A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Snowy Woods And Pilgrim Islands

The reviews are now appearing for Robert Macfarlane's new and eagerly awaited book The Wild Places and they are universally ecstatic. Look at the notices from The Sunday Times or from The Scotsman for example. I mentioned how much I was looking forward to reading this book in a post a few weeks ago. I don't think I'll be disappointed when I get my hands on a copy. In yesterday's Guardian he describes how he went about researching the book: I travelled widely, and I tried to travel wildly. I walked, swam and climbed through landscape and seascape. Wherever possible, I slept out. I travelled in all four seasons, in sunlight, rain and blizzard, and by night as well as day. I also sought out the company of native guides: people who had lived in those landscapes for many years, or came to know them intimately as scientists, artists, shepherds or foresters - people who had acquired the wisdom of sustained contact with a place... I had a great deal of fun. I spent nights out on cliff edges and distant bays, in snowy woods and on pilgrim islands. I walked up frozen rivers by night, swam into sea caves, and one midnight I wallowed in a phosphorescent Irish Sea. I slept near a shearwater colony (noisy), and under the sky route of thousands of migrating geese (deafening); in a winter wood (cold) and on the summit of Ben Hope (bone-chilling). I became lonely, tired, wet, midge-bitten, irritated with nature and, most often, very happy. If this account of getting out into the wilderness - living in it for a while, sleeping in it, experiencing it first-hand - doesn't inspire us, I don't know what will...

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