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📖 Kathleen Jamie, Findings (2005)
‘The Firth of Tay is wide here. The tide’s inhalations and exhalations move vast tonnages of water. Water retreats and exposes sandbanks. Upstream the river folds itself into hills. It pulls into itself the light of the sky, moves through the land like a bright coil.’
I love the precision of the descriptive passages in Jamie’s Findings. Here, the breathing in and out of the tide connects the landscape to the corporeal presence of the human observer, and ties sea to land through the movement of water between hills and coast. I like the sense of connection between different elements of the landscape: how sky is pulled into land by its reflection in the ‘bright coil’ of river. In another essay, the sound of surf on an island, a ‘constant Atlantic soughing’, gives Jamie the impression that ‘the land is an interruption in a long conversation between water and sky’.
Jamie, a Scottish poet and essayist, is good on points of connection. The essays tackle diverse subjects: burial chambers on Orkney, the Edinburgh skyline, salmon rivers, the demise of the once ubiquitous corn crake, the meaning of darkness, family illness and an anatomy museum. Running through these specificities of focus, though, is an urge to find more general meanings and connections, not just through the shared context of the Scottish landscape, but in the repeated patterns of experience that tie one time to another, one person to another.
Like the best nature writers, Jamie is aware of the broader human presence in the landscape - how wilderness conceals a long tradition of working the land; how plastic colonises the shore of a remote island - and of cultural traditions shaping our response to nature. At one point, by chance, she shares a boat trip with two sound recordists and comments that ‘I grew to appreciate the company of people who listen to the world’. You get the impression from Findings that Jamie herself takes the time properly to listen, properly to observe, properly to think.
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