Sunday, April 26, 2015

Outdoor writer gets his kids in touch with nature

From page A5 | October 30, 2012 |

These days, it’s not unusual to see two teenagers sitting together on a couch texting — to each other. While technology brings its advantages (speed, intensity), it also brings its burdens (speed, intensity), leaving many of us longing to get back to nature, and take our kids with us.

UC Davis graduate Dylan Tomine, a Patagonia fly fishing ambassador, conservation advocate and noted outdoor writer, saw those two teenagers texting on a couch. And that was the moment he decided to establish a different life for his children: more unplugged, more in tune with the rhythms of tide, weather and season. Less screen time, more oyster-shucking and gardening time.

In his memoir “Closer to the Ground: An Outdoor Family’s Year on the Water, In the Woods, and at the Table” (Patagonia Books, October 2012, hardcover, $29.95), he tells the story of a family learning to live a life more wild.

Tomine will sign copies of his book at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, at The Avid Reader, 617 Second St. in downtown Davis. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a creative writing emphasis from UCD.

Filled with weather, natural history and delicious meals, Tomine encourages us to think about our relationship with nature, but in an accessible way.

“It’s about regular people trying to live a little closer to nature — especially through the process of food — with their kids,” Tomine said in a news release.

He and his wife left high-rise Seattle for a house in the woods on an island in Puget Sound. There, they raise their children in a way that keeps them in touch with their surroundings — searching for firewood, oysters and mushrooms.

Part parenting memoir, part food narrative, in “Closer to the Ground” the author shares his experience exploring nature daily with his kids, ages three and six. The book walks readers through four seasons of family foraging, cooking and eating from the woods and sea. Together, the Tomine family hunts chanterelles, fishes for salmon, digs clams and gathers at the kitchen table (mouths watering), to enjoy the fruits of their labor. A surprising result of their fishing and foraging life: The kids see healthy food, like salmon and homegrown vegetables, as delicious treats.

“Closer to the Ground” carries a timely message, addressing the current — and growing — interest in local food, childhood “nature deficit disorder,” conservation of natural resources, and the general desire to live in closer contact with the Earth. It explores a more personal side of subjects covered in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” and “Last Child In The Woods.”

“This is leading by example; and the quiet message is to learn to live with the things that really matter, the eternal things about the earth and each other,” writes acclaimed author and outdoorsman Thomas McGuane, in the foreword.

Patagonia founder and owner Yvon Chouinard says, ” ‘Closer to the Ground’ is a lot more than your usual tribute to local food or to a local sense of place, or how to manipulate your kids into doing what you want them to do. ‘Closer’ is a good-humored guide to teaching our kids how to learn from nature as teacher and mentor.

“Chief among nature’s lessons is self-reliance. You can see in Dylan’s kids, the more time they spend foraging and fishing with their dad, just how different their relation is to the food they eat, and how they develop a confidence anyone of any age could envy.”

Tomine is a trustee with The Wild Steelhead Coalition. A noted outdoor writer, his stories have appeared in The Flyfish Journal, The Drake, The New York Times and other publications. He lives with his wife and kids, now 5 and 8 years old, on an island in Puget Sound where they run Bainbridge Island Blueberry Co., a U-Pick blueberry farm.

For more information, visit



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