I’ve always been intrigued by (OK obsessed with) nature. Stick me next to a window and you’ll find me staring outside, looking for signs of wildlife. Come spring, you’ll find me kneeling on the sidewalk next to every snail and slug I see, trying to get the perfect picture. When I worked at a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, a spider made a web on the light in my office and we named him Stanley and fed him mealworms meant for the baby birds. When I moved to the PNW and discovered that a thing called tidepooling was just 15 minutes away at the beach, I was delighted to spend as much time as possible in the summer digging through shallow pools and tipping over rocks to discover all manner of sea creatures. My favorites are hermit crabs and sea stars.
As I suspected, Nature Obscura: A City’s Hidden Natural World was right up my alley. Author Kelly Brenner, a writer, photographer, and naturalist living in Seattle, explores the minutiae of nature in her city and takes us along for the ride. From creatures you can only spot with a microscope, like the tardigrade or “water bear,” to following murders of crows as they fly to their roost, we get to learn about the often overlooked creatures that inhabit not just urban landscapes but sometimes our very own homes.
When I picked up this book, I was excited because A) Brenner is in Seattle, so I’d be reading about familiar places, sometimes places I’ve even gone to look for similar creatures and B) NATURE, and I was not disappointed. Brenner explores nearby Seattle parks and beaches, and I greatly enjoyed reading about some of my favorite creatures like the crow and moon snail. I’m much more of an animal person than a plant person (I don’t know that I’ve ever kept a plant alive for more than a couple of weeks), but I loved Brenner’s voice so much that I even enjoyed learning about the plant life she was exploring.
I had been expecting an explanation of how humans affected the landscape around Seattle – the process of digging tunnels obviously left a mark on area wildlife – but I had no idea Lake Washington was basically a cesspool in the 1960s, and in fact one of my favorite birding spots used to be an actual landfill. I was just there a few weeks ago to look for weird ducks (my favorite pastime in the winter) and it’s amazing to think that the paths we walked to view buffleheads and shovelers and grebes and cormorants and SWANS were once covered with layers of garbage. THE MORE YOU KNOW.
Anyway, if you like exploring nature, gross things, and/or Seattle, pick this up.