Edith Patchs childrens
stories taught gentle lessons about nature. She wanted children to share
in what Rachel Carson would call a sense of wonder about nature.
In The Old Boulder Patch wrote: For the old boulder
has a story of its own quite as marvelous as the tale of anything else
on the hill. And in spite of the rocks quiet way of sitting there,
its story is one of travel and adventure and mystery.
Patch, like Carson, saw human beings as integral parts of the natural
world. They both rejected the false dichotomy Man and Nature
that many people often use. Whatever affected an animal or a plant affected
the people who shared that ecosystem. The owner of Holiday Farm
was dismayed by the number of young mosquitoes in the bog pools on his
farm, and thought he might have to drain the bog. However, the dusky ducks
feasted on those wrigglers, so that there were actually fewer mosquitoes
than usual that spring. And the mosquitoes that did reach maturity were
decimated by the swallows. So the wetland was saved.
Wild things could be useful to people in many ways. When the gardener
finds the body of Cock Robin in the garden he is prepared to go
to the trouble of burying it. However, the Sexton beetle began the work
of burying the body which would provide sustenance for her baby grubs.
To the satisfaction of the gardener, the beetle accomplished the work
Patch also teaches that even people who mean well can disturb the natural
order. In The Painted Turtle, Eleanor is a nice young girl who
wishes to become acquainted with Picta. However, she steals her away from
her natural habitat, while at the same time promising to make her comfortable
and happy. Since Eleanor is a girl who respects all living things,
when she sees that she cannot fulfill her promise to Picta while keeping
her in captivity, she searches for an appropriate environment and returns
the turtle to the wild. Whenever possible, such action is the correct
one in dealing with wild animals and insects.
Patch noted in The Cabin
of the Common Tree Frog that it will do Hyla no harm for you
to keep him some day long enough to watch him change his color.
Then, of course, Hyla should be restored to his original place outside.
Patchs young readers knew as well as she that not all people were
benevolent towards animals. Cubby Lotor finds this out when his paw is
caught in a trap. His mother rescues him by cutting off the three fingers
that were gripped by the trap. However, the innate goodness of humans
is redeemed by the action of the farmer from Holiday Farm, who, when he
comes upon the trap, posts a No Steel Traps Allowed Here sign
on his property.
Patch often used the scientific names for animals and plants to teach
subtly. The raccoons are Mother and Father Lotor.
The wild carrot or Queen Annes Lace is Daucus. Readers
of these stories may learn the terminology without even being aware of
it. Patch was always concerned with scientific accuracy. Her stories were
to delight but also to educate.
The selections in the Sampler demonstrate Edith Patchs attitudes
and beliefs about nature. Most of the pieces illustrate more than one
of these concepts. Above all, Patch wanted to be absolutely accurate in
her depiction of nature. Her writings are realistic and true, as well
by Nancy MacKnight