“Come and miss the boat with me,” invites Amy Leach, in “Donkey Derby,” the delightful prologue to Things That Are, her book of science and nature essays. “Come and play some guessing games. We’ll read aloud the illegible electric green script of the northern lights; we’ll speculate about which star in the next ten thousand years is going to go supernova. […] I’ll buy you the rain, you buy me snow, and we’ll go in together for sunshine for the grass and the clover and the delicious prickly thistles.” And even with these first few lines, you begin to see it. Things That Are is like nothing you’ve ever read: the Seussian language and syntax, the quirky, careful observations, and the wild, myriad subjects themselves—goats, peas, panda bears, colliding galaxies, God, global climate change, and oracles—it all combines to create a tone that is fun, funny, and whimsical, as well as serious, reverent, wise, and suffused with grace.
I started dog-earing pages and quit, because I found myself turning back every corner, top and bottom, left and right. Besides, you can simply open Things That Are to any old page and find a line that’ll shock you right back into the real world, the world of silly lilies and stars. For instance, from page 166, this:
Perhaps you have noticed, when you take your wind chimes down to polish them, that the wind does not stop blowing, or that when you put your flute away you do not stop breathing. The wind does not need wind chimes to blow, nor does a person require a flute to breathe; the oracles were not speaking from their own understanding but transmitting the Earth’s emanations. They were mediums, exhilarated intermediaries—the middlewomen gone, the Earth itself may be our authority.
See what I mean? Go miss the boat with Amy Leach. It’s quite a ride.