The whimsy of nature described in Richard Adams classic adventure tale “Watership Down” was brought to life at Davis Ranches in Grimes April 24 as the Virginia Yerxa Community Read Committee hosted their annual community read event.
“Because of the nature of the book, we really wanted to highlight the outdoors,” said Stacey Costello, Virginia Yerxa Community Read Day committee member and organizer of the event.
Each year since 2010, the Virginia Yerxa Community Read Committee has chosen a literary work and organized a series of community events based on the piece to promote literacy within Colusa and honor longtime resident Virginia Yerxa, whose long standing mission was to promote literacy to the community’s youth.
This year’s event kicked off with a plein air painting class, led by local artist Mary Ann Nation.
“It was fun to see how great all of the paintings turned out and how different they all were,” said Costello.
The committee organized a self-guided story walking tour around the ranch as well, which featured discussion prompts from the book as well as interesting facts about the local flora and fauna.
Costello said members of the Master Gardeners of Colusa County, the Resource Conservation District and the Davis Ranches Conservation Team were also on hand to answer questions about the local vegetation.
“A lot of native plants have been reintroduced into the Sycamore Slough area so it was a perfect setting for people to walk around and see things similar to what is described in the book,” said Costello.
According to Costello, they even saw a couple of rabbits – the creature that makes up the cast of characters in the story.
Each year, the committee also brings in a scholar whose work relates to that year’s literature so Dr. Michael Ziser, the inaugural director of the University of California, Davis Environmental Humanities Research supercluster, held a seminar that discussed environmental humanities and animal fables during this year’s event.
“This has always been a really important part of the event,” said Costello.
According to Costello, Ziser presented an interesting discussion about how the book’s use of animals in a literary work was much different than other fables.
“This book really broke the mold,” said Costello.
A picnic lunch was also held on the ranch, with food from the Arbuckle-based food truck Sauced. Costello said the food truck created a special menu for the event, specifically catered to reflect the book.
“It was really great,” said Costello. “They did such a great job.”
According to Costello, the committee did not have to make many adjustments to this year’s Virginia Yerxa Community Read Day event despite the ongoing pandemic because the book and subsequent activities were all based outside, so the event could still be held safely without many modifications.
Last year, the event – which focused on “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan – was canceled entirely due to the pandemic.
Costello said she was happy to see the event return and more than 70 people attended throughout the day.
“We had a really great turnout,” said Costello.
Costello said the committee will be reading all summer in preparation for next year’s book-in-common selection, but they welcome any and all literary suggestions from the community.
“We really want it to be a community read,” said Costello.
Per tradition, the committee plans to announce the 2022 Virginia Yerxa Community Read Day selection in December.
For more information, visit www.virginiaread.net.