There is an excitement to exploring new places far away, but there is a different kind of joy that comes from getting to know a place in every season over many years. Bob Jepperson has done a lot of exploring, but he’s also spent over a decade wandering the trails of a wild area close to his home on Fidalgo Island. Through these wanderings, he has gotten to experience some of nature’s minute and hidden dramas that play out just next door. On the surface, Wild Love Story: Vignettes From Forest and Pond looks like a book of simple photography and writing, but when you spend some time with it, you’ll see it is more than that. This book is packed with detailed information about different species that inhabit our lowland forests and wetlands. Jepperson wandered the trails in his neighboring forest multiple times a week, through every season. He carried cameras with longer lenses, as well as a 22-inch parabolic dish stereo microphone. Because of the familiarity he developed, he came to notice details that many of us just hike right past.
I found myself wanting to sit down with a cup of coffee and really spend time with this book. It was interesting to read of his experiences on the trail, such as the time he witnessed and recorded the sounds of great-horned owls mating at dusk. His writing style is conversational, yet poetic. In fact, you’ll find his poetry scattered throughout. The book is organized roughly by the calendar year, starting with fascinating discussion and photos of red-legged frog escapades in January and ending with newts, mushrooms, and decaying leaves of autumn. Jepperson has included pages of detailed macro photos that entice readers to really look at the beauty and intricacies of plants and creatures.
I adored Jepperson’s photos of baby barred owls in the forest. These remarkable pictures are a testament to his devotion to spending long hours in the same place so the birds could get used to him. I also really liked learning more about the beavers who had a part in maintaining the lake by keeping their dams strong. One unique feature that is cool about the book is the QR codes sprinkled throughout the pages. Use your phone to read those codes, and they’ll take you to the featured sound in that passage. If you don’t have a phone, you can go directly to Jepperson’s website, where he has a page devoted to the sound clips he’s edited to bring to life passages from the book.
The one nit-picky thing I had a hard time with was the number of pages with text printed over photographs. The formatting made it hard for me to read. But otherwise the book is well made, a hardback with thick, glossy paper.
Adults and children alike will enjoy this book. I could see it being used as a base or supplement for homeschooling unit studies, or as something families could read before going out to the woods. Perhaps children will recognize plants or animals they’ve seen in the book, or even have a greater appreciation for what is going on behind the scenes in places they visit. I also recommend listening to the podcast that Bob is featured on: Cascade Hiker Podcast Episode #86. You’ll get to hear even more stories and background information. You can find his book at local bookstores (see his website for a list), or you can order one directly from him, and he’ll ship it to you for $2. I truly appreciate his philosophy of going slowly and learning to read a place, to have familiarity that comes from frequent forays and long hours spent noticing.