256 pages, b/w illustrations
Reflections on the private lives of the wild critters of the Catskills in southeastern New York State, from birds to moths to wild deer, by a lifelong naturalist
A red fox stands poised at the edge of a woodchuck den, his ears perked for danger as two pudgy fox cubs frolic nearby. A mother black bear and her cubs hibernate beneath a felled tree. A barred owl snags a hapless cottontail from a meadow with its precise talons. In The Quarry Fox, Leslie T. Sharpe trains her keen eye and narrative gifts on these and other New York wildlife through her tales of close observations as a naturalist living in the Great Western Catskills. The Quarry Fox is the first in-depth study of Catskill wildlife since John Burroughs invented the genre of nature-writing, in which Sharpe weaves her experiences with the seasons, plants, and creatures with the natural history of each organism, revealing their sensitivity to and resilience against the splendor and cruelty of Nature.
Sharpe's frank, scientific observations join with her deeply felt connection to these creatures to instill in readers an appreciation of the undaunted and variegated beauty of the Catskills and camaraderie with its animals. From contemplating the importance of milkweed for monarchs to lay their eggs to reveling in the first steps of a wobbly fawn, The Quarry Fox is a celebration of the natural world and our place in it.
"Carefully observed, beautifully written, and delivered in the voice of someone who is talking to us about love."
– Dennis Covington, author of Salvation on Sand Mountain
"The Quarry Fox is replete with fascinating and endearing creatures: dancing woodcocks, luna moths, baby black bears, hibernating woodchucks and, of course, the quarry fox of the title. But the most captivating of the large cast of characters is the book's author herself, curious, adventurous and passionately in love with the natural world. She is not only enamored of a great variety of mammals, insects, frogs, fish and birds. This is one of the rare humans who have preferential feelings for the mineral and vegetable worlds as well as our animal one. "'Old Blue,' my favorite snag of rock," she writes fondly of a sandstone boulder. And she rhapsodizes about a Black Walnut tree: "In fall, I love how its fernlike leaves turn bright yellow, contrasting with the rich dark brown of its rugged bark." Her powers of observation are extraordinary and unconventional. An abandoned quarry reminds her of an archaeological dig, once the scene of great human activity, now motionless and silent. As for the color of her fox heroine, Sharpe compares her to a Creamsicle! Above all Sharpe is a hugely likable narrator. She won my heart again and again by her efforts to accommodate the creatures she encounters. As she takes her daily walk in the woods near her cabin she repeatedly calls out "Bear bear bear, " impelled not by fear but by empathy. "I was sharing this land with wild critters in a very real, not just fanciful, way. I was entering the bear's territory?certainly it was hers as much as mine, and I had to respect that," she writes. Well, you have to respect and indeed, love a person who thinks that way."
– Marie Winn, former nature columnist for the Wall Street Journal and author of Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park and Central Park in the Dark: More Mysteries of Urban Wildlife
"In prose as clear and sinuous as the mountain brook she rescues from a bog and as wise-eyed as her quarry fox and black bear, Leslie Sharpe has written a truly classic memoir of her life in the still wild Catskill Mountains. Lovers of Burroughs, Thoreau, and Aldo Leopold will treasure this wonderful book."
– Nick Lyons, author of Spring Creek
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Leslie T. Sharpe is the former Vice President of the New York City Audubon Society, an environmentalist, and a lifelong naturalist living on Lazy Hawk Mountain in the Great Western Catskills. She has taught writing and editing at Columbia University, New York University and the City College of New York. Her book Editing Fact and Fiction: A Concise Guide to Book Editing is a staple text for writing students.