‘The Small Heart of Things’ by Julian Hoffman

It’s been, I think, just a year and a few months since I first discovered Julian Hoffman’s beautiful writing via his blog, Notes from Near and Far. But already, it feels as if the places, scenes and wildlife he writes about are old, old friends – familiar from afar; because Julian imbues his descriptions with such close and detailed attention – and fills them with his own sense of belonging and finding home.

It is a sense which, as we read Julian’s words, is infectious. When I first discovered Notes from Near and Far, I knew absolutely nothing about the Prespa Lakes area of Greece, where Julian lives and gathers much of the rich material woven through the beauty of his words and photographs. I arrived at his blog, like a stranger in a new country – my eyes gradually opening to an intriguing discovery of unfamiliar terrain, unfamiliar wildlife, and the special, inherent ways of cultural experience woven into the fabric of that land. Now, when I revisit Julian’s blog, it is like returning to a kind of home – a home I’ve never been to. I know those places Julian describes, because that home-finding is knit so strongly in his observations, and in his understanding of what he observes.

And it is this sense of finding home, that forms a thread of exploration I’m so looking forward to following in Julian’s newly published book, The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World. My copy is on order – and I know that it will be a journey deep into that ‘small heart of things’ Julian is so adept at noticing and revealing. He is the kind of guide you want when you are stepping out to explore – knowledgeable, profoundly enmeshed in a sense of place and its stories, gifted with a listening ear and a deeply seeing eye.

Via my virtual journeys alongside Julian through the Prespa Lakes area (described on Julian’s blog as “the first transboundary park in the Balkans, shared by Greece, Albania, and the former Yogoslav Republic of Macedonia”) – I feel as if I’ve made close, personal discoveries of those unfamiliar species I’ve never seen first-hand in the wild – pelicans, swallowtail butterflies, hen harriers, bee-eaters, black woodpeckers, salamanders, bears – and an extremely rare, strange and mysterious flower. And I have witnessed familiar species – goldcrests, swifts, swallows, monkey and lizard orchids – in new surroundings and wider contexts; bringing home (that word again) the immediacy of the interconnectedness of global turns, migratory patterns and the places where we live – and from which we all communicate and share our stories. From home to home. And in our wider home.

Over the past year or so, it’s been wonderful to see Julian’s stories unfold – and to share with him the delight of his book coming into print.

The Small Heart of Things, published last week by University of Georgia Press, is the Winner of the 2012 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award Series for Creative Nonfiction, chosen by Terry Tempest Williams – which, in itself, is a huge recommendation. Terry Tempest Williams describes Julian as a “seeker and seer among those who work the land within the cycles of time” and she goes on to say that “At a time when we wonder where hope resides, this is a book of faith in the natural histories of community, broken and sustained.”

Julian has been a good friend to Bookish Nature – and it is a great pleasure, via the very much sustained community created by bloggers and blogging, to have this opportunity, and Julian’s kind permission, to share his book’s trailer here with you all. I know that some of you are already fans of Julian’s work – and are already very much at home over on his blog – but for those of you yet to step into that new territory – I’m so glad to be able to offer this introductory portal to further discovery.

So now, here is Julian himself to tell you more about The Small Heart of Things in the mesmerisingly beautiful trailer for the book – with post-production by Miki Ambrozy, original music by Janis Strapcans, and photographs by Julian Hoffman:

Further details about The Small Heart of Things, where it is available to buy etc. – and the chance to explore more of Julian’s beautiful writing and photography – can be found on his blog, Notes from Near and Far – and on his website, Julian Hoffman – Words, Images.

18 thoughts on “‘The Small Heart of Things’ by Julian Hoffman

        • What lovely serendipity! Bruce Chatwin’s books are amongst those must-reads still waiting for me… The Songlines, especially, very strongly calls! Great to hear that On the Black Hill has been such a special read…

    • Thanks, Don! 🙂 I so enjoyed putting this post together. Julian has sent me a lovely message of thanks – but his writing is so wonderful, and the ideas he explores are ones which are so important, and so close to my heart – it was a no-brainer to include a celebration of the arrival of his book here on Bookish Nature, really! It’s been a delight to see Julian reach this richly-deserved milestone on his writing journey – and I’m just so pleased to have this chance to spread the news, and to open up for readers here an opportunity to discover Julian’s beautiful explorations of nature and place. One of the great things about blogging – all these discoveries and sharing!

  1. I just HAD to reblog this. I agree at a deep level with his view – and yours. I used to have a poster on the wall when my family was growing up: “The world is so full of a number of things, I think we should all be happy as kings.” Of course, you know where that is from, but it has been part of my belief system forever, it seems.

    • Thanks so much for the reblog! How lovely to be watched over by Robert Louis Stevenson’s wise words when you were growing up. I think we should all have such a poster on our walls! Focussing on that ‘beckoning world,’ so full of small moments of infinite value, is the surest way to finding a channel of contentment, and a sense of belonging, amidst the turmoil, I think… It certainly has been in my experience! So glad you felt a kindred connection with the ideas Julian is exploring.

  2. Just Beautiful Melanie..what an exquisite trailer, the words, the music, the landscapes, the creatures. the utter gentleness… I felt I’d been in another world when it ended..
    Can’t wait now to get to Julian’s blog.. thank you for this gift, Valerie

    • ‘Exquisite’ and ‘utter gentleness’ are the words, aren’t they, Valerie… I feel that mesmerising, ‘being in another world’ deep-focus too when I watch the trailer. It’s the kind of deep noticing we slip into when out and about focussing on that ‘small heart of things’ Julian writes about so beautifully. Wonderfully replicated in the video! Enjoy Julian’s wonderful blog! – Melanie

    • Thank you, Amanda – I’m really glad that, as a fellow fan of Julian’s writing, you enjoyed this piece! Sending warm, day-brightening wishes back across the pond to you too. The sun was out here earlier – but grey clouds have suddenly arrived. The trees are preparing themselves to be really spectacular this autumn, I think… Our damsons are turning a beautiful shade of yellow. Hope all’s well with you. x

  3. I’m deeply touched by your kind words and introduction here, Melanie. When you asked if you could use the book trailer, I had no idea you would use it in such a generous way. But like your other loyal readers, I’m sure, I’ve come to see that generosity of heart and spirit is what makes Bookish Nature so special. Over this past year I’ve come to deeply value your words, posts and explorations of the natural and written worlds partially because of the quality of tender giving that you bring to each one, so to find myself featuring in this post is a humbling honour. Thank you…

    With gratitude,


    • Julian – what a really special, deeply touching message to find waiting for me! Thank you so much for these very kind and thoughtful words. They add yet further to all the support and encouragement your comments here always give me. Receiving your generous and encouraging words has always been such a boost – and I’m so grateful for the many times they have helped me and kept me motivated; especially when the writing-demons of nagging self-doubt, self-criticism and lack of time have begun to gain far too much sway (often)! It’s a very deeply felt honour to know you value my meanderings and musings in this way…

      It was such a pleasure to write this post – it emerged and formed so spontaneously as I wrote it; a heartfelt expression of my responses to your beautiful writing. It was a lovely, really clarifying process to write it. Wonderful to focus on, and ponder further, all those elements which gleam with such illuminating insight in your writing, constantly opening up concerns and ideas which are so dear to my heart. Now that Foyles has (very promptly) delivered my copy of The Small Heart of Things (a truly lovely volume – so beautifully produced) my enjoyment of your writing just keeps growing!

      Many thanks again for brightening my week with this wonderful comment! Enjoy the Shorelines Festival!

      Warmest wishes,


  4. Pingback: Seasons’ Readings – and Returnings… | Bookish Nature

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