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Carol Navarro reading club selection “Nature’s Best Hope” by Doug Tallamy.

FRANKFORT — Time weighed heavy on retiree Carol Navarro after COVID restrictions hit — until she found inspiration in Benzie Conservation District’s virtual environmental book club.

The free club hosted by BCD meets monthly on Zoom to discuss books focused on locally relevant environmental issues.

“I felt like I needed to do something to give back, but knew my job was to stay home and not get infected,” Navarro said.

It led Navarro to embrace the time and space created by pandemic restrictions. Her attitude sparked her interest in the book club where she enjoys new ways to connect to others and where she finds fresh ideas. It helped Navarro turn the empty hours into experiencing the period as a gift.

“It’s not a crippling time,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to do better.”

The book club’s online life began in September and continues into 2021. Navarro helped kick off the club’s resurrection with the book “Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Backyard.” She shared her enthusiasm for the title with BCD’s Outreach Coordinator Aimé Merizon. Merizon ran with the idea of launching the former District Readers in-person club as a virtual club. Four months later, the online club is going strong.

Merizon emails District Readers discussion prompts prior to club meetings. She said the hour-long format keeps readers’ focus on topic.

“It seems easier to have a club online because of its structure,” she said.

Books are selected based on reader preferences. “All the books we read relate to us on a personal level and community-wide,” Merizon said.

November’s selection, “The Blue Mind” by Wallace J. Nichols sparked a new direction for the club. The book explores why humans are drawn to water and its psychological and physical benefits. Merizon said she had “poked around” the author’s website for insights. The California-based Nichols surprised her with an email and offered to join the club discussion – a first for the group. Merizon said more special guests may join future meetings.

The club typically features nonfiction works, but its Dec. 31 meeting explores Jim Harrison’s “The River Swimmer.” Harrison, a literary icon and long-time Leelanau County resident, examines the encroachment of urbanity on nature in this fictional tale.

“The fiction books are more about the gut-level feelings we have about the environment and how fragile it is,” said reader Karen Roberts, a former Frankfort resident.

Roberts joins the virtual club from her current residence in Dexter in Washtenaw County. “When I’m Up North, I’m more in touch with the environment’s fragility,” she said. “Dexter is more manicured. It’s great, but you don’t feel the environmental urgency. It’s more of an abstraction.”

She said the book club keeps her awareness of environmental issues in the foreground.

Anyone from any location may register for BCD’s District Readers Environmental Book Club meetings. The next meeting takes place at 11 a.m., Dec. 31. Register at www.benziecd.org/district-readers.html to receive a Zoom invite.

“I felt like I needed to do something to give back, but knew my job was to stay home and not get infected.” Carol Navarro

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