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Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  217 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
A celebrated storyteller-poet-naturalist explores a year of dawns in her most personal book to date.

In an eye-opening sequence of personal meditations through the cycle of seasons, Diane Ackerman awakens us to the world at dawn—drawing on sources as diverse as meteorology, world religion, etymology, art history, poetry, organic farming, and beekeeping. As a patient and lea
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 28th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published September 1st 2009)
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Apr 11, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it
Just couldn't get into this. I'll try again later. Maybe it's me. Can't believe I wrote that in June 2010. Read it and re-read it in Feb/March 2012. Couldn't part with it to take back to the library and finally bought a copy (used)on Amazon.
So many lovely essays. Some are heavily art oriented. She has a knack for describing things so that you see them for the first time. I've started reading it again and I'll add some quotes, either here or in the quotes section if I can find it.
Hannah Jane
Wow wow wow! Everybody should read this! I feel like yelling to the whole world about this book. How do I even explain it? It's almost as if Ackerman takes science and decorates it with metaphors. Oh her language is beautiful. "Troubadours" is one of the finest pieces I have ever read. I also adored "Forget Bats, “Clever as Clever," and "Field Guides." I am definitely going to go back and read it again, because there is no way I absorbed everything.

May our cities be redesigned to include more trees and windows providing a greater sense of sunrise, sunset, and seasons.
May playing in nature not be regarded as idle.
May our health plans cover green holidays to parks and wildernesses as some Scandinavian plans already do.
May our schools teach us to marvel at our humble origins and the minute stuff of the cosmos, and the fascinating life forms we have nonetheless become.
May many people have the opportunity to behold the planet from space, and r
Nov 23, 2011 Pat rated it really liked it
Diane Ackerman has an interesting view of the world. This is a collection of short essays that have been triggered in her mind by the light at dawn in Florida, where she often winters, and the light at dawn in the northern climes - Vermont - both in the summer and in winter. The light itself is just a trigger into a new thought process based on the flowers, plants, animals, birds and insects that are about at dawn; hence, the subtitle Dancing with Cranes. I like her perspective even if I'm not a ...more
Bryce Holt
Mar 02, 2012 Bryce Holt rated it it was ok
I get the sense from most other reviewers that they love Diane Ackerman but don't really know what to think on this. Well, I really enjoy Diane Ackerman and I thought this book was weak-borderlining-forgetful.

If you want to hear somebody muse on their morning routines (or what the birds are doing, for that matter), go grab some Billy Collins poetry and save yourself a few hours of investment in this. If you want to give Ackerman a shot, go with "A Natural History of the Senses." That one is love
Dec 28, 2009 Swhe641200 rated it liked it
I picked this up at the Layton Library. It was interesting talking about the Dawn of each new day. I will surely look at each new day different. There was a lot about plant life, animal life, methology. she skipped all over the place. But I learned many things.

Since I have read this book. I have been a lot more attentive to the sunrises and sunset. Thank to this book. I appreciate the colors so much more. I will never look at a sunrise or sunset the same again.
Aug 21, 2011 Sacha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Pithy, graceful, and surprising. This book of essays is on my poetry shelf because each essay is a little gem. Each is filled with observations of our world that are beautiful without being saccharine and inspire one to pay attention to the amazing soup we live in. This writing is peppered with interesting facts that indicate a startling breadth of reading. The style is warm and conversational, as if the reader has been invited into the yard to share a hot drink.
Nov 26, 2016 Tina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful essays ordered by the seasons.
Jul 26, 2011 Richard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
I was raised a Catholic, left the church at 14, played around with atheism/agnosticism riddled with teen angst, kept circling 'round the church trying to catch the scent of something meaningful until religious nostalgia became the driver. Somewhere in there I joined Rick in Casablanca and changed my nationality to "...drunkard. That makes Rick a citizen of the world." Eventually hooked up with the hippies, drugs and new age nonsense, catching glimmers. Danced with the Sufis, chanted with the ...more
Liza Gilbert
Mar 11, 2012 Liza Gilbert rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for one of my library's book clubs. I understand that it's difficult when writing about one's own interaction with nature to not become self-indulgent. It's hard to not wax rhapsodic about every little detail.

To me, Ackerman more often that not wrote with a great deal of self-indulgence. I felt this book would work better had it been written in poetry, or kept simply as a family diary that her relatives could someday read.

The non-fiction writing style with which Ackerman had excelled
Elly Sands
Feb 13, 2010 Elly Sands rated it really liked it
Wow! This book is filled with fascinating and intriguing information about our natural world. Ackerman follows the four seasons with her observations about dawn. She brings together a wide gamut of sources such as beekeeping, bird behavior, cloud glories(new to me), poetry, art and much more. She is a keen observer and writes with passion and a pure zest for life. I found the experiments with spiders and how they weave their webs a real "trip." Ex: Spidernauts, 2 spiders go into orbit aboard ...more
Ryan Mishap
"Then the canvas of our awareness fills with a vastness so ancient, astonishing, and visceral that we can neither understand nor turn away from it because it speaks a dialect of bone, whispers through our cells with revelry and relief about the joy of finding oneself alive, again, on one more morning, as night sails off, replaced by a floating world of color and birdsong."

"If I closely watch any natural wonder, really watch it, nonjudgmentally, in the present moment, noting its nuances, how it l
Shonna Froebel
Nov 18, 2012 Shonna Froebel rated it really liked it
This is a book to take your time reading. From her two homes in Ithaca, New York and Palm Beach, Florida, Ackerman looks at her own experiences and observances of dawn through the seasons. Paying attention to birds, from cranes to hummingbirds, starlings to owls, she includes their actions and her reactions. Talking about art, from Monet to Hokusai and how they portrayed the natural world. Insects from bees to spiders are observed carefully and commented on. All of her writing connects one thing ...more
One of my favorite naturalist-writers, Diane Ackerman gives us a book of essays on observing nature at dawn. She describes bird song at dawn and discusses various birds she sees, providing wonderful background on their behavior. Her writing is wonderful, full of poetic phrases about observing the sky brightening, the world turning golden, and the animals taking advantage of another day. The effect is almost meditative, and, indeed, influences you to slow down yourself and enjoy your ...more
Grass_Roots Books and Music
Diane Ackerman takes us on a wonderful seasonal journey through the light of dawn, the beginning of daylight. Each chapter stands on its own as she explores this early morning light from the experiences of humans, as well as animals, and as well as what it means to her. And, with thorough research, she describes what this light means not only in science, but for artists and different religions of the world. She covers it all--exquisitely. This is a nice collection of insights; an enjoyable read ...more
Laura Lynch
Nov 01, 2009 Laura Lynch rated it liked it
"Dawn Light" is reflections on the dawn, the day and the sights and sounds of everyday life. It is observations of nature especially the calls and habits of birds as well as the activities and noises of humans. It is Diane’s thoughts and interpatations on what she sees and what it might mean to be something other than a person. A book that reminds us to enjoy the unique minor and major moments of life,
Oct 19, 2013 Bruce rated it really liked it
A really delightful and interesting collection of essays and thought pieces. Monet's inspiration from Hokusai via the wrapping paper in a Paris shop. The efforts of song birds to get their songs right as they wake, groggy in the dawn. The words different cultures have (and don't have) for colours. The busy life at dawn looking out from a balcony in Palm Beach. Teaching cranes to migrate... and dance.
Aug 03, 2011 Darla rated it really liked it
A little out there, but an interesting collection of thoughts on dawn and topics relating to it. Part meditation, part science lesson in poet's language, part "Once and Future King" thoughts about what-if-I-were-something-else, this is a quick read of one woman's ruminations on dawn. Read as part of my reading list in preparation for the A.T.
I really wanted to read this book - it was given to me by someone I admire and like very much. But I just couldn't read it. There were a few chapters that had some interest, but in general the author just wanders around loving nature. Others with a more contemplative or meditative mind would probably enjoy it. Remember, I didn't even like Thoreau.
Jun 22, 2010 Florence rated it liked it
A series of short vignettes illuminating natural and poetic events inspired by dawn. A spider, when infused with LSD alters the plan of its carefully constructed web resulting in a freer design with lots of flaws. A person's peripheral vision does not register colors, just dusky gray images. Interesting trivia found in this slim volume.
M. Jane Colette
I really wanted to like this book. It's beautifully written. And tranquil. And insightful.

And I love much of Diane Ackerman's other work.

And I just could not get into it. It almost seems unfair to write such a review. Is it the book? Is it the reader? Some combination of both?

I'm filing it under "Try reading again when I'm in a more responsive mood."
If this had been a book of poetry, I probably would have finished it. As it was, it wasn't what I was looking to read at the time. I always thought that it was some kind of self-help or insight book, but I'm glad it wasn't: mostly it was poetical prose about the author's experiences and meditations on the dawn. Pretty cool, but not my thing at the moment.
May 21, 2014 Amanda rated it really liked it
This was interesting and refreshing. There were so many whimsical words and moments. If I could have focused for one minute, I think this book would have really hit me hard. Instead I read it over the course of a month, casually, and stopped periodically when I was moved, and took a deep and resounding breath. I liked it.
Marik Casmon
A lovely collection of nature essays centered on the theme of dawn, and including lots of poetic writing about birds, animals, plants, living, and a host of more distantly related subjects. A way to cheer yourself.
Jul 16, 2011 LitProfSue rated it really liked it
I love anything by Ackerman. This one is a collection of reflective essays on the impact of dawn on the author, interwoven with cultural, historical and scientific insights on the how humans have viewed the sunrise.
May 18, 2012 Rachel rated it really liked it
Going back to a college favorite - Diane Ackerman writes wonderful mini-essays. Lots of interesting tidbits and encouragement to not just burrow back under the covers when the dawn chorus wakes me up.
Mar 15, 2014 Penny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
Hauntingly beautiful prose, laced with fascinating facts about animals, birds and people as they relate to dawn. Organized by seasons, the short chapters in this book are easy to read and savor one each day.
Karl W.
Oct 31, 2013 Karl W. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays, nature
A truly marvelous book, a volume that can bring joy to the reader, and an increased desire to wake up and LOOK!
Nov 15, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it
More like poetry than prose, Ackerman's reflections on light and nature reveal the webs of connection between human and the natural world. To be savored rather than read.
Apr 06, 2010 Lynn added it
This book is beautiful in its messages, insights, and information. Ackerman looks at so many aspects of dawn and she offers us so very much.
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Diane Ackerman has been the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction in addition to many other awards and recognitions for her work, which include the best-selling The Zookeeper’s Wife and A Natural History of the Senses. She lives with her husband Paul West in Ithaca, New York.
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