Friday, 30 April 2010

Nature Cure

This book is not what you think. You think it's about one man's experience finding nature to be the remedy to his depression. In reality, it's more of a coming of age story about a middle-aged man who struggles with depression. It's not exactly a tell-all, though. It's more of a tell-some, hint-some, and some awkward euphemisms.

Richard Mabey relates to the swifts who come back to Britain every year to nest in the roofs and barns. He starts off talking about a baby swift he saw once and flung into the air and off it went. Out of the only house he's ever known, he seems to bounce around from friend to friend for a while--the time line is sketchy--before ending up in a house in Norfolk. There he meets a woman--not yet divorced--and they start a romance. It is really love that gets Mabey out of his depression and he dedicates the book to Polly.

Nature features in this book, but just as clocks would for a clockmaker or bikes for a cyclist. Nature is what he does, what he studies, what he knows and what he thinks about. It's background trying to be foreground for the story he tells. 

It has some lovely moments in it, but it's not his finest moment. While I appreciate that he's writing about a difficult subject, I feel that if he were to do it at all, he really ought to be honest. I suppose, a man with his reputation, he couldn't write a book called Love Cure. He is known for his nature writing.

Rumor has it, though, his collection of essays "A Brush With Nature" is fantastic.


Tuesday, 20 April 2010

"Act of God"

God has come up a few times today. Today is Patriot's Day here in the states. There have been news stories about it which have included references to state militias and tea party groups. One man was talking about how unhappy he is with the way this country is going and how he simply wants to protect the constitution and his God given rights. It occurs to me that it's the Bill of Rights and the Constitution that give him rights, especially the ones he was referring to, not God. The other reference was to the volcano that erupted in Iceland. Flights have been ground for days now. The CNN screen text said, "Day 5". The military is calling this E-15. E for the first letter of the volcano. 15 for the fifteen letters that follow the E. It's disrupting the military flights in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Act of God in this context came out of a discussion about money. The pundits were guessing that airlines would filing for money from the governments, particularly the EU. Apparently during and after 9-11, airlines got money from the states. They joked about what travelers were to do -- how some have been really inventive, using Twitter to get travel advice from locals, bumming rides to the south of Europe to try to catch flights and ferries. About those who bought insurance which often protects against weather (meaning covers costs, etc), the "expert" was having a laugh about hating the fine print but being sure that somewhere in there, section 52, paragraph 8 subsection 9 was a clause about how the insurance didn't protect against Acts of God and volcanoes. I'd be curious to know how a legal document defines an Act of God and how weather and a volcano differ from that. I think this is a nice opportunity for the world to pause and remember that nature is a pretty awesome and powerful thing. Not even our biggest, baddest, heaviest beasts can battle with volcanic ash hanging out in the atmosphere. Let's all sit back and take a breath (if you're in a cloud of volcanic ash, find a mask first). What were you doing that was so important it couldn't be delayed a few days?