Ruth Grierson in the garden at her home in Tremont. She and co-author Thomas Vining are scheduled to speak about their new book, "Living on the Edge" at the Bass Harbor Library July 12 at 7 p.m. ISLANDER PHOTO BY SARAH HINCKLEY

New book from Grierson, “Living on the edge”

TREMONT—Standing on Ruth Grierson’s porch, surrounded by trees, birds and flowers, a post labeled Acadia National Park can be seen at the edge of her driveway.

Her positioning was chosen very intentionally. At the time Grierson and her husband settled on Mount Desert Island, in the early 1970s, there were acres of undeveloped land around them. Grierson has written about nature for the Bar Harbor Times and Mount Desert Islander since then.

“Nature is what I like to write about,” said Grierson. “When I was a little girl I always wanted to write a book. It took me quite awhile to do it.”

Her latest book is “Living on the Edge,” a collaboration with Thomas F. Vining. In it, she brings people to the edge of the water and walks them through much of the surrounding flora and sea life.

“My friend Tom Vining and I came up with this idea,” said Grierson, 90, about her fifth book. “We really like it.”

She and Vining are scheduled to speak about their joint venture at the Bass Harbor Library July 12 at 7 p.m. Other book talks are planned at the Southwest Harbor Library on Aug. 6 at 5:30 p.m. and at Jessup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor on Oct. 4 at 7 p.m.

For now, “Living on the Edge” can only be purchased from area libraries.

Grierson said the best way to enjoy the book is to bring it on your next walk to the water or along a shore path. Bring along a magnifying glass, too, she recommends, and experience a tour with Grierson and Vining describing what they see around them.

All five of Grierson’s books have focused on nature and natural subjects. Her first, written when Grierson was in her 60s, was an alphabet book focused on scenes of MDI with photographs.

“If you write one book, then you want to write another one and another one,” she said. “It’s like a disease.”

While Grierson writes about plants and their uses and history, Vining’s focus is the scientific names and how each plant is related to other species.

Small yellow flowers, depending on if they are within the rocks or along the shore, could be seaside goldenrod, silverweed or evening primrose. Within the book you can find an answer through photos and description.

Seaweed appears on the Maine shore in great abundance and variety. Some species only show themselves when the tide is out. One, sea lettuce, also called green algae, is edible, as are several other varieties of seaweed.

“Living on the Edge” not only tells what other plants the lettuce is related to, it provides methods for safely consuming the seaweed as well as information about the vitamin and mineral content.

One of Grierson’s favorite places to explore is the tide pools left from the waning waters. Within the shallow pools found among the rocks one can see small sea animals, vegetation and sponges.

Each season presents its own discoveries and putting the book together took some time to accurately reflect this.

“It takes about a year to get the pictures because you have to go through a whole season,” said Grierson.

Her love of nature comes from her mother and the adventures they would go on when Grierson was a child. When she married her husband, a naturalist responsible for bringing the Dorr Museum of Natural History to the College of the Atlantic, that love grew.

“I got knee deep in it then,” she said, explaining how many people tend to focus on specific aspects of nature. “It was more popular when I was growing up to be interested in the whole scene.”

Still active in nature at 90, Grierson was slowed this spring by a pelvis fracture. When she isn’t writing, walking among the trees or playing the fiddle Grierson can be found listening to the birds or sitting by a small pond near her house. For her, life is too interesting to remain passive.

“You gotta be in a hurry to catch me,” she said.

When asked if there might be another book in the future, Grierson leaves the option open.

“You never know,” she said. “Maybe, when I’m 95.”


Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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