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Finding a Clear Path

Jim Minick
PB  978-0-937058-97-8


Finding a Clear Path intertwines literature, agriculture, and ecology as author Jim Minick takes the reader on many journeys, allowing you to float on a pond, fly with a titmouse, gather ginseng, and grow the lowly potato. The reader visits monarch butterflies and morel mushrooms, encountering beavers, black snakes, and bloodroot along the way. Using his background as a blueberry farmer, gardener and naturalist, Minick explores the Appalachian region and also introduces information that can be appreciated from a scientific point of view, explaining, for example, the ears of an owl, or the problems with the typical Christmas tree. Reading this collection of essays invites you to search for ways to better understand and appreciate this marvelous world, opening paths for journeys of your own.


  • Walking
    • Finding a Clear Path
    • Creases
    • Walking in the World of Language
  • Naming it All
    • Naming What You Love
    • Seasons' Dance
    • The River of Spring
    • Small, Bright Glows of Spring
    • Drive
    • Cruel April
    • Longevity
    • Snake Stories
  • Floating
    • Springs, Strong and Sweet
    • To Pond
    • The Return of the Beaver
    • Sea Turtles
  • Flying
    • Nests
    • Birding by Car
    • Vanishing Birds
    • Monarchs: Flying Poetry
    • Mirrored Intruder
    • Terrifying Beauty
    • Counting Birds at Christmas
    • Homes for the Holidays
  • Gathering
    • Miacle Morels
    • Have Fungi, But Ne Careful
    • The Bridge of Antlers
    • Growing Ginseng
    • A "Woods Garden" Full of Cohosh
    • Wineberries—Wild, Red Jewels
    • In Praise of Pawpaws
  • Growing
    • Food Security, or Do You Know Where That Egg Came From?
    • Grow a Patch of Your Own
    • Some Kind of Habit
    • How to Get the Good Bugs In
    • Summertime, Winter Work
    • Gray Buffalo
    • Beans, Bovines, and Beetles
    • Groundhogs
    • Health, Hunger, and Hunting
    • Footprints, or We All Have Big Feet
    • For the Love of Chicken
    • The Holy, Lowly Spud
    • Claiming Ground
    • Corn Mazes
    • Cussed Yellow Jackets
    • Shocked
    • We Create the World We Eat: The Benefits of Organic Food
    • Beyond Organic
    • Star Linked
    • Not Ready for Roundup's Results
    • Zone
    • The Trouble With "Waste"
  • Working Among Trees
    • Sunlight on Willow
    • Hitting the Mark
    • Masonry Stoves
    • Praise for One Tough Tree
    • The Slow Work of Healing
    • Green Lumber, Green Profits: Sustainable Forestry in Appalachia
    • A Rision Tide Floats All Logs
    • A Different Fire: The Southern Pine Beetle
    • Bullish Invasives
    • Eastern Hemlocks Fade from our Forests
    • Beyond Bare-Ground: Organic Christmas Trees in the South
    • Bowls for Christmas
    • Handmade
  • Following Myself Home
    • Night Walking
    • Following Myself Home
  • Appendix


Jim Minick lives, writes, and farms in southwest Virginia, while teaching writing and literature at Radford University. His poems and essays have appeared in many books and periodicals including Orion, Shenandoah, YES!, Natural Home, Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Appalachian Journal, Appalachian Heritage, and Wind. Since 1996, Minick has written a regular column for The Roanoke Times New River Current as well as other articles that have appeared in major newspapers throughout the south.


"In Finding a Clear Path, Jim Minick maps the trails, real and metaphorical, that twine through the ancient Appalachian hills and through the hearts of those who love them, gracefully uniting the land, the wildlife, and its people."
Scott Weidensaul, author Mountains of the Heart

"In Finding a Clear Path, Jim Minick walks woods, gardens, and fields with a poet's eye; his seeing is sharp, his knowledge deep, his sentences tough and lean. And he is as practical as a farmer's almanac, too, offering not only observations and reflections, but advice on country matters of all kinds. Minick knows that on this lovely, flawed planet of ours, much is well."
Richard Hague, author Ripenings and Milltown Natural

"Jim Minick is blessed with brevity. Each of his one to three page essays meditates on one small thing, yet manages to enhance our understanding of the whole wide world. Readers be warned: seeing the macrocosm in a microcosm is a dangerous subversion of the normal egocentric human perspective, and may cause changes in attitude."
Chris Bolgiano, author The Appalachian Forest and Living in the Appalachian Forest

"...Finding a Clear Path is a beautifully wrought example of nature writing and environmental advocacy at its most appealing."
John C. Inscoe, Journal of Appalachian Studies