Penn’s Woods: A Romantic View
by Bernard Charles Barnick
Page Publishing

"Every so often I must get away from people to find some communion with nature."

With its coal industry, railroads, and significance in American history often in the spotlight, natural beauty isn't always the first thing that Pennsylvania brings to mind. However, Barnick's unique contribution draws attention to the state's natural splendor through essays on his experiences in the Wilkes-Barre area and beyond.

As "simply a collection of observations," the writing meanders like a weekend hike in the woods. The focus is on the plants, animals, and geologic formations Barnick encounters in specific locations. The chapter “Rich Woods” relishes nature’s wealth, lavish colors, variety, and fecundity. The “Susquehanna River” chapter speaks to natural losses Pennsylvania has suffered due to floods and mining. The cumulative effect is an invitation to take time, let nature buoy the senses, and provide a necessary respite from busy modern lives.

Barnick says he feels more lonely in a bustling airport than he does under a myriad of stars. Poets, historical figures, and the Amish are the only other people represented in the narrative, besides the elusive celebrities he cites as stealing away today’s youth. Despite its primary focus on nature, in some ways the book serves as a polemic against modern man’s entertainment industries, technology, and environmental degradation. Overall, though, the author's work is fundamentally a tribute to Pennsylvania’s natural glory.

An abundance of lists of names and classifications detracts somewhat from the otherwise minimalist approach of delighting in surprises nature delivers to those who are patient and vigilant. Quotes at the beginning of each chapter and embedded poems tie Barnick's descriptions to the Romantic tradition. Picturesque tinted photos at the end of most chapters speak louder than words about Pennsylvania's majestic scenery. Waterfalls, forest trails, rivers, ponds, migrations, and meadows abound in this intriguing exploration of nature's wonders.

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