Tales of woodsmen, waters and wildlife

A North Country Life by Sydney Lea

I’m reading a marvelous book by Vermont’s Poet Laureate, Sydney Lea. In A North Country Life, Lea reminisces about the people and places that influenced his love of the natural world. The tales are both humorous and melancholy, but for me, the seemingly mundane details hold the greatest storytelling treasures.

This book begs careful navigation. Not because it’s difficult reading but rather, because the words are so musical, so utterly raw and honest. There are images and underlying emotions in every sentence. While reading of the colorful characters who shaped the author’s heart and mind, I’m reminded of my own mentors — grandfathers, grandmothers, great aunts and uncles past. A rush of emotion filled my eyes when I devoured page eight. There was no great sorrow there, no earth-shattering devastation; only words that connected with my deep-seated memories.

I see, just as if you were here with me, the glee in your eyes … “

Immediately — as if I stood barefoot and young in front of him, I saw the gleeful eyes, heard the laughing timbre of my grandpa’s voice as he teased us about this or that — probably calling us ‘Pete’ because that’s what he called all of his grandchildren. By contrasts, my grandma was ‘Toots” (like Tootsie), and the bulls were called Mike.

Don’t we all have those monumental characters in our lives? When one passes another takes over, each guiding our next step in the quest for maturity, wisdom and insight. Lea speaks of the man who took over after his father’s death.

In between, you had taken over in many ways, giving me a sort of graduate education in the things he started for me: woodcraft, hunting, canoeing, pursuits that have ever since constituted the rhythms of my life, even when I’m merely sitting at a desk as now.

While describing the sounds of owls, the ways of a meandering stream and the tale-swapping that occurs around the glow of a fire, Lea mentions Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken. 

[It] speaks of ‘knowing how way leads on to way’. I know a lot about that too: once my mind gets started in retrospective mode, this path seems to branch onto that one, that onto another, on and on until only sleep, and at times not even that, stops my rambling. A person’s memory can and will go anywhere, everywhere.

Perhaps that, right there, is why I find this book so compelling. I’m reading his coming of age accounts but my own stories surface just as often … treasures unearthed.

It’s toward the end of the book that I find my interpretation of an ideal summary sentence. For me, the branching paths of the book convene in a string of words about a dog — except this sentence isn’t just about a dog. If you understand the depth of meaning there, I believe you will enjoy this book.

A dog you love should live as long as you do.

You can find A North Country Life: Tales of Woodsmen, Waters, and Wildlife on Amazon. Read more about author Sydney Lea and his other works, here.

Go exploring! You may enjoy these previous posts.


  • comment-avatar
    melissa wade April 23, 2013 (7:07 pm)

    Okay, I’m almost done with two books I’m currently reading, and I think this will be the next. Although I’m a southern girl, I can already tell that I will probably identify, bond, and more than likely be in awe of this writer.

    • comment-avatar
      Jennifer Kiko April 23, 2013 (9:14 pm)

      I hope you like it! Happy reading 🙂

  • comment-avatar
    Sydney Lea April 24, 2013 (12:48 am)

    Dear Jennifer:

    It is lovely to have a positive review, but even better to have one from someone who so clearly “gets it.” Many thanks.

  • comment-avatar
    Nanny April 24, 2013 (6:45 pm)

    The author responsed!!!! That is truly remarkable!