sightlines

This is a beautifully written collection of essays about nature, our relationship to it, how we conceive of it and the underlying assumptions we make.

Her work reads like a journey, into nature, into all its guises.  Whether that is seething the nature exhibited in the pathologies of the human body, nesting birds on clifftops, the northern lights amidst the icebergs of Norway, a certain species of moth, three attempted journeys to the island of St. Kilda, or the very mysterious piece about a journey into an ancient cave to see primitive wall paintings in ‘La Cueva’ – Jamie writes comfortably and intricately on each occasion.

‘La Cueva’ I feel is the clue to the sensibility of this book, to its probing suggestion and engagement.  Kathleen Jamie at one point when describing the journey into this ancient cave, calls it ‘a journey back into metaphor’.  This really had me thinking, and I felt it was a very powerful statement.

Its almost as if by seeing how we began to depict nature, almost to notate it in images at the very first, by doing this we can catch a glimpse at the roots of our thinking, the style of thinking about nature that we first carried within ourselves and placed on ancient rocks.

A beautiful idea, and it suggests that ritualistic notions still shape a lot of our thinking.  Our words seem to have, at base, an incantatory root – and by bearing this in mind we can admit that over the millennia we called into being a nature for our own world and notation, and it is often so different to what it really is.  By journeying back, and seeing fragments of the early imprint, perhaps on occasion the metaphorical membranes can begin to break down when we see something familiar in the oldest natural metaphor.

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