Perceptive collection by a Scottish poet and essayist whose work is just beginning to drift across the Atlantic.
Jamie observes closely, reflects, considers, wonders. She ruminates on darkness: Why do we consider it “bad” and unnatural? She spends a season with some peregrine falcons, listening to the female scream at the male until they mate, then scream for more. Jamie observes salmon struggling up the River Braan and tries to sneak a peak at the reclusive corncrake, a bird now living only in the Hebrides. She spends hours with jars of surgical specimens some 200 years old; she takes a whale-watching cruise and is dazzled. She powerfully mingles the personal and the natural, helping us realize that they are, of course, the same. “Fever,” which relates her husband’s near-fatal attack of pneumonia, includes a lovely passage describing a doctor listening through a stethoscope to his damaged lungs. In “Sabbath,” perhaps the strongest piece in this strong assembly, Jamie recognizes the value of a day of reflection and wonders if it would be possible or desirable to disassociate such days from religion. She recalls that on 9/11 she was scheduled to do a reading in the Lake District village of Grasmere, Wordsworth’s home for 51 years. She decided not to cancel, and many folks came, looking that day for the solace that only words can offer. Although the author is preternaturally alert to the flora and fauna around her, she considers herself a novice and routinely consults books and authorities of all sorts. But she’s not afraid to offer her opinions: In “Skylines,” she takes her telescope and climbs Edinburgh’s Carlton Hill, from which she sees—and interprets for us—the symbols that she discerns on the city roofs.
Observant, sensitive, lyrical, wise.