Here, fetch

Here, fetch

Not the first time we’ve celebrated the playfulness of otters in these pages.  This description of the artful animal turning the tables on would-be human tamers is a delight.  You start by throwing a ball and end up being the one who runs to fetch it. But when...
The bliss of relaxation

The bliss of relaxation

Nothing like flopping, tumbling, folding into a simple bed after a hard day’s work or activity, stretching your limbs, wiggling your toes, and sinking into sweet sleep.  Nothing seemed to me more miraculous than that simple bed in that bare and freezing...
In praise of lazy mornings

In praise of lazy mornings

Something magical about moments of morning idleness in idyllic spots.  Surely they allow some quiet clean up of over-burdened minds, or just some simple reprieve from restless strivings?  But still, leisure has its rewards here as well: idle mornings of meditation in...
As punctual as …

As punctual as …

… an otter?  Not the obvious simile, but according to this, true.  This curious fact lies alongside the revelation that when the otter decided it was time to get up, his human handler had to get up to – the animal went through an elaborate process of...
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...
The blue of the hyacinths

The blue of the hyacinths

The poet Rilke, writing to Elisabeth Ephrussi, told her to: ‘Look into the blue of the hyacinths.  And the spring!’  Well?  What are we waiting for?  Let’s go and find a hyacinth and then inhale its heady perfume! And meet their wild cousins, the...
Song for a seal

Song for a seal

A marvelous moment shared by the poet Elizabeth Bishop, conveying a connection across species and elements, as a seal allows a human to sing for him, a common interest in music binding them across the water-land divide. One seal particularly I have seen here evening...
How to extend your lifespan

How to extend your lifespan

A Russian woman who lived in Abkhazia describes a local custom we might all like to adopt.  As a means to extend your lifespan, I can’t think of anything more delightful. According to Abkhazian custom, the time you spend with guests around the table...
A bouquet of kindness

A bouquet of kindness

This Russian writer remembers moments in her harsh Siberian childhood where someone showed passing kindness and in so doing, made her and her sister feel they were recognised as human beings.  Coming as they did from a family of political exiles, in a system where the...
Afternoon tea (I)

Afternoon tea (I)

Must be the Brit in me, but I love detailed descriptions of sumptuous teas and picnics, although I have failed to win my Italian husband over to either concept.  So abject has my failure been that when I once mentioned a picnic, he innocently asked, ‘But why do...
Like a cradle-song

Like a cradle-song

Such a comforting line this, from a letter by the German poet Hölderlin. The sky and the air embrace me like a cradle-song.May they embrace you, too.  And here is another thought of Hölderlin, on a peaceful state of work; and in another letter, his admiration for a...
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...
Of leaping dolphins

Of leaping dolphins

I found this somehow touching, the way the parent dolphins don’t overstretch their offspring.  Also curious about the fact that the calves always stayed on the right side of the mother and in seeking a photo, it struck me that this appears to be a calf …...
Sand bars like snow drifts

Sand bars like snow drifts

A magical description of ephemeral islands rising and sinking with time and tide.  From Maxwell’s fine account of time spent on a Scottish island, anything but ephemeral. Sand bars as white as snow-drifts and jewelled with bright shells rise between the islands...
The history of human folly

The history of human folly

A wonderful statement, not to mention breakfast.  First, the decadent breakfast, and then the inspired allocation of truffles to the world history of folly, and that delightful conflation of folly with art.  The truffles must have gone to his head.  Good for him. ...
The colour of poppies

The colour of poppies

A searching definition for the precise shade of California poppies, as recalled in Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  Not orange, you understand, but golden cream.And mixed with these were splashes of California poppies. These too are of a burning color – not...
Ode to an orange

Ode to an orange

Elizabeth Bowen’s mouth-watering description of eating a Sicilian orange in Rome deserves a place at the Nuannaarpoq table.  And I read it a few weeks after moving to Italy and beginning to find red, sweet oranges of a quality I’ve rarely encountered...
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...
Enduring friendship

Enduring friendship

The cool and collected Narziss finally tells his lifelong friend Goldmund how much he means to him.  Goldmund wanders the world for years, the wilder of the two, and perhaps in some senses the less wise, eventually returning to his childhood home, and friend-mentor...

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