Sunday, April 26, 2009

New Anthology of Essays by Elizabeth Folwell

Adirondack Life turns 40 this year. In Park years, that’s the time it took to make 6,000 46ers, add 350,000 acres to the Forest Preserve and subtract 12 paper mills (by the magazine’s own count).

Another milestone has been reached: Betsy Folwell marks 20 years with Adirondack Life — half its existence — first as an editor, now as creative director and always, foremost in many readers’ minds, as a writer.

The magazine has published a 250-page anthology of Folwell’s essays called Short Carries, and her prose is even clearer and stronger against the plain white pages of a book.

Some of Folwell’s finely-turned phrases take hold from the moment you read them; they underlie how we see this landscape as much as the granite that dictates what kind of moss, ferns and trees root here. For me, one of her most unforgettable essays is “Lessons From a Dead Loon” (July/August 1989):

“‘I thought maybe you could do something about this,’ the conservation officer told me as he laid the dead loon on the grass. A number-four snelled hook was stuck in the bird’s throat; he had drowned at the end of a fisherman’s set-line off Rock Island in Blue Mountain Lake.”

What struck me is not only that cops seek Folwell out for help, but how acutely observant she is. She knew “our diver . . . one of a pair that made the daily circuit from Lake Durant to Blue Mountain, as predictable as church bells.” She knew her bird just as she knows Elvis, the curled-lip black bear that cruises her back yard; Gerard, the old river driver; the “tow-headed tamaracks” in the October bogs; and the tourists who held a tug-of-war over a Sunday New York Times at a general store she ran one summer.

Short Carries: Essays from Adirondack Life by Elizabeth Folwell is available for $16.95 at adirondacklife.com and in North Country bookstores.

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Mary Thill lives in Saranac Lake and has worked alternately in journalism and Adirondack conservation for three decades.




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