Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Five things wild and wonderful

Lockdown getting you down? Cabin fever hemming you in? These wild and wonderful books can transport you to parts of the world their authors have explored and explain beautifully.

Myth and mystery

I’m a reluctant seafarer but love the Hebrides and Philip Marsden writes mesmerically of skippering a wooden sailboat up the west coast of Ireland and the Inner Hebrides to the Summer Isles in northern Scotland. He mostly journeys alone. The trip he describes in

The Summer Isles: A Voyage to the Imagination, was inspired by walks in north-west Scotland with his aunt Bridget. He faces wild storms, treacherous channels and tricky landing spots and writes lyrically of the region’s mythical islands, marvellous poetry and ancient lore.

I am an island

“In nature there are no hard edges. Perhaps this is why I seek out the wilds before I seek people. The natural world offers a peace like none other I know.” Tamsin Calidas finds herself in ever-increasing isolation on an island in the Scottish Hebrides. Her marriage implodes, her dreams of having a child collapse, she loses her closest friend, and more. Finally, wild swimming in icy water fosters a new resilience. I am an Island is a book for battlers and nature lovers both.

Nature’s medicine

Dara McAnulty says immersing himself in nature is medicine for his mental health; soothing his despair over the destruction of wildlife and ecosystems. McAnulty is a teenager but his marvellous memoir Diary of a Young Naturalist is the work of a wise soul and seasoned environmentalist. Diagnosed with autism and Asperger’s as a child, his writing pulses with joy, sadness, and intricate descriptions of the birds, beasts, habitats and landscapes he connects with and fights for. Our next Robert Macfarlane or David Attenborough?

Re-wild my child …

“How will climate chaos, extinction and environmental degradation affect the human spirit?” Badly, Lucy Jones concludes, from her analysis of peer-reviewed science in Losing Eden: Why our minds need the wild. The saddest sentence for me was, “Inuit are people of the sea ice. If there is no more sea ice, how can we be people of the sea ice?” Like nature, Jones’s writing has teeth and turned my gaze to the phrase “unconscious planetary suicide”. Surprisingly, this is not a depressing book – rather a necessary one.

Flourish when freezing

Wintering: How I Learned to Flourish When Life Became Frozen is packed with choice descriptions of our coldest season – many of which reinforce how nature’s fallow period gives us an opportunity to nurture ourselves when times are tough. Katherine May writes, “Doing those deeply unfashionable things – slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting – are radical acts these days, but they are essential.” Inviting quiet pleasures back in, working with our hands, dreaminess and kindness. Ah, bliss.


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