The Wild Places
In this eloquent travelogue, Macfarlane (Mountains of the Mind) explores the last undomesticated landscapes in Britain and Ireland in a narration that blends history, memoir and meditation. Macfarlane journeys to salt marshes, mountaintops, forests, beaches, constantly expanding and refining his understanding of wildness. Walking a Lake District ridge at night, he observes that with the stars falling plainly far above, it seemed to me that our estrangement from the dark was a great and serious loss. Crossing a moor, he finds its vastness and resistance to straight lines of progress analogous to the inability of mere words to convey a landscape's variety and immensity. Nonetheless, Macfarlane's language is as surprising and precise as his environments, with such evocative phrases as heat jellying the air, ice lidded the puddles and descriptions of birds that gild a tree and the sky as a steady tall blue. His striking prose not only evokes each locale's physicality in sensuous, deliberate detail, it glows with a reverence for nature in general and takes the reader on both a geographical and a philosophical journey, as mind-expanding as any of his wild places.