4 out of 4 stars
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Have you ever wondered what makes the world work the way it does? Maybe you've had trouble sleeping and wondered how it is that nature works together so well that everything hasn't completely fallen apart yet. Or you watched a post-apocalyptic show where law and order are nonexistent and people strive to create new communities and live according to their new rules. I know I sure have, and it's often easy to get lost in thought about how and why things are the way they are.
Lessons of Nature, from a Modern-Day Shepherd by Don F. Pickett is comprised of 15 lessons of and from nature, and how they relate not only to our ordinary lives but our spiritual ones as well. Lessons include how animals know things instinctually such as when to fly south for the winter, when a storm is coming before even humans do, or the importance of a strong foundation for your home and your spirit. Each chapter begins with a poem that conveys the lesson, and then Don goes into further detail. The way he links his poetry, the lessons, spirituality and general learning together is fascinating and masterful.
The lessons in the book are widely varied, but Don does a terrific job of bringing them all around to how they relate to our lives. Lessons include things such as growing from struggles, the dangers of taking shortcuts and the difference between nature's laws and society's laws. While some of these lessons seem very straightforward, Don does a terrific job of presenting new information and doing it in an interesting way. "Modern-Day Shepherd" isn't in the title just because it sounds good, it's in the title because the lessons include the point of view of a shepherd. I really enjoyed these segments, seeing things the way a shepherd would, and learning about the lessons they gleam from their solitary lives in nature. In the first chapter Don explains how some things can’t be taught and require a disconnect, something we struggle for these days with a constant connection to everything. It includes an “ancient Islamic story” of a boy who was sent to the best scholars and learned everything but was sent away again to learn what cannot be taught. His master sent him to the mountains with 400 sheep and told him not to return until they were 1000, and during that time of solitude he learned what cannot be taught.
Other really fascinating tidbits I picked up include how anthills are created to resist flooding, the origin of the word "humble" (from "humus", which means "ground level", as in soil, which is "rich and fertile"), troublesome English Kings and Queens and "positive law" - when law is the only thing that allows or disallows an act, not morality. There's also just the right amount of discussion on how seasons and days work due to the rotation and movement of the earth. I found myself glued to the writing throughout the entire 120-ish pages, and found the amount of time spent on each section to be just enough depth without getting heavy or dull.
I've read a lot of poetry over the last couple decades, and it seems the majority of it is free verse. I was delighted when I saw that not only do Don's poems (mostly) stick to a rhyme scheme, they even use meter! The first poem, for example, is made up of 4-line ABAB stanzas (the first and third lines rhyme, as do the second and fourth). This holds true with the whole poem, so the second line of the first stanza rhymes with the fourth line of the third and so on. They also adhere to 8 syllables in the first and third lines and 7 in the second and fourth. Many of the 15 poems are similar, but some mix things up, such as one made up of 3-line AAB CCB stanzas (the first and second lines of each stanza rhyme, and then the last line rhymes with the last line of the next stanza), and in this one each first line is 6 syllables, with the second and third being 7 and 8 respectively. There were a handful of times that a line wouldn't conform to the number of syllables or a rhyme would be imperfect, but as a whole I'd easily rate the poetry 3.5 out of 4 stars alone! The poetry is also very straightforward, so that while each has a good amount to convey, they don't hide their meanings. They're concise and a great way to reflect on the lessons in each section quickly.
Lessons of Nature, from a Modern-Day Shepherd by Don F. Pickett is a fascinating book, and it walked the thin line between entertaining and informative perfectly. The poetry helped mix things up, and the lessons managed to explore spirituality and a devotion to God just as much as they explained important lessons from nature that we use every day in our lives. My rating is a very solid 4 out of 4 stars, and I can easily recommend it to anyone who likes poetry, enjoys learning things when they read, is Christian and/or is interested in how and why nature is the way it is.
Lessons of Nature
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