Sunday, August 24, 2014

REVIEW: Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature

Wild Comfort: The Solace of NatureWild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 2010
Genre(s): Non-Fiction, Nature
Series: NA
Awards: NA
Format: eBook
Narrated By: NA

If you have ever experienced really profound grief, you may have found yourself looking for answers. Answers that would be comforting. And even as the grief slowly fades, the questions remain – what is life all about and what is the meaning of death? How will I face mortality when it comes? We are after all, by biology, selfish creatures. It is with some of these feelings and questions that Kathleen Dean Moore approached or at least how she tied together this series of essays about the natural world.

Moore is a Professor of Philosophy married to a wildlife biologist and this I think gives her a unique style or approach to writing about nature. Her writing is, to put it bluntly, astonishing and beautiful. I highlighted so many quotes while reading that I posted them all on tumblr as it would take up too much space to list them here.

Here are a couple just to illustrate.

"Even my own spirits are lifting, as if heavy snow has melted off my shoulders and I am light again. I would not be surprised to see Persephone herself crawl on her elbows from under a mat of dead grass, dirt in her hair and snakes in her hands."
"There is wild comfort in the cycles and the intersecting circles, the rotations and revolutions, the growing and ebbing of this beautiful and strangely trustworthy world."
"I lay for a minute or two on the floor, collecting myself, and thinking of a joke my father used to tell. A man who had fallen off a tall building waved to a friend who was looking out the twelfth-story window. “How ya doin’?” yelled the friend. The man called out an answer as he plummeted past. “Doin’ fine so far.” I don’t know why my father thought that was so funny. It’s absurd. But of course, if the joke is absurd, so is the life of each one of us, plunging directly to our deaths, the only difference among us the height of the structure we’ve fallen from and the length of time we’ve been in the air."

Interestingly, the essays I found the most moving and entrancing are the ones without as much purpose, where Moore is not trying to make meaning or address her grief, the essays where she just observes and soaks in the world around her. Her power of description is mesmerizing. My favorite essays were The Solace of Snakes (about the start of Spring and turning snake boards), Turning Stones (a contemplation on all the various things does with stones at the edge of the water), The Possum in the Plum Tree (reflecting on a night spent outside and the position of humans in the world), The Time for the Singing of the Birds (searching for the sacred in nature). The essays are short making it easy to pick up and read one or two in a spare, contemplative 20 minutes.

FINAL VERDICT: If you have any feeling of connection with the natural world, I think you will enjoy this beautiful collection of essays. You won’t be bored and you may be tempted to highlight the whole book. I will definitely be picking up some of her other works.

This book is on my 100 Books Project list.

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