We’re very pleased to announce that the second book in our bi-monthly Big Something Book Club will be Ann Zwinger‘s Beyond the Aspen Grove. We chose it both because we aim to choose books that pertain to the life and culture of the Pikes Peak Region, but also because Zwinger’s 1970 classic of acute, lyrical observation of the natural world has been a huge inspiration and influence on everything we do here on The Big Something. As Zwinger demonstrates in this beautifully illustrated book about “Constant Friendship,” her family’s 40 acre property near Deckers, even the most seemingly mundane patch of forest floor can become an illuminated manuscript if you’re paying attention.

Writes Zwinger on page 244:

New discoveries are the delight of Constant Friendship. I had never seen pinedrops before, except in books. Late one afternoon a low shaft of sunlight shot thourhgh the forest, spotlighting their rusty-rose stalks. Pinedrops are saprophytes, plants living directly or indirectly on other plant production. . They are not parasistic because they neither destroy their host nor weaken it, and do not subsist on living organisms. The pinedrop’s roots form irregular mats associated with the fungi that decay deadfall. The clump of rose stems in the dusks of the forest reminded me of an underwater scene, the sooty shadows and un-green leaves belonging to another world.

Whether you fancy nature writing or not, it’s impossible not to marvel at the seeming ease with which Zwinger marries the languages of science and poetry. She’s the Thoreau of the Pikes Peak Region (with less bloviating!). On top of all that, 2010 marks the 40th Anniversary of the first publication of this, her first book.

We hope you’ll join us here in the comments of The Big Something on Thursday, February 18 and at the front table in Poor Richard’s Bookstore in Colorado Springs at 6 p.m. to discuss Beyond the Aspen Grove. (Please note we’ll only be meeting at this one location this time).

We understand that books can often be slightly less expensive online or at the large discount chains, but we are encouraging you to PRE-ORDER or reserve your books at your nearest locally-owned bookstore. To that end, we’re collaborating with three locally-owned bookstores in Colorado Springs (bookstore owners outside the Colorado Springs metro area should feel free to contact us if you wish to partcipate):

1. Black Cat Books at 720 Manitou Avenue in Manitou Springs, (719) 685-1589.

2. Poor Richard’s Bookstore at 320 N. Tejon St. in downtown Colorado Springs, (719) 578-0012.

3. Hooked on Books at 3918 Maizeland Rd. in eastern Colorado Springs (at Maizeland & Academy in the Maizeland Moors Shopping Center), (719) 596-1621.

If you’d like to preview the book before you buy it, you can see parts of it on Google Books HERE.

(Feel free to leave comments or questions below or to email us at thebigsomething@krcc.org. Thanks!)


8 Responses to TBS Book Club #2: Ann Zwinger's Beyond The Aspen Grove

  1. hiker gal says:

    Lovely – have been meaning to read this for the longest time.
    Ann Zwinger is truly a local treasure.

  2. Liz Arnold says:

    I was fortunate enough to take a class with Ann while at CC, and she openly showed us her her world from Constant Friendship to the SW research station in Portal, AZ. Natural history writing is a very specific genre of writing, and it is not easy. She does it beautifully. She IS truly a treasure – kind of a liaison between humans and the natural world. I’ve read parts of Beyond the Aspen Grove and your highlight of this book has given me cause to take it down from my bookshelf and revisit it. Thanks Noel, and thanks Ann!

  3. Scott Correa says:

    Great choice! I got to know both Ann and her husband Herman some fifteen or twenty years ago when I worked at a downtown eatery. They encouraged my love of nature and art. I owe them a debt of gratitude I can never repay except to pay it forward.

  4. Pat Musick says:

    Thank you for making this selction. Ann IS a regional treasure (who has received national recognition). Ann’s often said, “if you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are,” and reading this book gets us acquainted with the WHERE of the Rocky Mountains. Highly recommended to anyone who wants to know anything about life–not only human–in our neighborhood. The current edition has the prologue she wrote for the 2002 edition, just when the Hayman Fire was threatening Constant Friendship–a poignant reflection (it came within a mile).

  5. Kate Dierdorff says:

    This will be my entry into the world of book clubs. I’m truly excited about this selection. Would someone take a minute to explain how this works? I’ve always pictured a group at someone’s home, sharing their thoughts. Typically, does everyone have the book finished before talking (or emailing)? I see an option is to meet at Poor Richards. I think I’ll attend and listen. Thanks.

  6. If I could have only one book, it would be Beyond the Aspen Grove by Ann Zwinger.
    I also love her book Land Above the Trees that she co-authored with Beatrice Willard. Ann’s descriptions are magical. “The alpine tundra is a land of contrast and incredible intensity, where the sky is the size of forever and the flowers the size of a millisecond.”

  7. […] one of the reasons why we chose local author Ann Zwinger’s book Beyond the Aspen Grovefor our Book Club. It’s a textbook and a Bible for the art of noticing. As you’ll see if you read the […]

  8. […] reading Ann Zwinger’s Beyond the Aspen Grove, the subject of tonight’s Big Something Book Club at Poor Richard’s Bookstore at 6 p.m. Somehow, reading it straight through felt impossible, […]


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