The Wild Places
Robert Macfarlane's The Wild Places has become something of a node for me in recent months - that special kind of book that seems to expand and fill space, throwing out ideas and experiences, prompting explorations of places and books. When I first finished it back in February I had an almost insatiable hunger to be outside; and I was driven to lookat things, look at them narrowly, trying to pierce some secret thrum beneath the surface of things. Like Annie Dillard, Macfarlane has the amazing ability to make you see again - partly because of some vicarious thrill at his own almost hallucinatory clarity of vision and ability to translate this into prose, but also because of the way you return to the source, re-examine things you realise you hadn't truly looked at in years, if ever.
The other function of this node has been how The Wild Places has directed my reading. Macfarlane includes a bibliography in the book (as he does in Mountains of The Mind) - an item of intense allure and repulsion for the likes of me. So I have found myself in dusty corners with obscure books (I got a copy of Ted Hughes Wodwo through the post just yesterday, evidently from the library of a heavy smoker if the yellowing pages and tobacco-stink are anything to go by), half-crazed on steepling hangars in the grey glow of dusk dredging up incantations from the journals of Gilbert White, and looking up into the crowns of great trees wondering at the secret lives of the canopy...
All of this is of course, by way of avoiding a review, to urge you to go out and get a copy, and of course to climb a tree and forget everything for a while. It's also to recommend two recent pieces which are loosely adapted from The Wild Places and available elsewhere. This, from the chapter on Holloways which he explores with the inimitable Roger Deakin, and also this short piece on freshwater swimming which is over at the very excellent Caught By The River.
The Wild Places
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