Celebrate local with these holiday gift ideas

Cascadia Revealed: A Guide to the Plants, Animals & Geology of the Pacific Northwest Mountains by Daniel Mathews
Old Barns of Whatcom County: Photos and Poems by Jeff Barclay
Inside My Sea of Dreams: The Adventures of Kami and Suz by Susan Conrad

If gift-giving is part of your holiday tradition, think about keeping it local with these outdoor-focused suggestions for books about the Pacific Northwest by people who live here.

Folks from the PNW are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about our beautiful, bountiful great outdoors, and Cascadia Revealed: A Guide to the Plants, Animals & Geology of the Pacific Northwest Mountains is a guaranteed delight for outdoor enthusiasts, bringing to life our mountain environment with stories of how this landscape was formed and profiling the plants, animals and people who call it home.

Organized like a traditional field guide, the crisp, clear photographs and definitive line drawings in Cascadia Revealed make identification of flora and fauna easy. For the less initiated, Latin names include both a pronunciation key and root meanings.

What makes this guide unique is author Dan Mathews’ experience, humor and love of lore that shine in the prosaic text entries, where traditional use of plants by indigenous people are documented and Mathews’ own recent observations are noted, such as the fact that in the earlier-than-usual snowmelt of 2015, glacier lilies were observed to bear their flowers face-up rather than upside-down on shorter stalks than is normal, possibly an adaptation to 21st century climate trends.

Nature enthusiasts will want to read Cascadia Revealed from cover-to-cover for the lifetime of knowledge and research that Mathews has packed into its pages. The warning alert that you’ve likely heard marmots make while hiking in the high country? Not a whistle, as often described, but literally a shriek that is made with their vocal chords. Who knew that belted kingfisher nests are made from a heap of regurgitated fish bones piled at the end of a hole in a mud bank; Mathews asks, “is ‘nest’ too sweet a term for such debris?” North Cascades Institute director, Saul Weisberg, describes Cascadia Revealed as “a love poem to the living things” that inhabit our landscape. Highly recommended!

With the recent flooding that devastated rural parts of Whatcom County, Old Barns of Whatcom County, with photos and poems by local resident Jeff Barclay, reminds us that these beautiful old barns on farms all around the county have survived many a harsh challenge since they were built. Barclay begins the book with a description of various barn roof types—gambrel, broken gable, Dutch, gothic. Colorful photos of 111 barns throughout the county are identified by barn roof type, road and community name.

Old Barns of Whatcom County is a loving tribute to our agricultural history and to the generations of farming families who have made their homes in Whatcom County. Nine of Barclay’s original poems, sprinkled throughout, both celebrate these elegant structures and lament the changes that endanger the future of these old friends: I stopped by here the other day/And found the barn is gone/The field scraped clean, the barn removed/Making room for more new homes

Finally, for the kiddos, an inspiring real-life adventure of a kayak journey from Whatcom County through the Inside Passage to Alaska. The picture book Inside My Sea of Dreams by local author Susan Conrad tells the story of Conrad’s solo 1,200-mile voyage through the Inside Passage, adapted from her adventure memoir Inside: One Woman’s Journey Through the Inside Passage, which was a Washington State Book Awards Finalist in 2017. Young readers follow Susan and her kayak, Kami, being introduced to orcas, eagles, Spirit Bears in the Great Bear Rainforest, and a Tlingit community, as well as the encouragement that if you follow your dreams, anything is possible.

Lisa Gresham is the Collection Services Manager at the Whatcom County Library System, https://www.wcls.org. If you decide to purchase any of the suggested titles as gifts, please consider supporting local businesses.

(Originally published in Cascadia Weekly, Wednesday, December 15, 2021.)