A Scottish poet’s eloquent meditations on nature and on the art of observing the world around her “even when there’s nothing much to see.”
In this probing collection of 14 essays, Jamie (Poetry/Univ. of Stirling; The Overhaul, 2012, etc.) turns her imaginative gaze on the natural phenomena of the many wild places to which she has traveled. She begins with a sea cruise along the fjords of Greenland and a sighting of the aurora borealis. Awed by the spectacle, Jamie writes, “if we could taste the green aurora, it would fizz on the tongue and taste like crème de menthe.” Her wandering footsteps led her to remote Scottish islands in the North Atlantic, prehistoric caves in Spain and whaling museums in Norway. With the help of the scientists, surveyors and naturalists with whom she traveled, Jamie honed her sensitivity to the environment even more keenly. She learned to understand the patterns engraved in stone, earth and bone that told stories about the land and sea and the humans who lived and sailed on both. Watching other creatures, from the fragile magpie moth to the majestic killer whale, gave her glimpses into natural laws that often escaped her understanding. Not one to stand apart from what she observes, Jamie examines her own relationship to the landscapes and living things she celebrates. Her life as a writer began when, as a disaffected teenager, she joined an archaeological dig in the Scottish Highlands. Probing the past inspired her to probe beneath the surface of things with words and eventually led her to poetry. Her mother’s death many years later led her to scrutinize the human landscape from behind the lens of a hospital microscope. From there, she began to understand the connections that bind the Earth and everything in it and accept her own place in “the rough tribe of the mortal.”
A lyrical work of profound insight.