It is more and more important today that we engage with nature physically, intellectually and emotionally, rather than allow ourselves to disconnect; that we witness rather than turn away, and celebrate rather than neglect
Nature writing has always brought me solace. It’s something that, when locked away in a city for the majority of the year, brings me such comfort. It reminds me of home, where I can hear the bird’s sing as clearly as the blue sky. Where I can journey ten minutes one way and be surrounded by the hustle-and-bustle of town life, and then journey ten minutes the other way and be greeted by an abundance of plants, the trickling sound of running water, and the barren fells. When I stumbled across Melissa Harrison’s An Anthology for the Changing Seasons, I thought I was in heaven. I just had to buy and read them all.
Working with The Wildlife Trust, Harrison has collected material submitted by members of the public, established nature writers, and extracts from classic works of literature that detail the English seasons. It features poetry, journal entries, extracts from novels, and so much more. The aim of the collection is to inspire more people to appreciate nature. Despite The Wildlife Trust doing everything in their power to protect nature, Harrison pleads that ‘we can all play our part, by learning about the plants and animals we share the UK with, loving them for the joy they bring into our lives, and protecting the places where they live’.
The first book I picked up was Autumn, a collection of poetry and prose that celebrates the transforming months of September, October and November. Tucked inside this collection is Horatio Clare, Ted Hughes, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Nan Shephard, and an array of modern writers. Autumn was definitely my favourite book. It’s my favourite season; I love to watch it transform, I love the smell of it, the feel of it, and so on. Getting to read how people view autumn, whether it be different to my own image or not, was such a wonderful experience. I learnt to appreciate the aspects of Autumn that I dismiss, such as the plant life. It’s not always about warm drinks, roaring fires, and crunching leaves.
I then read Winter, a collection that I enjoyed just as much as Autumn. Included inside was William Wordsworth, Thomas Hardy, Robert Macfarlane, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare, to name but a few. Each writer captures something different about the season, detailing what it represents to them, how it unfolds in different regions of the country and how it impacts the wildlife. It’s so interesting to see what winter means to someone else – to someone from centuries ago, to someone who lives on the opposite end of the country. I was introduced to new writers, and was allowed to re-read some of my favourite pieces all about a wonderful season.
Spring was next up on the list and, unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy it all that much. It didn’t discuss the things I imagine of spring, like the vegetation and new life, but instead it just spoke of birds. The constant entries not only got repetitive but also very boring. I desired some variety. Despite this, there were some inclusions I really liked. I found new authors to read, and was able to revisit pieces from Shakespeare and Brontë. I loved seeing other people’s take on spring, especially considering some entries were from centuries ago (one was written in Old English, which was a task to understand – thankfully Harrison included a translation!).
The last book I read was Summer. I was surprised by how much I liked this considering I hate the season. George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, W.H Hudson, Laurie Lee, and Philip Larkin were all included inside this vibrant collection. I liked the focus on wildlife in this one – although it did speak of birds, there were various other entries about insects, vixens and otters, for example. It was summer in a new light – I might not like the season, and I might not willingly go out in it, but I can appreciate how important it is for the wildlife, the landscape, and the vegetation. This was a lovely conclusion to the series.
To conclude this overly long review, I would definitely recommend these anthologies. I gained a new understanding of the seasons just from a few simple pages. I won’t just look at them aesthetically, but will appreciate them for their importance. If that doesn’t persuade you to read them, then know that a portion of the money made from your purchase will go The Wildlife Trust, which is a worthy cause in itself!
Do you like nature writing? If so, what would you recommend for me to read next?
Thanks for reading, Lauren X