Donna's Writings


At the beginning…

At the beginning. That’s where I am once again.

At the beginning one requires field guides, without which one is wandering aimlessly, blind and ignorant. There is a bit one can learn merely from observing the newness, and this in itself is not bad. But to go deeper, to find out how one’s own ideas fit with the ideas of others, to decide if one belongs in a place, to truly put down roots, one requires more than raw observation. This is where field guides come in.

Vermont Nature Field Guide

What is a field guide? It is a book, and it should be a book–not a website, not an app, not an ebook. Why do I say that? Because in a book, just as in a physical environment, one can amble along, randomly roaming, and encounter so much more on the detours than one might find following the map to a specific destination or looking up the name of the yellow bird just seen sitting outside the window of the cafe.

Birds of New England

Field guides can also be people–either professionals trained to be guides, like rangers in a state park, or simply people who have lived where you now find yourself living, who can give you the benefit of their experience to build on with your own.

American Terroir

One needs field guides not only at the beginning of a new life, in a new place, in a new home, but also at the beginning of a new job, learning a new skill, exploring a new hobby. Field guides are necessary at the beginning of any new endeavor. That probably says more about me than it does about field guides.

Kingdom's Bounty

I buy books. The personal advice there is less intense, less immediate, than that of a new friend or acquaintance. And I can learn, ignore, or adapt anything I read without offending the author, who is graciously offering me advice. I listen to input from people as well, but I will keep my ideas to myself while I am still at the beginning–reserving the right to disagree secretly or openly as the relationship develops or dies.

Field guides are amazing tools. I need one here, for Vermont. Several actually:

  • Flora
  • Fauna
  • Food
  • Stories
  • History
  • Roads
  • Trails
  • How-to

And, finally, a field guide that has random information that I didn’t know I needed, like an almanac, to walk me through the year with someone from the past telling me what it is, what it was, like here, while I discover what it will be like here for me.

The American Farmhouse

I don’t know what field guide to buy first–after the road atlas, of course–a book of trees and plants, or a book of birds. Because to know a place, one must recognize the details of the sights and sounds that surround.

The Geography of Childhood

These things you learn without books and guides when you are a child playing in the woods–but even children don’t wander and play in the woods any more, do they? Such a sad life to be tied to a house, a parent, a watch dog, a pre-planned path. It is better to wander–with a field guide–and stumble upon the magic that is hiding under a leaf.

Knitting, Knitting articles by Donna, Old Blogs, Travel
  1. Really enjoyed reading your post. Your home must be like my own with books in every room. So pleased to see that someone else needs many books on the same subject to get the overall picture and that it is not just me!

    • I have books everywhere, but I need more bookcases now that I’ve moved and I don’t have that whole room of built-ins! There’s a lot to do in this house, so I am not sure when DH will have time to build bookcases.

  2. Hi Judy, thanks so much for writing. I just got back from my last teaching trip of the year and while I was gone, everything else got put on hold including email. I really appreciate what you are sharing here. It’s hard to go against the groove sometimes, but it is definitely worth it, isn’t it? I always regret it when I don’t go with my own gut.


  3. “… who is graciously offering me advice. I listen to input from people as well, but I will keep my ideas to myself while I am still at the beginning–reserving the right to disagree secretly or openly as the relationship develops or dies.”

    Exactly what I needed to hear! I’m joining Eastern Star, and have many questions, doubts… but my daughter is joining at the same time in CT (I’m in NC) so we can share our experiences. I decided last week to take a deep breath, listen, ask the assigned advisor/”big sister,” factual things, and wait and see on the rest…

    I’ve now done all 4 patterns you gave us on the Lithuanian wrist warmers–so pretty! I found a local bead shop, and there’s another somewhere about 30 mi. away which I’ll visit when I have another errand in that direction. Now I’m listing who will receive some of these for Christmas. I’ll keep for myself one pair a little longer than the one we made in class, for the chilly winter days soon to come. Delightful technique, and such a creative way to keep warm when shoveling snow, or doing anything outside in the cold, or knitting inside in the cold…

    Thanks again! Best wishes to you from NC, where we won’t have frost for another 3 weeks or so.

    Judy Tysmans

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