PILGRIM AT TINDER CREEK
Nature book reader or not, it's easy to be captivated by Annie Dillard's exuberant ramblings (both senses) in Pilgrim at Tinder Creek. Documenting a year lived alone by the creek, a valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia, it is a diary of sorts, or a collection of mini nature-philosophy essays interspersed with Dillard's real-world observations, anecdotes, far-flung reading and spiritual musings.
Glorying in description - the briefest of moments running into several paragraphs – some might find it wordy but in what a way. You can't help but think 'yes!' The intensely lyrical tempered by grit, straight-talk and a casual comparison to a toy Slinky. Undaunted by weather, the grotesque (be prepared for the Giant Bull Frog and the poor beknighted Polyphemus moth born in a mason jar), nor her perceived failings to see and understand, Dillard is enthusiastically determined to tell all. No hushed tones here, this isn't a gentle ode but a gleeful shout. Nature isn't deified – she is frank about boredom, irritation, fear – and this makes it all infinitely more interesting. No dull perfection here. What a book to read as we prepare to emerge into spring.
THE MOURNING FOREST
It's a true joy to watch something and immediately want to track down its director's entire back catalogue. The Mourning Forest by Naomi Kawase is one such film.
When Machiko, a quiet soul and newly-trained caregiver at a retirement home, and Shigeki, one of its residents in the later stages of dementia, form an unlikely bond, a disrupted journey results in a two day trek together through a remote forest.
Battling with the question of what it means to be alive in the face of intense grief – she for her young son, he for his long-departed wife – the film answers with gentleness, emotion and luminosity. In actual fact, it is in no rush to give solid answers. Yet softly they bloom. Human connection, a letting go of rules, an acknowledgement of our interdependence with nature, are all in there. The main characters – to which I would add the radiant Wakako, the retirement home's manager – are played with such insight, and the film's almost documentary style draws us closer. I cried through a large chunk. A meditative gem.
This year more than ever it feels like life is being renewed again with the spring. British spring time officially begins on 20th March but with plans afoot for a move out of lockdown, we've already got the shoots of the new season pushing firmly through the soil of our hearts. While we'll still be staying as local as we can throughout March, to keep the fresh spring vibes alive we'll be:
We recently read Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki, an essay and step-by-step guide on minimalist living. While it's unlikely we'll ever reduce the amount of things we own as much as he has, we loved his approach and the insight he gives into a new (old) way of living.
Walking … even more.
It's fair to say we've been walking a great deal this past year. With a newly-minted sun beckoning and blossom trees adding a cotton candy feel, the daily walk feels new again. Entering our local park from a different entrance the other day and watching the light catch on the fountain - pure cinematic heaven.
Rereading a childhood classic.
And none so perfect right now as Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. The joy of no longer being home-bound, nature's delights, friends – it all has new resonance. Dip into the film too – we prefer the nineties version over its more recent remake.
Adding new tunes to our playlist.
We love 6 Music's weekly Artist in Residence. Each month heralds a new person and fresh insights into the mixtape of their lives. Recently it's been Arlo Parks and our daily playlist has been reaping the benefits.