‘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’
‘Attends the motions of the viewless winds,
Embodied in the mystery of words.’
- William Wordsworth, The Prelude (1850) Book 6, 593-97