We are almost at the end of the first month of 2021 and thought it was time I set up a page where people could link to any Gaia/nature reading they have managed this month. Just leave a link in the comments below so we can find your posts.
Figured it will make #BookSnapSunday easy if I just use it as an opportunity to post a link on Instagram so this week’s Book snap is just the Insta tile for the challenge I am afraid, back to normal next week.
Out of my five completed reads this month three of them qualify as nature reads and one I am also using for the non fiction reading challenge as well. That title is Findings by Kathleen Jamie, a lyrical, eclectic collection of essays that loosely revolve around Jamie’s home of Scotland. Jamie’s beautiful, lyrical writing is a lesson in observation and mindfulness, capturing the essence of moments and the magical in the everyday: “Between the laundry and the fetching kids from school, that’s how birds enter my life. During a lull in the traffic: oyster-catchers; in the school-playground, sparrows.” Jamie contemplates the beauty and plight of birds as diverse as the peregrine and the corncrake. She reflects on wildlife as large as a whale and as small as a spider but her writing has an intense personal element, in an essay reflecting on her partners life threatening illness she wonders about spiders who build webs beneath their gutters:
Under the gutter of our house are many cobwebs, each attached at a slightly different angle to the wall. It’s an east-facing wall, so on sunny mornings the cobwebs are alight.
The cobwebs made me think of ears, or those satellite dishes attuned to every different nuance of the distant universe. One cobweb after another – a whole quarter of cobwebs, like an Eastern bazaar with all the cobblers, all the spice sellers, all the drapers together in their own alleys. … I wondered if all the spiders were related, a family group.”
The real value of this beautiful little book is the object lesson it offers in observation and reflection. While Jamie beautifully evokes Scotland and some of the timeless magic of the place, it is what we can learn from her example that is perhaps the real value of this collection. And while we are reading about the conservation challenges faced by a UK species like the corncrake perhaps we should give some thought to the species that are facing potential extinction here in our own backyard, be aware of the life that surrounds us and value the unique experience we can all have if we just choose to see the magic in the everyday.
While Jamie writes much about wild Scotland she also has reflections on much more urban elements, like an essay on Edinburgh’s distinctive skyline or the experience of visiting Edinburgh’s famous Surgeon’s Hall. This little book can be a bit hard to pigeon hole, it is essays and it does largely reflect on the natural world but it also constitutes interesting travel writing on the many and varied joys of Scotland.
I found myself wishing I could again visit that magical country and walk in its magical wild spaces. What Jamie most beautifully captures is not the exotic but the everyday. Her writing is a demonstration in observation and mindfulness and the ease with which we can fully experience our environment and our lives within it, if we just take the time to observe and experience.
Since I am also doing the 2021 nonfiction challenge hosted at Book’d out I think I will use Findings as my book for the travel category in that challenge, although it could also be suitable for the essay category. It was nice to again visit magical Scotland, even if it was only through the pages of a book.
My next nature themed read for January was my first read of the year; Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce. A book that celebrates the redemptive power of nature and female friendship. Unlikely, ordinary women set off on adventure to find a suspected but as yet undocumented beetle in the wilds of New Caledonia. In every respect, a wonderful, page-turning read, with fascinating characters.
One thing did bother me a little about this book and it seems such a trivial thing in some ways but I did find it jarring and concerning and that was the use of one word towards the end of the book. A derogatory LGBTI term and its use did not seem justified even given the historical context. The use of that word was not necessary and it left me feeling uncomfortable but then no one else seems to have mentioned it, (on goodreads), so I am left wondering if it is just me. Then when I think about LGBTI friends/family my instinct is to feel disturbed and uncomfortable with the use of that word. I wonder why Rachel Joyce used it?
This was otherwise a very enjoyable read I envied Margery Benson’s courage in throwing off the shackles of convention and embarking on this impractical, wild adventure. What Miss Benson really finds a top a New Caledonia mountain is not a beetle but herself. A life affirming read.
My last nature read was a bit of an impulse read. I was actually a bit afraid to open this one as I was well aware of the impact of the 2020 fires but pick it up I did. The book is; The 99th koala by Kailas Wild. I was wondering if it would be a suitable book for our book box but I have ruled it out just because it is a really quick read. Quick but still a really valuable book. It gives real insight into the practical experience of someone on the ground picking up after that disaster. Kai Wild, an arborist by trade, hearing that Kangaroo Island desperately needed an experienced tree climber to help with koala rescue on the island set out to give much needed professional help in the rescue efforts, this book is his account of that experience, illustrated throughout with beautiful documentary photos.
As horrible as the events were that led to this book, it is still a life affirming, inspiring read that reminds us all we have a duty to step up and protect our precious environment and the creatures that must life with the consequences of our actions. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book are donated to the support of wildlife conservation efforts in Australia. And this ABC podcast with Kai might be of interest: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/kai-wild-koalas-kangaroo-island-bushfires-rescue/12925930
I also managed to re-read Day of the Triffids for a #WyndhamReadAlong hosted by https://www.instagram.com/jeshisbooknook/?hl=en That is a book that still hasn’t really dated despite its cold war context. And a Dan Brown novel for a bit of quick relaxation.
Did you manage any nature themed reads this month? Feel free to leave a link in the comments to any review posts.