From the book flaps:

It is hard to concisely describe the book you are holding. It is easy to see that it is a beautiful book. There are some photographs here that you will never forget. John Hess, the author, is also a wildlife photographer and even a quick glance through the book makes it clear that he knows his craft.
It is a book that offers a great deal of knowledge—even in some ways, wisdom. Like Aldo Leopold’s iconic Sand County Almanac, it presents, one incisive description after another and to that, Hess adds glorious photographs of Brawley Creek. Like Leopold, Hess celebrates each of our seasons and helps us see why they work. They work the way they have to work. Nature is beautiful, but she is not forgiving. We see here that Hess is a biologist and he knows how systems work.

There is great complexity in nature and well as simple necessity. The art required to approach both truths is narrative. You will find here not just thoughtful explanations and beautiful photographs, but also a narrative that integrates one kind of meaning with another. Hess is a natural storyteller and he has been telling this story to audiences for many years. You will see that he knows how to tell a story.

One of the truly remarkable things about this book is that it starts where we start and then takes us further. An intricate flower can attract the eye or a male songbird in full display amaze. Hess enriches both those experiences by placing what we can see into the context of what we can know. The flower is beautiful, but why is it beautiful in just that way? The male songbird is spectacular, but it is in just the way he needs to be. In such ways, Hess explores why we react to these sights as we do. So A Perfectly Ordinary Paradise is about who we are as much as it is about the world around us.

The book is about what happens and why, on the 30 acre of woods and grassland where John lives with his wife and their dogs. By immersing ourselves in this narrative, we can see both why it is ordinary and why it is perfect. It is perfectly ordinary.


“Though facts and meticulous details are the foundation of this lovely book, Hess’s prose is the real magic—lucid, vivid, and graceful. The exploration of Brawley Creek over eras and seasons unfolds like a story filled with characters we come to understand, even cherish.It’s a forward looking, hopeful, and uplifting book by a natural storyteller. A joy to read.”
R.M. Kinder, author of A Common Person and Other Stories.

“A Perfect Ordinary Paradise” offers a comprehensive way to look at the natural world around us. As a photographer, I’ve always appreciated learning a new way of seeing, and John Hess’s book delivers that. Each Image was articulately composed with a passion and deep understanding of his subjects, and the result is truly inspiring.” 

Noppadol Paothong, author of Save the Last Dance and Sage Grouse, Icon of the West.


John Hess is the rarest of guides. In this book he combines scientific insight with poetic appreciation to open our eyes to the astonishing beauty beneath our own feet. He demonstrates how understanding and emotional sensitivity can serve as gateways to wonder, aesthetic delight, and moral sympathy. We owe John Hess a tremendous debt for paying attention and for finding the words to invite all of us into this deeply moving meditation.

Paul Wapner, author of Is wildness over? And Living through the End of Nature