Like her popular Appalachian Spring, Marcia Bonta’s new book offers a day-by-day account of the changing world of nature in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. This time she chronicles the beauties of the autumn months as she walks the familiar roads and trails of her 500-acre mountain-top farm, noting the minute transformations of the season as well as the more dramatic ones. But her quiet sojourn in the natural world is shattered by the intrusion of a lumberman who insists upon clear-cutting a neighboring property. The massive bulldozers and skidders crush every tree and shrub, weed, and wildflower, leaving only rubble in their wake. The Bontas become involved in a lawsuit challenging this violation of the land they love and seeking to protect their own property from the effects of the logging. “Autumn is a bittersweet time,” Bonta writes, “a season of good-byes, when, after the flaming leaves fall and start the inevitable process of decay, we are left with only the bare bones of nature.” Fleeing from the whine of chain saws and the crash of falling trees, she roams the mountain-top, watching wild turkeys forage in the field, flocks of migrating birds feast on wild grapes, does and bucks eye each other in their mating ritual. But she can never completely evade the insistent question: What is the relationship between humans and nature? Does ownership give one the right to do as one pleases with the land and all the flora and fauna living on it? Does the natural world exists solely to satisfy mankind’s desire for profit? The answer is not simple; it cannot be drawn in winter’s black and white. But the issues must be of concern to every thoughtful person. Marcia Bonta’s Appalachian Autumn offers a new voice in the ongoing debate.
Marcia Bonta is a freelance nature writer and the author of, in addition to her Appalachian seasons books, Outbound Journeys in Pennsylvania, More Outbound Journeys in Pennsylvania, Women in the Field, and Escape to the Mountain, and the editor of American Women Afield. She has written more than three hundred magazine articles for publications such as Birder’s World, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Living Bird, and Hawk Mountain News. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, and she is a popular lecturer on nature and nature writing.