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Self-Portrait with Turtles: A Memoir

Biography / MemoirOut of Print

By: David M Carroll (Author)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Hardback | Dec 2004 | #156592 | ISBN: 0618162259
Out of Print Details

About this book

Self-Portrait with Turtles is a book in the spirit of Walden and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, but it is also unique, as David Carroll himself is. Driven by a passion for art and turtles, Carroll has lived a Walden-like life for decades, although he is married, with family. In Self -Portrait he tells the story of that remarkable life. He writes about his early encounters with turtles, which led to a lifelong fascination with them and their swampy habitats, and about the high school teacher who told him that, contrary to everything he had been taught before, art is the only thing that matters, the only thing that lasts. During his years at art school in Boston, he got to know the turtles of the Fenway, including one giant snapper he wrestled to shore and carried to his studio for a portrait session. After a brief career as a teacher, Carroll has spent decades scraping out a living as an artist and naturalist, raising three children on a shoestring with his artist wife. "We live like turtles," he has said; "we hunker down when times get hard." In a materialistic age, he and his family have gone their own way, living simply and self-sufficiently, showing that the secret of a good life is to devote yourself to what you love.

"Author-naturalist Carroll (Swampwalker's Journal, 1999) spent his early years in the city. When he was eight, his family moved to a town with woods, streams, ponds, and a salt marsh within walking distance. When Carroll saw his first turtle on his first outing through the wetlands, he was hooked. When a high-school art teacher declared that art was the only thing that lasts, the author then had the two guides for his life's work. A degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston led to turtles in the Fens and the woman who became his wife. Bouts of teaching are interspersed with rambling in search of turtles, and a final move to New Hampshire settles the author and his family in a landscape that comes complete with chelonian denizens. In a wonderful blend of natural history, memoir, and drawings, the author leads us through his life and how it has been shaped by his love of nature and turtles. This beautifully illustrated memoir will be sought out by lovers of good nature writing."
- Booklist

"Carroll, a naturalist and an artist, discovered turtles when he was eight years old, and in this slight but charming memoir, he tells how these wetland creatures forever changed and directed his life. After his first encounter with a spotted turtle in a woodland pool near his home in a central Pennsylvania housing project, he was obsessed, wading in swamps, marshes, streams and ditches to find turtles no matter where he lived. This infatuation led to a fascination with everything in nature, and he combined this interest with his talent for drawing and painting, attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and embarking on a brief career as an art teacher. Although he was popular with the students, especially the more unconventional ones, he was too exuberant and imaginative to last in that profession, so he and his wife, also an artist, moved to rural New Hampshire, where he could devote himself to nature studies. Carroll has now been observing turtles for 50 years, and although he laments that their habitats are often lost to development, he continues to find them everywhere. In an especially touching final chapter, he tells of following one particular spotted turtle for 18 years and finally succeeding in observing her annual nesting ritual. Unlike his earlier book, The Year of the Turtle, this is not a natural history of turtles but rather a meditation on the author's life as a naturalist and a paean to the intriguing creatures that lured him to that calling. Illus. by the author."
- Cahners, 01/12/2004
EARLY YEARS The First Eight Years – 3 The First Turtle – 5 Companera – 10 Another Spring – 17 Wild Boy – 25 Loss – 34 Gordon – 38 Mr. Moxley and Mr. Malone – 39 The Beach – 41 Bill and DeDe – 45 Cedar Pastures – 50 Walden – 58 Art, Biology, Writing – 61
ART SCHOOL My Room – 67 The Fens – 69 Girls – 72 The Ark – 74 Drawing, Painting, Writing – 79 Laurette – 84 Queensbury Street – 86 Farewell to Cedar Pastures – 92
MIDDLE YEARS Big Sandy Pond – 97 Teaching – 103 Turtles – 105 The Old Johnson Farm – 114 Pumpkin Hill – 122 Wild Cranberries – 133 Archie Carr – 135
LATER YEARS Sibley – 141 The Digs – 143 Dudley House – 146 Spotted Turtles – 148 The Year of the Turtle – 154 Tupper Hill – 159 Return of the Native – 165 The New Land – 169 Ariadne Nesting – 171Author-naturalist Carroll (" Swampwalker's "Journal, 1999) spent his early years in the city. When he was eight, his family moved to a town with woods, streams, ponds, and a salt marsh within walking distance. When Carroll saw his first turtle on his first outing through the wetlands, he was hooked. When a high-school art teacher declared that art was the only thing that lasts, the author then had the two guides for his life's work. A degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston led to turtles in the Fens and the woman who became his wife. Bouts of teaching are interspersed with rambling in search of turtles, and a final move to New Hampshire settles the author and his family in a landscape that comes complete with chelonian denizens. In a wonderful blend of natural history, memoir, and drawings, the author leads us through his life and how it has been shaped by his love of nature and turtles. This beautifully illustrated memoir will be sought out by lovers of good nature writing.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2004, American Library Association.)

Cahners (01/12/2004):
Carroll, a naturalist and an artist, discovered turtles when he was eight years old, and in this slight but charming memoir, he tells how these wetland creatures forever changed and directed his life. After his first encounter with a spotted turtle in a woodland pool near his home in a central Pennsylvania housing project, he was obsessed, wading in swamps, marshes, streams and ditches to find turtles no matter where he lived. This infatuation led to a fascination with everything in nature, and he combined this interest with his talent for drawing and painting, attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and embarking on a brief career as an art teacher. Although he was popular with the students, especially the more unconventional ones, he was too exuberant and imaginative to last in that profession, so he and his wife, also an artist, moved to rural New Hampshire, where he could devote himself to nature studies. Carroll has now been observing turtles for 50 years, and although he laments that their habitats are often lost to development, he continues to find them everywhere. In an especially touching final chapter, he tells of following one particular spotted turtle for 18 years and finally succeeding in observing her annual nesting ritual. Unlike his earlier book, The Year of the Turtle, this is not a natural history of turtles but rather a meditation on the author's life as a naturalist and a paean to the intriguing creatures that lured him to that calling. Illus. by the author. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.


Contents

EARLY YEARS
The First Eight Years - 3
The First Turtle - 5
Companera - 10
Another Spring - 17
Wild Boy - 25
Loss - 34
Gordon - 38
Mr. Moxley and Mr. Malone - 39
The Beach - 41
Bill and DeDe - 45
Cedar Pastures - 50
Walden - 58
Art, Biology, Writing - 61

ART SCHOOL
My Room - 67
The Fens - 69
Girls - 72
The Ark - 74
Drawing, Painting, Writing - 79
Laurette - 84
Queensbury Street - 86
Farewell to Cedar Pastures - 92

MIDDLE YEARS
Big Sandy Pond - 97
Teaching - 103
Turtles - 105
The Old Johnson Farm - 114
Pumpkin Hill - 122
Wild Cranberries - 133
Archie Carr - 135

LATER YEARS
Sibley - 141
The Digs - 143
Dudley House - 146
Spotted Turtles - 148
The Year of the Turtle - 154
Tupper Hill - 159
Return of the Native - 165
The New Land - 169
Ariadne Nesting - 171


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Biography

David M. Carroll is the author of The Year of the Turtle, Trout Reflections, Self-Portrait with Turtles, and Swampwalker's Journal, which won the prestigious John Burroughs Medal. In 2006 he won a MacArthur "genius" award for his work as a writer, artist, and naturalist. Carroll has been featured on Today (where he reached down into swampy water, miraculously pulled up a turtle he knew, and told her history), in numerous newspapers and magazines, and in the most popular documentary in the history of New Hampshire public television. He is an active lecturer and consultant to conservation institutions throughout New England.

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