All of these books have had a major impact on the way I manage and feel about my own moods and difficult days. The connection with nature can be such an amazing tool to help us reflect, restore and regroup.
Wintering by Katherine May
I was a few pages into this book when I felt myself give a big breath out and I knew that this book was going to be significant in helping me. I originally picked this up because I thought it would be about Winter and finding ways to cope. In a way it was, but not in the way I expected. Wintering is described as a season in the cold, yes, but it’s more than that. It’s about times when you feel overwhelmed, in need of a break from life, when you are struggling with a life event that has set you back or stopped you in your tracks. It’s about change and transition and Katherine describes this as inevitable and natural, as something to be embraced, as it is in nature, to winter is to survive. I completely agree with her observations of positive psychology – ‘we like to imagine that its possible for life to be one eternal summer…But life’s not like that.’ And nor should we expect it to be. Her chapter describing her son’s ‘wintering’ and the importance of passing on the ability to winter to the next generation is beautiful, insightful and true.
Her own story of Wintering is told in step with the natural changes of seasons, from Autumn to Spring and intertwined throughout is the noticing of how nature winters and survives and the beauty to behold in simple pleasures to help ourselves to understand and do our own wintering.
Wanting to retreat from the world during difficult times can be hard to explain or for others to understand. I have often found myself wanting to retreat and curl up and be invisible for a while. This book has given words to the necessity of this solace and so many examples of nature and wildlife completely resonated with me.
I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book that has changed my life – but this has come pretty close to helping me make a shift that will impact me for many years to come.
Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller
This book is part biography of the scientist David Starr Jordan (founding president of Stanford University) and part story of the authors struggles with finding meaning and love after loss. Jordan’s scientific aim was to find order in chaos, by ordering and classifying species of plant and animal life. His specialty was fish. Miller is drawn to his ideas, as part of her need to find a way to bring order to her own sense of chaos.
What emerges is a fascinating biography of Jordan. As someone who struggles with factual books, I found myself completely drawn into his life story. The way Miller weaves her research into his life with her own situation and reflections works seamlessly. You feel you are with her each step of the way as she undercovers more about his work and how this impacts and influences her own journey.
It’s a beautiful book and it’s a healing book too. One of the most bizarre books I’ve read, but one of the most impactful. It’s message has stayed with me, the power and beauty of nature and the freedom we can achieve by understanding nature and living with the chaos and uncertainty that is life. Do fish exist? – the answer may surprise you.
12 Birds to save your life. Charlie Corbett
This isn’t just a book about birds, it’s a book about the beauty and harshness of life and the connection with nature that can ground and support us in hard times. How Charlie describes the impact of seeing one of his 12 birds during his own journey through loss and acceptance was joyful.
What makes this book so accessible and relatable was that the 12 birds are all common to the UK and most of us will see many of them on a daily basis. I guarantee once you’ve read this book your perspective on seeing a common robin on a walk will be so much more significant.
This book took my appreciation of birds to a whole new level. I would say I have always liked to stop and listen or find where the song is coming from. But since reading this, I’ve been reflecting more about the role of birds in my own life and how I can strengthen this connection. You really feel the joy emulate off the page when Charlie describes his birds and their sightings at times when he needed that connection. The natural cycle of their life becomes a way to ground you in place and season. Nature reminds you that life goes on – whether you like it or not.
In March the skylarks start nesting at my local nature reserve. This year, after reading this, I think it will be a highlight of March. To hear them singing in the air as they fly across their nesting field. It has also made me think about my own list of favourites. Number one for me is the Nuthatch. I can’t really explain why, just that it seems to do things a little differently to other birds. I recently spent half an hour standing in one spot in a park where an information board told me it lived there. I didn’t see one, so I’ll be back, because a Nuthatch Day is a very good day indeed.