Art center publishes sequel to Ned Smith tome
I suppose it’s hard for a person in today’s world to really document what is going on out there in the Pennsylvania woods. Our fast-paced, high-tech life urges us to take quick snapshots and upload short descriptions to the Internet before we move on.
In 1971, Ned Smith – a famous naturalist, widely published author, artist and lover of what the Pennsylvania woods has to offer – published “Gone for the Day,” a book that became a cornerstone for some who love to learn about and study the natural environment.
In December, the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art – in Millersburg, Smith’s hometown, released a sequel called “Gone for Another Day.” The center celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2013.
This version is much the same as the first but features entries from Smith’s journals, sketches, maps and art that never have been seen by the public and span beyond the years that were published in his 1971 work.
The book is edited by Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Scott Weidensaul, a natural history writer whose own life was molded by Smith’s original book.
“I bought a copy of ‘Gone for the Day’ with my allowance money when I was 11 or 12 years old, and it was a revelation,” Weidensaul said. “Here was an adult who seemed to spend most of his time outside, watching and drawing wildlife. It was the first time I realized such a thing was even possible.”
Entries began when Smith was only 17 years old, in 1935, and span into the mid-1980s, until his death on April, 22, 1985, when Smith was 65.
Weidensaul said his last journal entry occurred just the day before he passed on and is included in the book, which almost makes the end of the book bittersweet, as cliche as it sounds.
The project is sponsored by several private donors and the state Game Commission, which published the original book.
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University also was a sponsor. It holds the original journals and many of the field sketches that appear in the new book.
The order to which Smith’s entries are presented makes for an easy flow and read.
In his introduction, Weidensaul explains the entries are published by month, beginning in January, of course, and arranged by date under that.
The year in which the entry is under can be scattered, but nonetheless flows perfectly.
Some of my favorite entries are those when Smith was hunting or fishing. Though he may not have been super successful most of time, it’s easy to see that he still enjoyed every minute.
Aside from Pennsylvania, Smith traveled, hunted and fished many other places in North America. They are set aside throughout the book in shaded-box entries called “Farther Afield.”
The Everglades of Florida to Idaho, Maryland and Canada are just a few places he, his wife, friends and colleagues visited to explore, fish or hunt.
As I read through the book, I realized that although nature may have not changed much since Smith penned his entries, practices have.
There are some actions that “back then” were acceptable, but when you read about them today, they will make you cringe – such as the shooting of raptors and birds of prey that were not protected and respected those many years ago.
These behaviors by us, humans, are throughly explained in the footnotes, as are word usage and methods used years before with which we may not be familiar.
Smith makes me think about paying more attention to what’s out there outside my window, beyond my door and out into the wilderness.
I feel a renewed sense of what a wonderful natural environment we have here in Pennsylvania. After reading this book, I have learned to not take every natural encounter for granted, because it’s guaranteed that, over time, it will differ ever so slightly.
Smith and Weidensaul remind us that we don’t need television to be constantly entertained. We have our own backyards, woods and new places to hunt, fish, hike and explore.
“Gone for Another Day” should inspire any sportsman, outdoorsman or woman, conservationist and Pennsylvanian to take time to stop, wait, watch and listen much more intently to the beautiful area around us.
To learn more about the book “Gone for Another Day,” or the Ned Smith Center go to www.nedsmithcenter.org.