on the individual. The essay “Plover Watch”, for instance, spirals out from its peculiar opening metaphor and the sandpiper-chasing critter that inspired it to embrace not only the whole of the endangered bird’s life cycle and the efforts of humans to protect it, but the relations of all sorts of native birds to the delicate seaside territory that humans covet so destructively. The biology of Spartina, the art of digging for clams, the peaceful joy of the small boat and the grand scope of history and the ultimate impermanence of all beaches and barrier islands in the face of the relentless sea, are all tiles in a mosaic of love for a place that is a home. It’s a mystery to me why this book isn’t considered a classic in nature writing.

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