When Spokane author Jack Nisbet wrote his book "The Collector," he may have thought he was done telling the stories of David Douglas, the intrepid Scottish naturalist whose explorations in the Pacific Northwest nearly two centuries ago yielded hundreds of specimens that were new to science, and resulted in the naming of plants and creatures great and small - from the Douglas squirrel to the Douglas fir.
But after its publication in 2009, when Nisbet went out to promote the book, "so many people began to talk to me about their own experiences with the man and the country through which he had traveled that I realized I had only begun to touch the dynamic worlds he saw."
So Nisbet went back out into the landscape to do further research. He retraced Douglas' footsteps and revisited sites that Douglas had described in careful detail, synching his 21st century visits with the time of year that Douglas had been there. Like the young naturalist 200 years prior, Nisbet climbed trees and harvested plants and talked with native people whose families have inhabited the area for untold generations.
Out of all this a handsome new book has sprung: "David Douglas, A Naturalist at Work."
Nisbet crosses the Columbia bar just as Douglas had done, in mid-spring, to get a feel for the notorious patch of water - although the vessel Nisbet travels in has been specially designed to face the treacherous conditions and is piloted by a skipper with years of experience navigating the bar.
With Douglas' notes in hand, Nisbet visits the Shoalwater and Chinook people along Willapa Bay, who help him identify some of the same fishing areas and berry patches that have existed from that day to this.
In the Okanagan Highlands, he encounters a spring snow cover not unlike the one that thwarted Douglas' plans to commence collecting specimens.
And Nisbet describes current prescribed-burn practices to preserve stands of Garry oak, a species that Douglas named after a Hudson's Bay Company lead, and compares those with Douglas' notes mentioning the Native Americans' use of fire to promote foraging and hunting opportunities in oak woodlands.
The book tells of the role that Douglas played in introducing new seeds to England. It also discusses the alien weeds that had already begun to take root in the Northwest by the time of Douglas' earliest expeditions.
Nisbet touches on the burgeoning scientific scene in the 1820s and '30s (nicely underscored with a brief but illustrative chronology at book's end), and the additional skills Douglas acquired along the way in methods of measuring terrestrial magnetism and surveying. The book also notes Douglas' interests in the fields of zoology and volcanic geology.
I no longer have a copy of "The Collector" on my bookshelf, alas, so I could not directly compare that book with Nisbet's new effort. But on its own, "David Douglas, A Naturalist at Work," makes perceptive connections between people and place, and tantalizing connections across time.
BARBARA LLOYD MCMICHAEL writes a weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org