Doug Hitt and Jake Vail, authors of the newly named 2013 Kansas Notable book, "A Kansas Bestiary," will be at Pages Books and Coffee in Newton at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1.
"A Kansas Bestiary" presents Kansas animals as you’ve never imagined them, 15 portraits in word and image assembled from deep time to the present day, offering fantastic yet true-to-life views of the state's contemporary wild neighbors.
Here, art and science, prose and poetry yield surprising connections between familiar Kansas animals and every Kansan. "A Kansas Bestiary" sparks a sense of awe at these animals, and helps people understand their own interconnectedness with the natural systems of the Sunflower State.
Jake Vail lives in the Wakarusa watershed and works as a librarian in Lawrence. A former agricultural researcher, editor and certified arborist, he has traveled extensively in Kansas and the Lower 48. His essays and reviews reflecting on natural and cultural history have appeared in several local journals and blogs, Wild Earth, The Land Report, New Farm and via the Prairie Writers Circle.
Doug Hitt holds an M.A. in Earth Literacy and has studied with eco-philosopher Joanna Macy. He convenes and facilitates ongoing conversations in deep ecology and cosmological literacy. Hitt is a native Kansan and a practicing physical therapist. He tends home on the banks of Spring Creek in northwest Douglas County.
Lisa Grossman is a painter and printmaker in Lawrence, whose work focuses on the wide skies, prairies and river valleys of Kansas. She has degrees from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Pa., and the University of Kansas. She has had 19 solo shows around the Midwest and on either coast, and her work is included in numerous museum, public and private collections.
Hitt said the authors' immediate inspiration was a similar bestiary from California, written by Rebecca Solnit and illustrated by Mona Caron.
"However, as we began our research and field observations, the animals and land communities of Kansas provided boundless inspiration themselves," he said.
Three scientists provided feedback and encouragement: Biologist Marty Birrell, entomologist Valerie Wright and the late Joe Collins, herpetologist and "exemplary human extraordinare," Hitt said.
The authors said they also were fueled by the support, enthusiasm and work of the Kansas Land Trust, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving lands of ecological, historical, scenic, agricultural and recreational significance. Partnering with KLT, they received a grant to publish the Bestiary from the Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund, which is administered through the Douglas County Community Foundation.
Hitt enjoyed learning more about Kansas animals through the project and said "discovery" is the best part of putting together a book.
"I think that it's the process of discovery which keeps writers and artists going back for more," he said. "For instance, as I delved into the research and field observation of Mermiria bivittata, the Two-striped Slant-faced grasshopper, I found myself moving from a kind of neutral ignorance to a place of entrancement and affection. Actually, I'd even use the word 'love.' This heart-deepening is one of the most profound of human satisfactions, whether you tend the soil, teach children, apply color to a canvas, or write essays."