Re: Wild

“We’re not just losing the wild world. We’re forgetting it. We’re no longer noticing it. We’ve lost the habit of looking and seeing and listening and hearing. We’re beginning to think it’s not really our business. We’re beginning to act as if it’s not there any more.”

I am preaching, as they say, to the converted. But we all know there are many out there who could use the good word. Simon Barnes’s Rewild Yourself: Making Nature More Visible in Our Lives is for them. it is short and to the point of breaking the terrible trend he describes (quote above) in his introduction.

While his dependence on the spells and magic metaphors tried my patience, I skipped his chapter epigraphs from C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling. (If that’s what you have to do to hook the young ones, then “ok millennial.”)

Basically, Barnes has lessons for paying attention. One of his “spells” is getting some waterproof pants. It is an English book, after all, but his point about getting out there and watching, and sitting on your bum in the mizzle, is well taken.

We have the senses enough already, but we’ve muffled them. I’ve been leading dawn chorus listening tours for years now to encourage people to open up their city-shuttered ears. His chapter on peripheral vision is after my heart. Many of us are tunnel-visioned into our screens all day long. (As I began that last sentence, I glanced outside and saw a small flock of birds out one window, then the accipiter they were crowding.) Catching movement at the peripheries is nine-tenths of nature observation.

Writes Barnes, “Nature will be with you always. I remember being baffled by a survey that asked how often I went birdwatching. I don’t go birdwatching. I am birdwatching.”

Which reminds me of a better translation of Descartes famous cognito: not “I think, therefore I am,” but “I am thinking, therefore I am.”

“The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.”

A month before the big gift-giving holiday, so I’m inaugurating a week of posts on books. Please don’t use Amazon; the obscenely profitable company looks like its escaped from paying even a single $ in federal taxes again this year. Even if he’s incontinent, Jeff Bezos does not need another (the 26th?) bathroom in his DC mansion. Try Indiebound if you don’t have a local bookstore.

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