I like reading about the outdoors. I like reading adventure stories. I like reading short stories and essays. And I like reading books with women protagonists. So I knew I'd like A Mile in Her Boots: Women Who Work in the Wild, a collection of essays by 28 women scientists, park rangers, trail blazers, etc. What I didn't know was that I would love this book.
The stories are evocative, funny, familiar, and exciting. They each recount some specific experience in the wilderness, but also give insight into why these women choose to work outdoors and how that choice shapes who they are. And all the essays are written in engaging story-telling voice, drawing the reader into the authors' sense of excitement, fear, or joy.
I think I'll remember of few of the essays for years, if not decades. One particularly notable selection recounts the rescue of sea turtle hatchlings from a nude beach on Maui. The author, Judy Edwards, gives a hilarious account of trying to dig up the turtles while surrounded by a throng of nude bathers and trying to avoid the "dreaded penis in the eye." Jane Duncan tells the strange saga of a headless Alaskan bear in her essay "The Rest of Elvis." I'd explain, but it'd be better if you just read it for yourself. Lori Messenger shares her trials with expressing breastmilk for her 5 month old daughter while fighting forest fires and jumping out of airplanes. (And I thought I had it rough!)
Other essays perfectly capture experiences I've had in the woods. "Hours til Dawn" by Elizabeth Dayton accurately describes the way I felt when I first camped on my own. It's all good until it gets dark and you start to hear strange noises in bear country. Jennifer Bove, the collection's editor, submitted "First Night at Field Camp", which tells about trying to be one of the boys on the field crew - sitting around the fire, drinking beer, and making crude jokes - and feeling bad for the girl who wouldn't take part.
In short, this book was just about perfect. The only disappointment? I have to give it back to my mom.