Otter aquatics

Otter aquatics

Otters are playful and their element is water.  Here Gavin Maxwell’s companion Mij, having figured out where the bathroom is, slips between his human handler’s legs and makes a dash for the source of water. By the time I had caught up with him he was up on...
Name what you love

Name what you love

Love what you name.  I am moved by people’s attachment to place, to the specifics of a place or landscape, and this is often reflected in the names they give, whether to the place itself, or to its features or flora and fauna – the detailed knowledge that...
Dogged kindness

Dogged kindness

Vasily Grossman had a genius for writing about animals with empathy and respect, whether it was war horses and mules, or dogs.  Here he dedicated a short story to imagining the experience and mind of the first dog sent into space.  This little creature, grabbed from...
Loving wood, knowing wood

Loving wood, knowing wood

A description of someone’s neighbour who knew and loved wood in equal measure.   I liked his capacity to identify different types of wood by their smell, and his description of them, particularly that of maple. Sometimes he would stand there in the courtyard and...
Of sweets and violets

Of sweets and violets

How about this loving description of a driver who charms Golding in Istanbul, handing him and his companion endearing gifts.  None of which prevented him charging them a pile of dosh for his services. His heart was as golden as his teeth, for we had not been in the...
This is my life

This is my life

A succinct testimony to a life aligned with its owner. Rebanks has also spent decades trying to align farming in an industrialised, globalised context with his values and the demands of sustainability.  Despite the pressures, he easily concludes he wouldn’t...
And life is…

And life is…

This poem, ‘Into Battle’, was written in 1915 by an officer serving in the First World War, Julian Grenfell.  It was published in The Times the day after his death from war wounds. The poems draws on different threads of life as providing strength to the...
Every journey starts somewhere

Every journey starts somewhere

James Rebanks had a childhood awakening when accompanying his grandfather on a tractor, making the connection between his family, their farm, and the gulls and the plough.  It’s a fitting start to a heartfelt journey from that ‘ancient farming world’...
Slow mo long term

Slow mo long term

I love the slowness of timber growth and durability.  Years ago my brother introduced me to the notion of tempering timber to make it more long-lasting and since then I’ve been captivated by accounts of growing and using wood in a cycle amply exceeding a (human)...
Finding peace

Finding peace

An interesting piece of aunt-like advice from Martha Gellhorn to Leonard Bernstein.   She emphasises the importance of not only finding a nugget of peace within yourself, and the conditions to nurture it, but the fact that maintaining it is a constant endeavour, if...
No outward seeming

No outward seeming

Indeed, often when you love, you take in a whole person, sometimes in an instant, and don’t create a composite of features and qualities. And much of what you respond to is intangible and even invisible.  How did he look?  What like was he?  Was he...
The thread of love (i)

The thread of love (i)

This lovely metaphor for love is from a fine story of it by Mary Webb. I found this quotation around the same time as another by a quite different writer, Saint-Exupery, which similarly refers to the weaving strands of love.I thought maybe love was like that – a...
Live wisely, live well

Live wisely, live well

Isn’t this all we’re trying to do when we talk about ‘sustainability’, ‘circular economy’, or climate change?  When it’s put so simply, it sounds easy, but we have a long way to go before we can see our stifling ignorance fall...
A great love

A great love

Hard not to love someone who is known, and even mocked, for his great love of trees and grass.   Gorky met many unusual characters in his childhood and thanks to his memoirs, they have not vanished without trace, but can be liked and admired by succeeding generations...

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