Chasing Spring follows nature’s season of renewal even as it shows how the delicate mechanisms of spring are increasingly endangered by climate change.
With mortality on his mind after serious heart surgery, Bruce Stutz, an acclaimed nature writer and former editor-in-chief of Natural History magazine, needed physical and emotional renewal. He found both during a three-month odyssey through the unfolding of an American spring. Driving across the country in a twenty-year-old Chevy sedan, Stutz shows readers that spring is not so much a progression as an arousal; each added minute of the lengthening days and lingering sun brings yet another transformation in the greening landscape as well as in the human spirit.
Beginning with the season’s southernmost stirrings along the Gulf of Mexico, Stutz sees the first blooms and partakes in the season’s festivals — celebrations with ancient origins that still speak to our wonder at nature’s annual rebirth. He follows the migrations of birds northward, the return of life to the forests, and the quickening of snowmelt in the Rockies. He moves across the southern desert, encountering the explosion of cacti and wildflowers and the violence of tornadoes on the drought-stricken Great Plains.
He caps his restorative, philosophical trek by hiking through Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge during the bright 24-hour solstice days that herald the transition of spring into summer. Along the way, the author expresses concerns: climate change means that spring is arriving as much as a week earlier across the continent, disrupting migration patterns, and most of the world’s midlatitude glaciers are melting with unanticipated speed. Spring remains the season of rebirth, says Stutz, but cautions readers to “see it now, because it’s changing.”
Praise for Chasing Spring
“A worthy successor to Edwin Way Teale (and to Steinbeck of Travels With Charley), Bruce Stutz proves himself a capable tour guide of the vernal continent. And a worthy thinker, too, about the issues—especially global warming—that earlier travel writers never had to engage. This book is a lovely witness to the present and an argument for the future.” Bill McKibben
“. . . this is much more than a travelogue; it’s a gentle yet persuasive lesson in how spring happens and how climate change—i.e., global warming—is affecting that process . . . a gem of reporting, filled with history, sociology, economics, botany and the smell of drying forest morels. A captivating portrait of a beautiful, fragile and endangered world.” Kirkus Review
“Mr. Stutz would not be surprised by the country’s recent extreme weather patterns. Everywhere he went, he found troubling, if inconclusive, evidence of global warming. Under cover of penning a hymn to vernal rebirth, he has written a quiet jeremiad about climate change.” The New York Times
“Upbeat and companionable, Stutz reels off a provocative survey of ancient spring rituals punctuated by bracing observations about the divergent realms of myth and fact as he tracks spring in the Appalachians, Louisiana, the Arizona desert, the Rockies, and Alaska . . . Stutz provides lucid, eye-opening scientific explanations of the consequences of increased levels of carbon dioxide, how climate change disrupts the balance between pollinators and plants and threatens the freshwater supply, and the dire implications of melting polar ice. By turns poetic and witty, Stutz’s paean to spring past and present, and frank cautions about a forbidding future, render seemingly abstract concerns personal and enhance receptivity to environmental realities. Donna Seaman, Booklist
But the charm of ”Chasing Spring” is in its raw enthusiasm, Stutz’s personal invigoration braided into the ongoing invigoration of the continent . . . Reading Stutz is a bit like reading Whitman: You imagine the author stomping gleefully in puddles, peering on his hands and knees into the forget-me-nots and saxifrage. The Boston Globe
“With some of the biggest scientific puzzles of the new century centering around climate and geography, travel writing promises to be the next big thing in science journalism. It takes some pluck to hang your hat in a genre people by authors like Steinbeck, Kerouac, and Least Heat Moon, but Bruce Stutz strikes just the right chord with this science-riddled travelogue.” Seed Magazine
This is a naturalist’s journey, a supersize trek. The memoir begins from his stance in a hospital bed waiting surgery; his physical travels begin in Brooklyn and go all the way to Alaska. His aim is to meet spring and celebrate life.
His “narrative of light and warms” as he calls it is a sly and winning way of investigating what all the various ‘ist’ sciences have to offer. This is education of high order, a ruminative exploration of the state of America as seen by soil scientists, climatologists, geologists, botanists. The Washington Times