“If you pay attention to the land where you live, you enter into conversation with it, until it becomes a voice inside you, and some of the boundaries between you and it dissolve,” write Susan Hand Shetterly. In this collection of elegant, spare, and often passionate essays, Shetterly explores what it is to live in a Down East coastal town, and to pay attention, over time, to what it offers of land, water, wildlife, and community. She takes her cue from Henry David Thoreau and Wendell Berry, who advocate for the virtues of staying in one place, believing that as we delve deeper into the landscape of home the more we learn about the world.
As in many other places, this particular home place is in trouble. Shetterly celebrates the work of communities to restore environments their people know and love, and takes a closeup look at what is changing and what has been lost. Among her subjects are the reestablishment of the bald eagle, the reintroduction of the American turkey in Maine, and the turkey vulture’s northward trend. She also writes about shorebird migrations, the bluefin tuna and the humpback and right whales in the Gulf of Maine, counting alewives along a stream in the spring, seaweed cultivation in a bay, a forest’s rebirth, the island that gave her the imaginative space she needed, and more. She recounts how she and her neighbors kept each other company at a distance during the long months of the pandemic, and she celebrates coastal culture, its particular, deep history that anchors a person’s sense of place.
Susan Hand Shetterly is the author of Settled in the Wild and Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge, as well as several children’s books including Shelterwood, named an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children by the Children’s Book Council. Shetterly has received a nonfiction writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and two grants from the Maine Arts Commission. She lives in Surry, Maine.
"[Shetterly’s] essays, which touch on the trees, fish, people, birds and plants she encounters around her Maine community of Surry, shimmer with luminous details. With her poet’s eye for the particular, she’s not one for the bland abstractions and bumper-sticker slogans that tend to ossify reflections on the environment. As the pandemic recedes and more of us resume our busy lives, Notes on the Landscape of Home is a potent reminder of what we gain by staying mindful of local wonders.” —Danny Heitman, Wall Street Journal, Sept 15, 2022
"Susan Hand Shetterly’s essays in Notes on the Landscape of Home are elegiac and focused on the future at the same time. She describes the wild world around her—in all its complexity—with eloquence and precision. Her writing is imbued with a sense of wonder. To walk in the woods and fields and along the shore with her is to see ourselves and our place on the planet in a new way." —Stu Kestenbaum, former Poet Laureate of the state of Maine
"It takes a fiery heart to create such calm on the page, a leaping eye to notice so much of nature and fix it for us in words, a generous spirit to share so much of the world. And what a world comes alive in Notes on the Landscape of Home: full of people, certainly, but animated by other spirits, those of the birds and trees and rocks and mammals and fish and waving kelps we live among, also the four winds and the rising waters, the life-giving sun, this fast-dancing planet, the cosmos it occupies, home in the biggest sense. Susan Hand Shetterly brings hope amid the quiet terrors of contemporary life, teaches us again the quiet contemplation we knew as kids, before our power to destroy outran curiosity. A beautiful book of essays, poetry really, beach reading that truly knows the sea, a bouquet of quiet moments to open in troubling times, sample again and again, a basket of solutions." —Bill Roorbach, author of Lucky Turtle, Temple Stream, Life Among Giants
"Susan Hand Shetterly’s writing is exquisite, expansive at times as she honors famous regional figures whose work has influenced her, people like Marsden Hartley, Winslow Homer, J. J. Audubon and Henry David Thoreau. At other times she interweaves beautiful intimate observations of nature and the coastal landscape with a deep sensitivity to color, time, sound and sand. Shetterly marvels at the wonder of baby eels, elvers, as they make their way from the Sargasso Sea north to the Coast of Maine as reverently as she honors the epically large leviathan—the right whale as it tends to its calf off the coast. Notes on the Landscape of Home is bursting with the love of place." —Adelaide Murphy Tyrol, award-winning illustrator and painter
"Susan Shetterly has written a beautiful book about this beautiful part of Maine. She has written a book about home, that ethereal yet vital connection between land and the people who invest themselves in it. Most importantly, she has written a book about the hope we can find in that connection, and the role it will play in making a better future. Within, you will find people putting their hands on the land in acts of protection, learning, and healing. Nothing seems more important to me in this era of climate change—especially for young people—than to clearly enunciate that hope is held, not in just a feeling, but in these many acts of caring." —Hans M. Carlson, Executive Director, Blue Hill Heritage Trust
“Notes on the Landscape of Home confirms Susan Hand Shetterly’s status as one of Maine’s and this country’s finest environmental writers. Like Terry Tempest Williams, who lives nearby on the Blue Hill peninsula, Shetterly weaves personal life experience into outward-looking essays that focus in large part on nature and our interactions in it.” —Working Waterfront