Big Books & Bold Ideas with Kerri Miller

Talking Volumes: Margaret Renkl on 'The Comfort of Crows'

A woman talks to a crowd-3
New York Times columnist and nature writer Margaret Renkl closed out the 2023 Talking Volumes season with thoughts on her book, "The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year."
Tom Campbell | MPR News

The season finale of Talking Volumes brought author and columnist Margaret Renkl to Minnesota, hours after the first snow carpeted our Northern landscape.

She declared it “magical” — a theme familiar to those who’ve read her New York Times columns or her new book, “The Comfort of Crows.”

In it, the self-described backyard naturalist details what she saw in her Tennessee half-acre backyard over the course of 52 weeks. She laughs at the bumblebees and fusses over foxes. She laments the absence of birds and butterflies that used to be proliferate. But she also refuses to give in to despair.

For those of us paying attention, she told MPR host Kerri Miller, it would be “easy for the grief to take over.”

“But what a waste it would be if we did that,” she added. “If it’s true, that we’re going to lose all the songbirds — at least the migratory ones — how much more are we obliged to notice them and treasure them while we have them?”

Don’t miss this warm and candid conversation about the gift of nature, the solace of observation and the gospel Renkl finds in her own backyard. Musical guest The Dollys rounded out the evening.


Use the audio player or video player above to listen to the conversation.

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