About

‘May books and Nature be their early joy!’

- William Wordsworth, The Prelude (1850)  Book 5, 423.

Hello, thank you for visiting my blog – I hope you find something here to enjoy!

My name is Melanie, and I live in the West Country in England. I have a lifelong passion for books and nature, and have a degree in English Literature (gained in the 1980s, and still maturing nicely!) It’s always been my dream to write, and in past years, several of my short stories for children were published in magazines. But then, just as the dream was learning to flap its wings, events kept it mostly grounded. This blog is part of a plan to give myself permission to pick it up and let it fly again.

I’m a keen amateur naturalist, and during our pre-children years, my husband and I ran a local nature conservation volunteers group, spending many a happy day deep in mud, ponds, woodlands and reed beds on the beautiful nature reserves of Kent. Prior to that, I spent a year as a Volunteer Field Officer for BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers).

I love the magic of words, and for me, William Shakespeare is the greatest word-magician of them all. Following closely are my ‘top three’ favourite novelists, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen.

My other literary loves range widely through an eclectic mix – from Alan Garner to Benjamin Zephaniah, Ted Hughes to Tolstoy, Angela Carter to Wordsworth, from the ancient to the contemporary – and includes a special interest in children’s literature

Within that broad river of interest, there’s a place of deepest flow that is the power of story itself. Storytelling is at the heart of what it is to be human, and is essential to understanding ourselves and the world around us. Timeless, yet shape-shifting through the days of our lives, stories have the power to both express, and form, who we are. They can be our roots – and be shaped by what roots us. And, in turn, they can shape how we grow. What comes first – the teller or the tale?

‘My words are tied in one
With the great mountains
With the great rocks
With the great trees
In one with my body
And my heart’

(Prayer of a tribal shaman of the Yokuts people, recorded 1900)

I am fascinated by the ways in which these natural cycles – inner and outer – are woven through the patterns of our prose, poetry, art and music. Creative expression of a deep, vital relationship to the earth, and to other species – to a sense of place, landscape and belonging – can have real power. We need to keep that alive – to pass it down the chain of experience, recognize its relevance and share its potential to transform. In this age of environmental crisis and widespread disconnection from nature, that creativity seems like a wellspring at the very heart of what we need to be listening to. One of my motivations for writing this blog is to try, in my extremely small way, to play some sort of part in that; to do something within my reach, to add my ripple to the pond.

Nature writing, of course, has its very own genre. Wonderful nature writers such as Richard Mabey, Kathleen Jamie, Robert Macfarlane and Roger Deakin (more favourites of mine) – have created rich and mindful explorations of place and thought-space. Each stirs their observations in a big melting pot of the Wild and Life; wildlife on its own terms and within ourselves.

Nature writing, however, also runs wild through the genres. Nature is our world, inextricable from what we create and who we are – and there’s a huge wealth of stories, myth, folklore, poetry, novels, plays, diaries, non-fiction, essays and other art forms in which all this opens out for exploration.

Following word trails through our world, maybe we can discover where our footprints on this earth align, where they match with those gone before, and maybe reveal connections, learn direction.

With my amateur naturalist hat on, I will also try to offer up some of my own small observations and experiences of the wild – and Life – in the places I visit; rural, urban and suburban.

As the mum of a child with complex disabilities, my old ways of relating to the wild are being forged anew through his experiences and the problems he faces. We tend to bring the natural world closer to us now, because ‘out there’ is hard to get to sometimes – though we rise to the challenge as much as the landscape – and our muscle-power – will allow (the “all-terrain” design of our son’s huge special needs buggy is very much put to the test!)

I also have a wide interest in theatre and the arts in general – and love music – from Vaughan William’s Lark Ascending to Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, via Kate Bush’s Big Sky.

Through all this (and whatever else may await along the way…) the Bookish Nature trails will wend their way, making connections, sharing moments and hopefully receiving:

Knowledge and increase of enduring joy
From the great Nature that exists in works
Of mighty Poets.’

and discovering that: ‘Visionary power’

which

Attends the motions of the viewless winds,
Embodied in the mystery of words.’

- William Wordsworth, The Prelude (1850) Book 6, 593-97

Picture of Kestrel hovering

42 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi,
    Just wondered if you’d ever been to The Undercliff or to Lyme Regis. Elaine Franks’s book is also oneof my favourites as I have friends that actually live on the Undercliff and walk there regularly.

    • Hi Natalie,
      Welcome – and thanks so much for your comment! What a wonderful place to have the chance to visit so often – and, in the case of your friends, to actually live in!! I have been to Lyme Regis once, several years ago, and we had a magical day searching for fossils, soaking up all the literary associations and the very special atmosphere of the place… Sadly, due to various factors, we didn’t get the chance to visit the Undercliff – but I’ve so long wanted to go there… I’ve read about it for years, and feel as if, in a way, I’ve been there through the pages of Elaine Franks’ book. I imagine it as a unique, shifting, magical place… It must be a special experience to have been there and to relive its magic through Elaine Franks’ beautiful illustrations and notes…

      Melanie

  2. Melanie, I just found your blog through Julian’s, and I’m so happy to have landed here. Even this About page is a treasure trove of information! Not only do I love nature, but words and language and books are things I think about daily, so I love that you’ve combined them in this form.

    I just read your most recent post about Jackdaws and birds in general, and the second to the last paragraph… so, so true. Beautifully said.

    Good luck to you in your writing ventures, and I will be back!

    • Welcome, Emily! I’m so glad you found your way here via Julian’s – that’s what I love about blogging… all these networks and connections linking up like-minded thought-maps across the globe! Through your landing here, I’m so happy too that I’ve discovered your blog, which I’ve grabbed some moments to explore this morning. I can already see that it’s a place I’m going to return to again and again. Jumping out at me were writers new to me, and waiting to be discovered; new wildlife and places to experience – and your beautiful writing… When the weekend’s less busy, and I have some quieter moments, I shall sit down and really enjoy exploring ‘Landing on Cloudy Water’ further…

      Thank you for your kind words, Emily – I’m so pleased you’ve found things here that really strike chords for you…

      Melanie

  3. Hi Melanie,

    Lovely to be introduced to your site! I love nature and the West Country and really look forward to reading your words… :) You’ve reminded me of the word of Richard Jeffries, another wonderful writer on nature….

    “How the seeds of all living things – the germs – of bird
    and animal, man and insect, tree and herb, of the whole earth – were
    gathered together into a four-square rampart, and there laid to sleep in
    safety, shielded by a spell-bound fortification against the coming flood,
    not of water, but of frost and snow! With snow and frost and winter the
    earth was overcome, and the world perished, stricken dumb and dead, swept
    clean and utterly destroyed – a winter of the gods, the silence of snow
    and universal death. All that had been passed away, and the earth was
    depopulated. Death triumphed. But under the snow, behind the charmed
    rampart, slept the living germs. Down in the deep coombe, where the dark
    oaks stood out individually in the whiteness of the snow, fortified round
    about with immovable hills, there was the actual presentment of
    Zoroaster’s sacred story. Locked in sleep lay bud and germ – the
    butterflies of next summer were there somewhere, under the snow. The
    earth was swept of its inhabitants, but the seeds of life were not dead.” –

    ‘Hours of Spring’ 1886

    Anyway, I wanted to say all the best with your writing and thank you!

    Louise xo

    • Hi Louise,

      Welcome to the blog! So lovely to see you here… And what a beautiful quote from the wonderful Richard Jefferies. It’s perfect – thank you!

      I’ve loved discovering your beautiful writing today – and am really looking forward to exploring your site further. Many congratulations on the publication of your poetry collection – what a wonderful, well deserved achievement…

      And thanks so much for your good wishes… I’ve no idea where this writing journey will take me – but it’s already helped me to discover so many treasures!

      All the very best for all your own writing ventures – may 2013 be a great year for you!

      Melanie

    • Aubrey – thank you so much! I feel so honoured! I would love to accept! Apologies for the delay in replying – I’ve been living in an exhausting parallel universe for the past week, spending most of my time at the hospital with my son. For that reason, it might take me some time to get around to compiling my award answers/ questions (hope that’s okay…) – but I’m very much looking forward to doing so when things are back on track… Until then, receiving this award has really cheered me during a difficult time…

      Many thanks again!

      Melanie

  4. Hi Melanie, I see here we have a few things in common — except for me not living in Britain (but I wish I did, so I think that makes me some kind of honorary citizen!). I look forward to following you on your journeys.

    • Lovely to see you here! We do seem to have quite a number of things in common, don’t we… I love your blog – it’s filled with so much that’s dear to my heart. I’ve spent some very happy time exploring it so far – and look forward to following further all your wonderful book finds and thoughts. Thanks so much for your company here. Oh – and I reckon that a wish to live in Britain definitely qualifies you as an honorary citizen! I hope that the wanders here amongst some of Britain’s bookish landscapes make you feel even more at home…

  5. Melanie – I just discovered your lovely blog site and I am so impressed ! I want to share how this happened. My older sister and I – we are both in our late 60s – love English Literature, particularly the Romantic Poets. In a phone conversation yesterday, my sister Wendy mentioned the phase “Spots of Time”. She knew it was Wordsworth but didn’t know the Poem. In college she had taken an English Romantic Poetry course and the professor had used this short phrase as a springboard for a variety of ensuing lectures. When I googled the phrase (I am more computer tech than my sister) your lovely blog popped up on Wordsworth and the Spot of Time. I immediately snail-mailed her a copy of the verse. She was delighted. I look forward to many more enjoyable moments reading your blog. Kim Butler (Branford Connecticut USA)

    • Hello Kim, thank you so much for your kind words – and welcome to Bookish Nature! I’m sorry it’s taken a while for me to reply. I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, without internet access – and it’s been such an uplift to find your lovely message waiting for me on my return… I’m so pleased to know that my blog has been of help to you and your sister – lovely also to learn that we all share a love of the Romantic poets – and of literature in general. It’s always such a pleasure to share thoughts on favourite writers/ poets/ poems etc… And I love to hear anecdotes of how poetry is at work in people’s lives and memories – so interesting to hear about your sister’s professor’s use of the ‘Spots of Time’ phrase as a springboard for various lectures. As life’s experiences and reflections unfold and connect through the passing years, I find that the truth of Wordsworth’s phrase rings out ever more profoundly…

      Many thanks again for your company here – it’s so great to know that you’ve enjoyed your visits to these pages!

      Melanie

    • Many thanks for your kind words, Emily – and welcome to Bookish Nature! I’m so glad you enjoyed the Seamus Heaney post. Really looking forward to exploring your blog, when I can grab some quiet time – I see we share a love of poetry! :-)

      Melanie

  6. I was just going to post the same congratulations on your About page (which is another beautiful piece of writing in itself I just discovered!). It was just lovely to see your post Freshly Pressed too. I hope it doesn’t mean we’ve been turned into bottles of cider: it might go to our heads…

    • Wassail! :-) (it might be happening already!) Many congratulations again! I was totally amazed – and over the moon – when I received the Freshly Pressed email for my post. It’s even more extra-special to have a dual Freshly Pressed blog party with Whistles in the Wind! Thanks for your lovely words – so glad you like this ‘About’ post!

  7. Hi there – I found my way to your blog through your Heaney freshly pressed piece, which I enjoyed very much. You cite some of my favourite Heaney poems in your post. I’ve been re-reading Human Chain since the announcement of his death (which I knew less well than some of his other collections) and am very moved by some of them, in the light of his death. I look forward to reading more of your posts – we share an interest in poetry and landscape, and are also both mothers of a child with disabilities (well, my son is a young adult now). I blog about being a carer rather than being a poet, though the two things often merge! Best wishes, Liz

    • Hello Liz – thanks so much for your comment – and welcome to Bookish Nature! So glad you enjoyed the Heaney piece. I borrowed Human Chain from the library a while back and I definitely need to re-visit it, refresh my memory of it – and to add it to my Heaney collection at home. I’m also so, so glad the post has brought you here, as it’s been wonderful to discover your blog today. The amazing Freshly Pressed effect has kept me on my toes, so I’ve only been able to make a fairly brief visit – but it’s been amongst the special bonuses of the day to read your beautiful writing and poetry. It has been both a moving and clarifying experience to read your work – and it has truly resonated for me in many ways. It’s not often so many different experiences and interests coincide. It’s lovely to meet you. I very much look forward to reading more of your poetry and prose.

      Best wishes,
      Melanie

      • Hello Melanie – lovely to hear from you and thanks for taking the time to reply while being Freshly Pressed. You sound busy! WordPress is misbehaving for me today – it keeps logging me out and not letting me see things, but I’m looking forward to reading back through some of your posts (I’m fairly new to this). Thank you for the lovely feedback on my work – it means a lot. I look forward to reading more of your work and getting to know you a little on here! Liz

  8. I have only recently started a blog, and that recently is five weeks or so ago. The thing I am beginning to grab ahold of is that bloggers can become a part of a community. That we can find friends that we wouldn’t have found until now. So, as I read your page here, I find that continues to be true. Thank you for sharing.

    • Hello Don – thanks so much for your comment. And welcome to Bookish Nature – and to the blogosphere! Yes, so true, that sense of community is one of the nicest things about blogging – it’s wonderful when that sense of friendship and all those blog-connections grow over time. So great to connect with such supportive and interesting people from all around the world. I’ve learnt so much from their knowledge and insight. It is wonderful how blogging leads us to discover so many connections that would otherwise never come our way…

      Happy blogging!

      Melanie

  9. Melanie, I’ve just discovered your beautiful blog when reading whistles in the wind.
    This piece about yourself is one of the loveliest ‘abouts’ I’ve read. So looking forward to exploring your archives. I’m full of admiration for your blog, and your courage .. best wishes to you and your family..
    PS So good to know that Alan Garner is not forgotten !!!

    • Valerie, many, many thanks for this wonderful message! It’s truly uplifting to read your very kind words. I’m so glad you found your way here via Whistles in the Wind (one of my favourite blogs) – and I’m so glad too that this almost Garneresque magical chain of connection has led me to your wonderful blog today. In between all the rather hectic busyness of today, my first visit there was, by necessity, brief – but filled with delight. I can’t wait to visit again and to explore further…

      Alan Garner is an extraordinary writer, isn’t he. Very, very special. His work is very much embedded in the hearts of both myself and my daughter. Last year, I was so excited to see that he was going to speak at the Cheltenham Literature Festival (which we often attend) – but, alas, it was at a time when we were unable to get there. I’m saving his latest novel, Boneland for when the time seems exactly right to properly savour it… It’s funny how books often choose their own moment…

      Thank you so much too for your wonderful comment on my Thomas Hardy post. It’s been an absolute delight to read your thoughts and memories – so lovely to meet someone else with such a passion for Hardy’s writing. I’ll get back to you there as soon as I can. Very much looking forward to chatting further…

      All the very best,

      Melanie

  10. Melanie,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your ‘about’ page. I think it is difficult to share information about ourselves when we are not sure who is listening. But, judging from all the comments you have received, I think your sharing is rewarded. I too find the connection between nature and writing (and mindfulness) compelling. In this regard, I recently came across Roger Deakin. His writing is beautifully conscious of what is. I also love Hardy. I think he was a man who was truly mindful of all those marvellous, understated things in nature and human nature.
    Much of what you have said has resonated with me. Good luck with your writing. I will enjoy tuning in.
    Best,
    Don

    • Don, thanks very much for this lovely comment. So glad you enjoyed this ‘About’ page – and that you found things here that resonate for you. I’ve just made a quick visit over to ‘between the weave’ (great blog title!) and I see we have quite a few interests in common. I’m so interested to read about your writing for children. Will be back to explore more (trying to juggle so many things this week, time’s just slipping through my fingers at the moment…)

      Roger Deakin’s writing is truly special stuff, isn’t it. I think he was one of those people whose influence just makes the world a better, more enriched place because his whole outlook and approach to life kept so close to a keen sense of the essential. His writing keeps on reminding us what’s truly important and valuable, and inspires us to really look and see – and to uncover a deeper understanding of the natural world, and of ourselves as a part of it all.

      So great to hear that you love Hardy! I ramble on about his work on this blog – he’s one of my top favourite authors…

      Looking forward to reading more of your blog. Very glad to be in touch,

      All the best,
      Melanie

  11. Hi Melanie, I loved discovering your blog and look forward to more posts.. have you seen my book ‘Otter Country’? I think it would be right up you street.
    All best wishes,
    Miriam

    • Hi Miriam – so lovely to see you here! I have a beautiful hardback copy of your book on my shelves right beside me! I’ve been itching to read it since I bought it just after Christmas – but events this year have conspired to really slow up my reading. So looking forward to losing myself in Otter Country before the year is out (will be perfect for dreaming my way back to the wild during those long winter evenings). I’ve loved the sample pages I’ve read so far – beautiful nature writing.

      Thanks so much for your company here!

      All best wishes,
      Melanie

    • Rebecca – thank you so much for this lovely, very kind message…

      My writing dreams have been finding huge nourishment this weekend at the wonderful Bath Children’s Literature Festival. A very special day today – I met David Almond!!!! (one of my writing heroes!) Over the past two days, it’s been hugely inspirational and encouraging to hear him and Sally Gardner (another amazing children’s writer whose work I can already see I’m going to love) talk about their own creative, storytelling travels.

      I love your blog. Great to see we share a lot of bookish interests – including being unabashed fans of Jane Austen!

      All the best in return for all your own writing journeys…

      Melanie

  12. So glad to have discovered your blog, it is stunning and I love the themes of books and nature, as well as your eloquence. There are many new-to-me books and authors on your site, and I’m looking forward to exploring them. I will be back!

    • Thank you so much for your very kind words, Valorie – and welcome to Bookish Nature! My apologies for being slow to reply (weekends tend to steal away any chances for blogging…) It’s wonderful to know that some new bookish discoveries have come your way via my posts. And I’m so glad you found your way here – your blog is so inspiring! Very much looking forward to exploring your site further; I can see that I will be back there often too!

      Melanie

  13. I belong to another part of world, to India and while I was trying to understand what wordpress blogosphere is all about ,I suddenly stumbled upon your blog after clicking on ‘freshly pressed’ only to find out a majestic deal. I loved meandering through your ‘About’ section and found it really inspiring. God bless your son and I admire your ability to multitask. I mean this section tells me you like so many things and you even try to accomplish them in your life time.

    very very inspiring .
    Good Luck!
    Especially for your writing endeavours and your son.

    • Thank you so much for your wonderful and very kind message! It was lovely to find your words waiting for me here today. It’s lovely too to hear that reading this ‘About’ section felt like a happy ‘meandering through’ for you – and it’s very, very uplifting to know that you found inspiration along the way! It is inspiring to me, to know that you are inspired! My attempts at multitasking can so often feel like juggling against the flow of time – and it is so encouraging to know that, despite all the struggles to catch up with everything, other people enjoy some of the results! Many thanks again for your very kind good wishes – they are very much appreciated.

      Welcome to Bookish Nature! Wishing you many happy explorations through the blogosphere.

      Melanie

    • That’s so kind, Rachael – thank you so much! Very sorry for the long delay in replying. It’s taken me until now to re-emerge into Blogland after the Christmas break! Looking forward to exploring your lovely blog properly when things are less rushed. Will visit again very soon. Thanks again for the award – it’s very much appreciated. Happy New Year!

      Melanie

      • Happy New Year to you too! May you find the time to post occasionally! I find your blog very inspiring and beautifully written.

    • Hi Don – Thank you so much for this. My apologies for taking an age to reply; every time I tried to get back to the blog and write replies to comments, my plans went awry (a combination of school holidays, family stuff and computer problems!) Now that it’s term-time again, I’ve managed to borrow my husband’s lap top in an effort to catch up a bit today! I was so interested to read the link about Peter Matthiessen and his work. What sad news – and what a fascinating man and writer. To my shame, I’ve never read any of his books. In homage to his life and achievements, that’s something which I will definitely rectify!

  14. Melanie:
    I would like to make a digital painting (with a paintbrush and software) based on your photo of a playful badger (link below). I am writing a children’s book, and the badger is in it! I have never written a book before, so it is very unlikely that it will be published. But I wanted to ask your permission just in case. May I, please?

    Julie

    https://bookishnature.wordpress.com/tag/artful-badger-friends/

    • Hello Julie – what a great project – and I’m so pleased that you’ve chosen my photo as the basis for your digital painting! Please feel free to use it. It’s really nice to know it’s going to find new and extra life like this! Thank you for asking. All the best of luck with your book – please let me know how you get on!

      Melanie

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