From the Beacon: Tales to help you enjoy the outdoors

June is National Great Outdoors Month, a time to celebrate nature and engage in fun outdoor activities. Whether it is walking, swimming, biking or strolling through a park or on the beach, getting outside is good for the body and mind.

You can experience the wonder and beauty of the great outdoors while spending quality time with family and friends. It also is a good time to renew our commitment to protecting the environment and keeping open spaces beautiful and accessible to everyone. And do not forget that many outdoor activities are free and can be a great help in relieving stress.

If you're an outdoor enthusiast or even if you like a view from your easy chair, the following books might be just the escape you're looking for:

"The Nature Handbook: A Guide to Observing the Great Outdoors," by Ernest H Williams Jr.:

Professor Williams, chair of the biology department at Hamilton College in New York, has led many different groups over the past 25 years on field trips to explore nature. This book is written for those who already have explored our great outdoors as well as those who have a budding interest in nature and want to do more exploring. Observations are in three main sections: Plants, animals and habitats.

"Seasonal Guide to the Natural Year (North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee): A Month by Month Guide to Natural Events," by John Rucker:

The author proves to be an outstanding tour guide through these states and introduces us to the wonders of nature that can be discovered each month of the year. At the beginning of the book, he lists the "hot spots" that he will describe in each section (12 sections, one for each month). Along with the list there is an outline of the state, with the location of each "hot spot" indicated. This is a "must read" for anyone who is interested in exploring the flora and fauna of these states.

"Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of my Garden," by Diane Ackerman:

Ackerman, a poet, essayist and naturalist, has written a very eloquent narrative of working in her garden. Using the seasons as chapters, she incorporates the physical work of tending a garden and botanical information about the plants with reflections on a variety of topics such as landscape architecture, lawns and fences.

"Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder," by Richard Louv:

A fascinating account on the research the author has done to link the lack of nature in the lives of today's generation that stays indoors and wired -- or wired when they are outdoors. He quotes one fourth-grader: "I like to play indoors better 'cause that's where all the electrical outlets are." The author offers solutions and sees indications that reunions between children and nature are forthcoming.

"M is for Majestic: A National Parks Alphabet," by David Domeniconi, illustrated by Pam Carroll:

From A (Acadia) to Z (Zion), this is a delightful book to introduce children to our national parks. The author has written rhyming couplets to describe each park, and there is additional information on the sidebar. Carroll has deftly illustrated each park, including "snapshot" illustrations.