Much to my surprise and delight, J.L. Bell of the excellent Boston 1775 has honored Walking the Berkshires with one of five "Thinking Blogger" awards. The idea behind this award apparently came from Ilker Yoldas at - where else - The Thinking Blog, as a meme whose purpose is to highlight "5 blogs that make me think." Bell marvelously describes what this blog is all about (and appears to have my number as well) in this endorsement:
"Walking the Berkshires by Tim Abbott is an informed personal study of environment, history, and family from the other side of this state—sharp, quirky, and occasionally nettlesome."
I am grateful to be so designated and especially humbled to be in such fine company with Bell's other top shelf selections. And so I gladly take up the task of presenting this award to five other worthy "blogs that make me think" and commend them to you without reservation.
I base my criteria for this award on those J.L. Bell defined previously for his awards:
- No group blogs
- No blogs that are primarily digests and aggregators
- No blog that has already been honored with a Thinking Blogger award
To these I would add some inclusive criteria emphasizing:
- Blogs I read daily and that post regularly
- Blogs that stimulate thoughtful commentary and foster informed debate
- Blogs that present ideas and information that are consistently fresh, unusual, and thought provoking.
And now for the awards:
MojoMan's Moose Hill Journal is a sensitive and keenly observant meditation on the rhythms of life and firmly grounded in a very special place: Mass Audubon's Moose Hill Sanctuary in Sharon Massachusetts. A trained forester in love with forests, his descriptions of soft paths taken and the important connections between land and people reveal rather than preach and are themselves real treasures. Here is an excerpt from a recent post, "Messages in Trees":
"I took off my hat and leaned over to put my ear against the trunk. I was impressed at the power of the rhythmic thumping this small bird could transmit all the way to the ground through this sizable tree. Not only could I hear the rapping of the hard little beak, but I could feel the vibrations in my skull. I imagined the terror felt by any insect larvae cowering under the bark anywhere on this tree. I often watch birds, and I love to listen to them sing, but this may have been the first time I actually felt one. I imagined that this woodpecker, like an arboreal telegrapher, was trying to send me a message through the tree. I didn’t understand the code, and even though the bright crystalline light from a dry February sky made everything around me seem clear, the message was not."
Chet Raymo's Science Musings Blog comes as pure delight to those who mourn the passing of his long-running Science column in The Boston Globe. Raymo is that rarest of writers who can make Physics lyrical and accommodate the spiritual alongside the scientific. Several of his published works are among my all-time favorite books, especially The Soul of the Night - An Astronomical Pilgrimage, and the short essays that daily grace his blog are celestial gems of the first order, "cultivating delight":
"Not many people find their way into that garden of nature informed by science but yielding itself promiscuously to the senses. Poets and scientists seldom talk to each other; the "two cultures" are as much at odds today as when C. P. Snow famously defined the opposition nearly half-a-century ago. John Brockman's "third culture," although meant to ameliorate the problem, in some ways only complicates the situation, by adding yet another level of elite abstraction remote from our sensate lives."
Dan Trabue's A Payne Hollow Visit is a rare blog by a rare human being. A man of faith and humility, a pacifist committed to community and sustainability, Dan manages to engage with people of all persuasions on extremely weighty and contentious topics - very often religious and military - and still keep centered and gently directing attention back to the heart of the matter despite the vitriol that often comes his way. A typical post at A Payne Hollow Visit attracts swarms of comments from religious conservatives and progressive sorts alike. What is more, he continues to seek common ground in the most unlikely places, and I often find him deep in the comment threads at Tigerhawk and other sites where his views and opinions are decidedly in the minority. He is an honorable person who asks the hard questions while inviting dialog, and the results are often breathtaking. Here is Dan on The Bible, War and Peace:
"Am I possibly incorrect in my assumptions about what the Bible says about God and peacemaking? Sure. As are those who support war-as-solution. We're fallible humanity and prone to get it wrong. All the more reason to be prudent in our support of war. If we start off with the assumption that war will always be a great evil, then we will be less likely to rely upon war and truly treat it as a last resort. Ultimately, the Bible tells us, vengeance belongs to God. If some want to view the 'warrior Jesus' some people see in the book of Revelation as a significant portrayal of Jesus, I'd respond by saying that Jesus is God and God can seek vengeance wherever God pleases. But the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels is the Jesus in whose steps we have been commanded to follow, who 'When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.'"
David Noon's Axis of Evel Knievel is a daily guilty pleasure: guilty, because he takes such obvious delight in parading before our astonished eyes the well known and obscure acts of ignominy and man's inhumanity to man that have occurred on this particular date in history, and guilty because I enjoy reading it immensely. Even prominent bad apples and notorious evil doings get a fresh treatment and I seldom fail to learn something new from his sharply written, leftward leaning posts. The well-deserved recipient of a 2006 Best Individual Blog Cliopatra Award, David's site is always provocative and thought provoking. Here's a recent example:
"On 7 February 1832 the Potomac, sailing under the command of John Downes, dispatched 300 men to battle the Malaysian pirates, who proved little match for the US forces. Nearly 200 pirates were killed, while the Potomac lost two men and suffered 11 wounded. Two days later, Downes ordered the shelling of the rest of the village, killing another 300 innocent men, women and children. Although some Americans were outraged by the collective punishment of the people of Kuala Batu, Andrew Jackson giddily declared that the 'chastisement' had assured 'increased respect for our flag and increased security for our commerce.'
The attack on Kuala Batu was the first military intervention in Asia by the United States."
John Burgess' Crossroads Arabia offers a fascinating and uniquely perspective on Saudi Arabia, which the author describes as "as complicated a country, with as complicated society, as any other large nation." A career US foreign service officer who posts were primary in the Middle East, Burgess provides a tremendous service by seeking to alleviate misunderstandings between Americans and Saudis and "provide context of those events happening in an environment very foreign to most Americans." He takes pains not to be an apologist for Saudi behavior and succeeds in his overall aims to a remarkable degree. I, who know very little indeed about the land and people of which he writes, find his posts consistently well reasoned, helpful, and sensible:
"Every year about this time, the Western media runs stories about how the Saudis ban Valentine's Day celebration. Every year about this time, Saudi citizens ignore the ban, recognizing that the day, even if it did start as the celebration of a Christian saint, is now much more than that. Perhaps we can start to do what we recommend to others: 'Judge people by what they do, not by what they say.'"
Congratulations to the winners, and if they so choose they are free to pass the honor along to five of those bloggers who make them think as well.