Between last year's Notes from Walnut Tree Farm and Ring of Bright Water, I've discovered I like nature writing very much. It's an area of literature I've not given much thought or spent much time exploring, but I like the often quiet, contemplative manner in which writers talk about their subject. I like that I "see" the world in ways I don't normally see or take the time to look. I had thought I would read Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams this winter, but to be honest I'm a little fed up with winter--cold and snow (and snow and snow), so I think I will save it for summer when it's swelteringly hot (and mark my words, come mid-August it will be and I'll think longingly of the cold I am now complaining of).
So when Cornflower chose Richard Mabey's Nature Cure as her March CBG read, it was the perfect solution for 'what to read next'. I have a running list of books to choose from, and my friend Cath has expanded on that list so I'm working on acquiring books from it as well. Like my diary and letter-writing reading projects I'd like to always have a book about nature on hand as well (see how my night table piles expand and contract so easily?).
Richard Mabey (who I have just discovered shares the same birthday as me) is a British naturalist (well, the wikipedia calls him a writer/broadcaster who specializes in nature writing). Nature Cure, which won three literary awards, was written in response to a severe depression he fell into. He moved from the Chiltern Hills (an "Area of Outstanding Beauty"), where he had lived all his life, to East Anglia, where he began writing again and discovered new inspiration in the search for man's "place in nature".
Maybe it's not necessary, and Mabey's words and descriptions will stand on their own and I can leave the rest up to my imagination, but I think it might be helpful to try and orient myself to just what these places in Britain he is writing about look like. Flatlands and Fens and woodlands--I can sort of visualize these places, but it's all a bit hazy in my mind what it all really looks like. I've decided to look for a really good map I can hang on my wall of Britain (seeing as I read so many books set there I should really know my way around a little better than I do), and hopefully Mabey will fill in the rest.
My teaser is from the very beginning of the book where he talks about being a migrant, which he likens to the journey a fledgling swift makes.
"I tried to imagine the journey that lay ahead of it, the immense odyssey along a path never flown before, across chronic war-zones and banks of Mediterranean gunmen, through precipitous changes of weather and landscape. It's parents and siblings had almost certainly left already. It would be flying the 6,000 miles entirely on its own, on a course mapped out--or at least sketched out--deep in its central nervous system. Every one of its senses would be helping to guide it, checking its progress against genetic memories, generating who knows what astonishing experiences of consciousness."
This is only a small excerpt of a longer passage, which I found really interesting to think about. Before picking up this book I had decided to join the Audubon Society so now get their magazine. The most recent issue is about "Why Birds Matter", so will make good supplementary reading (though I'm sure Mabey's memoir will touch upon a variety of things I'm sure). I have high hopes for Nature Cure and will be spending lots of time with it this week.