cover image THE PATH: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe

THE PATH: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe

Chet Raymo, . . Walker, $23 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-1402-2

Raymo (An Intimate Look at the Night Sky), a physicist at Stonehill College, agrees with Walt Whitman that "there is a sense in which the least thing contains the all." The least things in Raymo's universe occur on a one-mile path he has walked every day for 37 years between his home and his office in North Easton, Mass. Along this path that he knows so well, he writes, "every pebble and wildflower has a story to tell"—geological stories, environmental stories, human stories. Raymo uses each ecologically distinct portion of his path as a starting point for one of those tales. He is at his best when he relates the tale of the path itself, how it was constructed by the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted as part of an estate for the great-grandson of shovel magnate Oliver Ames. The beginning of the path at the end of a suburban street provides the opportunity to discuss the origin of the village of North Easton at the close of the 18th century: the small Queset Brook supplying the power needed to run the factory that would dominate the village for a century and a half. As the path meanders from woods to open fields, from gardens to water meadow, Raymo discusses ecological relationships, the nature of DNA, basic geology and contemporary environmental concerns. Although always interesting , Raymo's stories are less compelling and more superficial the further afield he goes. But this slim, lovingly written volume helps readers become more observant of the natural portions of their world. 8 b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Apr.)