Launching Canoes at at Ashuelot Library, on Saturday, April 29
The tiny Thayer Library is proud to be launching Canoes. Well, not actual canoes, but an important new book entitled Canoes: A Natural History in North America, by local author Norman Sims and co-author Marc Neuzil. It's true that the library's patrons could, if they chose, endeavor to launch actual canoes, because the library is located in Ashuelot Village in the town of Winchester beside the Ashuelot River, where author Sims has often paddled. It's just feet away from the put-in for the Ashuelot-to-Hinsdale run. But such patrons should think twice, because that run includes some fearsome Class-4 rapids.
The book describes the canoe's origins and its thousands of years influencing life on our continent, but it focuses most closely on the last three centuries. Ancient, traditional, and modern designs and technologies are covered as well as the rich topic of how canoes have been used. With gorgeous paintings, drawings, and photographs on every page, the experience of reading it is nearly as satisfying as padding itself.
The book begins with an essay by New Yorker writer John McPhee that is both personal and philosophical He suggests an idea that resonates through all of Sims's and Neuzil's chapters: that canoes by their nature have subtle power to connect us immediately and across history to each other and to the essence of the physical world.