SaintJoe H2O

In the space below, describe your first reactions to The Enchanted Braid: Coming to Terms with Nature on the Coral Reef by Osha Gray Davidson.

Start with the big picture. What sort of feelings does the first chapter leave you with?  From your reading of the first bit, how is this book both similar to and different from a typical text you might read in a science course? Without looking ahead... what do you anticipate of the text to come? Why? How do you think this read might compliment the use of more traditional textbooks, etc? Be text-based in your responses where possible and provide ample detail to back up your claims. Use the general guidelines of the attached rubrics to keep yourself on track...

Tags: #eb2013, 2013, Enchanted Braid, Osha Gray Davidson, discussion, eb2013, reflection, sharedread

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I too, love that passage from page 5. You're right. He spills out plenty of data there...  but in story form...  and by using that nifty little "mental microscope" literary trick. Love it.

"This book is going to make my life?" Well then. I can certainly say that I have read some really stellar reports of this book from students, but I'm thinking this one might just stand atop the crowd. Why do you think that is so? I see the quotes that most excited you, and that you connected with on some way. But what about them really stuck? Are you surprised at your reaction, or you always that fired up about good books you read so early along the way?

This book is great when I started to read it I was like this book is a lot like a text book because it talked a lot about what other people had written about and what they had thought about the reef. But then it changed away from a normal text book and got interesting. Osha had started to talk about his experience like "I floated there at the reef's edge. It was now the cusp of day and night. Below me was a perfect living circle of slender-branched corals, their tiny, gelatinous tentacles just now beginning to emerge for their nighttime feeding from a colony that was precisely my size. Above, if I turned my head, I could see a few faint stars venturing out, like the coral polyps below, into a tropical twilight" (Davidson 10). He went into detail that left me thinking the coral reefs sound amazing why would anyone want to destroy them? It left me in a sense of awe at how beautiful the reef sounds.

Other ways that The Enchanted Braid is different from other text books is that it captured my attention right off the bat. It had a lot of facts “One example: On a single reef surrounding one tiny Australian island, there are one thousand known species of fishes. Zoom in closer: a scientist has counted 620 species of shrimp living on corals.  Get even closer; go inside the coral: there, searching through a labyrinth of passageways within a single colony, an investigator found 103 separate species of a single kind of worm” (Davidson 5).  And it talked about other people who had written about the reef.  Usually if I had read a text book I would have had to read a lot more pages than that to have gotten all of that information and it wouldn’t have caught my attention as much.

I predict that Osha will go on to talk about how the reef is important and what he thinks we need to do to save it. Also I think that he will talk about how we need to spread awareness to help save the reefs. “Of course, if we are to save the reefs, we must understand them better” (Davidson 11).  I know reefs are complicated to understand but I don’t see how we could just destroy them without even taking a second glance.  I am sure a lot of people don’t know that reefs are being completely destroyed killing thousands of fish “The lowest scientific estimate is that reefs are home to about one million individual species” (Davidson 6). I didn’t even realize that the reefs were being destroyed that fast.  This would be very helpful in spreading awareness about reefs.  I think that it will continue to interest me and I can’t wait to see coral reefs like the ones talked about in this book.

Solid predictions, I'd say. This was an interesting line from you: "I know reefs are complicated to understand but I don’t see how we could just destroy them without even taking a second glance." In, my opinion, this is just it. We tend to respect and protect what we understand. Things that seem foreign aren't even necessarily to distant to us if they don't seem altogether different than what we know. Comfort. Things get a little sketchy when what is foreign is also so...  different and difficult to understand. I do believe the complexity is part of the difficulty. 


And really, from where I sit today, this complexity is precisely why we'd go out of our way to for protect even before we understand so as not to potentially "miss something" down the line when our understanding catches up with our eyes. And so...  if your prediction is true, and Osha Davidson really is going to implore readers to do something to save or protect it... then what might we possibly be able to do from so far away in dusty (this year) ol' Missouri? Any ideas?

Dang! Thats such an eye opener, to see how fast the reefs are dying down.

I'm so excited to hear you all learning about coral reefs "way up there" in Missouri. I work to educate folks about the coral reefs off the coast of Texas--yes there really are corals near Texas!--at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Missouri is part of the watershed that affects these beautiful reefs so what you do in St. Joe every day could affect them. Take a peek at

Haven't got my copy of the book just yet, but can't wait to get started after hearing all of your comments!

The quote by Baba Dioum at the beginning of the chapter "In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught." really tied in to what Osha Gray Davidson said on page eleven of The Enchanted Braid, "It is also, apparently, in our nature to destroy that which we hold in awe." Using Dioum's thinking, because we don't fully understand the reef, and as a result cannot be fully taught about it, we cannot love the reefs, and they will be destroyed.


One of the ways The Enchanted Braid is different from a normal science text book is that it conveys information in a story like format while still conveying important factual information. In the enchanted braid is on page eight, Davidson is describing the coral reef at the time he went out to dive, he says “The reef is like a factory, with day and night shifts, separated by a thirty minute 'quiet period' when few fish of either shift are seen". This story format reminds of a book titled At Home by Bill Bryson (, which gives a short history of everything in your house using stories or in a seemingly story like fashion. In the same way both books are detailed and factual while keeping the reader interested. While reading Davidson's description of the reef I started to picture it in my mind, which has never happened to me when reading a textbook. 


Since Davidson ended by mentioning a single coral polyp, as a start small and build upwards example, I believe that he will do just that, by start us off with basic information. Using this basic information he will explain and add other bits of information. The result being we have a deeper level of knowledge and understanding about the complex systems in the reef, and the reef itself. The author will do this by continuing with his method of transferring bits of knowledge through stories or descriptions.


The first chapter been detailed, interesting and pulls the reader in. It has left me energized, and more than a little excited to experience this sight for myself.


I'm thinking that perhaps your first paragraph was just as good of a response to McCabe above as my post was. Yours was even fittingly a bit more text-based from the story at hand. I appreciate that. 

Bill Bryson. Good connection. I hadn't thought of that one myself, but I see it pretty crystal clear. It's a little bit like smashing up a copy of "How Things Work" with something from The Brothers Grimm. My first Bryson book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, is truly in a similar style and another good one for your classmates to check out if they like your first suggestion. I find that books like this help students do a fair amount of stitching the story of nature together from the bits and pieces presented by an increasingly standardized and rather disjointed curriculum. I'm glad you appreciate that genre. I'll think you'll certainly find a comfortable home in this class for that and many other reasons.

So, in your prediction for how the book will play out...  do you think this is a good strategy? Do you think it is a predictable strategy? Do you think this is a good way to learn big picture concepts in science? What might be a pro and a con of that approach to learning or sharing? Well done.

When I first started read this book I was think that this book was going to be so boring that I would end up falling asleep. I was somewhat right, I did fall asleep but it wasn't the book that did it. I was on a 2 hour road trip. Once I got back into it I found that it was an okay book.

The whole time I was reading about the coral and how amazing it was I kept on thinking about my brother and his time at the Bahamas. He would show me pictures and tell me all about the fire coral. About how it hurt like hell if you touched it but the people would give you a life jacket that you could air up yourself. He would tell me of how he would air it up and shimmy across the fire coral.

I really liked the saying they have in the book about the rain forest being like the coral reef. "the only terrestrial analog to the coral reef is the tropical rain forest. And, in fact coral reefs are often referred to as  'the rain forest of the sea'" (6) I have never seen a rain forest or a coral reef in person but I have seen pictures and have learned some things about them. I can see why they would give the reef that nick name. They are so full of life everywhere you look there is always something going on. Both the rain forest and the coral reefs are very important to our world. without one of them we wouldn't see the animals we see today. Without the right type of habitat we would not being seeing all the fish that we see today. same with the rain forest.

Fire coral. Meh. I'm not sure why that has the reputation that it does. Perhaps some are rather sensitive to it, but neither I nor any student I can recall, has had much trouble with it after brushing against. It is tough to not bump into something at some point after spending a good number of hours on a reef. Looking out from behind a camera even makes it a bit more likely. Anyway, don't fear the fire. I think it is overhyped...  and beautiful. A search with the terms "flicker, nashworld, & fire coral" turned up a few of the images I have taken over the years. As you'll see...  it is quite variable in its pattern of growth. This one has always been one of my favorites:

I agree that without the rainforests and coral reefs we wouldn't see the animals that we see today. What about other forms of (non-animal) life? Do you think that would be impacted as well? Perhaps how so? You're also right about a wide variety of habitats being crucial for diversity. What sort of requirements do you suppose are needed for coral reefs to exist? As you can read in the discussion above, (as well as Chapter One) they are certainly not the most prevalent ecosystem in the oceans of the world.

sorry this is wher i got the pictures :)

After I had read the first page I really thought that the rest of this chapter was going to be boring and I wouldn't really get into the book and like it.  Half way I started to enjoy it! The first chapter was full of imagery "with an intricate mosaic of orange and yellow, the lines so finely drawn that it resembled cloisonne jewelry." (page 8) "The beauty of their immense wreaths of green floating upon the sea, brilliant ultramarine in the hot sun, the whole dappled with the clouds shadows." (page 6)  I love reading books that have really good imagery. Apon reading the first chapter I came across something (well a few somethings) that I just had to stop go back and re-read it because to me it made perfect since. "There is too much life on the coral reef ever to think that we know it fully." and that is so true, I don't think anyone could ever know the coral reef fully. Another part in the first chapter that really caught my eye was at the bottom of page 7, "Like love, the coral reef is a great mystery that sweeps over us, bypassing our rational minds entirely and eliciting feelings we didn't know were in us.  The experience can be overwhelming." Using love and the coral reef was a great comparison that I absolutly loved.

Just by reading the first bit of The Enchanted Braid, I can tell that it's not verly similar to your typical text book, this book actually gets my attention unlike a text book you would find in a classroom. Just like a textbook this book has facts in it too, on page 5 it talks a little about the numbers of species on the coral reef "a scientist has counted 620 species of shrimp living on corals."  I anticipate to learn much more about the coral reefs and all the life that lives on it.

I agree with everything you said! Every little detail about the reefs and oceans he was saying I could imagine. I went back and re-read a lot just to make sure I understood what I was reading. It is true there is too much life on the reefs to understand. We as humans need to learn more about them. It's nothing like a text book, which makes me more interested.








so slowly



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