Oh, heck. I hate it when I know I own a book but for the life of me cannot find it. It's not in any of the regular places I would expect it to be or in any of the places I don't expect it to be. It drives me mad thinking about it and looking for it. Inevitably I will find it when I am not looking for it of course. And it will be in a place that I thought was going to be obvious when I put it there.
Case in point Roger Deakin's Wildwood. Although Richard Mabey's Nature Cure didn't quite hit the spot for me, it still put me in the mood once again to pick up another nature book. I thought I had settled on the Deakin until I couldn't find it. Not wanting to waste time looking for a book that didn't seem to want to be found, I have instead picked up Olivia Laing's To the River. The Deakin would have been about trees and forests (I love trees, as weird as that might sound?), but maybe rivers (or any large body of water really) will be just as good.
Now that I am happily ensconced near the river Ouse in Sussex, I have (of course) managed to find the Deakin. Typical. I think, however, things are as they are meant to be and as it turns out a couple of my books have crossed paths, which is always a good and fun thing. I am reading (have gotten back to reading that is) Virginia Woolf's Flush. If you know a little about Virginia Woolf she committed suicide in 1941 by drowning herself in the River Ouse.
To the River combines a number of elements that are appealing to me--Laing walked the River Ouse from its source to the sea. She writes about the river and its history and ecology as well as its literary and cultural significance. It is also part memoir, too, and as an inveterate walker myself I find that aspect of what Laing set out to do quite interesting and inspiring. And it is all presented in very beautiful prose and with a B&W photo opening each chapter, both of which is a bonus.
I'm not far in but I think the book has clicked with me, so it has turned out to be just the right choice after all. Since I think Virginia Woolf is going to feature heavily in the book, I thought I would share a few passages of what I have read. I know only a little about Woolf and am always curious to know more.
"That spring I was reading Woolf obsessively, for she shared my preoccupation with water and its metaphors. Over the years Virginia Woolf has gained a reputation as a doleful writer, a bloodless neurasthenic, or again as a spiteful, rarefied creature, the doyenne of airless Bloomsbury chat. I suspect the people who hold this view of not having read her diaries, for they are filled with humour and an infectious love for the natural world."
"There are sights too beautiful to swallow. They stay on the rim of the eye; it cannot contain them. I remembered something Virginia Woolf had written, about an evening 'too beautiful for one pair of eyes. Instinctively I want someone to catch my overflow of pleasure.'
"So much goes by unseen. 'After an hour outside walking,' the naturalist Hannah Hinchman wrote, 'colours begin to appear much more brilliant, more saturated. Oxygen to the brain? Rods and cones sufficiently steeped?' But no matter how long I stayed outdoors, there was a world that would remain invisible to me, just at the cusp of perception, glimpsable only in fragments, as when the delphinium at dusk breathes back its unearthly, ultraviolet blue'."
So many lovely passages. I think I'm going to enjoy reading this very much indeed. Already my pencil markings are evident. And I have perused the lengthy bibliography in the back and see there will be much more to explore (one book always leads to another, don't you think). I should be finishing Flush in a day or so and still plan on moving on to Leonard Woolf's The Wise Virgins. So, a little by Woolf a little about Woolf and some more by her husband. Lots of crossed paths. And I still would love to read her diaries someday. Doesn't this have 'Virginia Woolf Project' written all over it? But for now I like the idea of a nature book that broadens out to the literary world. And I can still read Roger Deakin next!