Language and landscape have been inextricably linked for centuries, can you imagine Wuthering Heights without Bronte describing the Yorkshire moors? The setting captures the emotions of Bronte’s characters. While I was reading Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks, I took notes and wrote down my favourite quotes. Landmarks is filled with fascinating portraits of authors that influenced Macfarlane’s writing. His high praise for Nan Shepherd led me to The Living Mountain. This book is about language…words lost or words on the brink of extinction. The glossary at the end of each chapter reminds us how important vocabulary is to Macfarlane. So I thought instead of a traditional review, I would share Macfarlane’s most striking quotes.
On Roger Deakin’s relationship with water: ’Water was to him a visionary substance. It was homoeopathic, it was cheering, it was beautiful in its flex and flow – and it was lensatic. Prepositions matter again here: we might say that Roger Deakin thought not just about water, he thought in water or with water.’
On Nan Shepherd: ’Shepherd is fierce see-er, then, and like many fierce see-ers, she is also a part-time mystic, for whom intense empiricism is the first step to immanence.’
On Peter Davidson’s poetry and northern landscape: ‘I think of Davidson’s what-ifs as versions of the duct: strange spaces in which time’s claim are stilled – and through which one might see so far into the future that it becomes the past.’
On reading John Muir: ’Reading Muir, I feel invulnerable. He gives me seven-league boots, lets me climb high mountains in a single paragraph. Rockfall, blizzard and avalanche cannot harm him.’
On Richard Jefferies: ‘Sunlight was the substance Jefferies associated most with life; dust the substance that most often triggered his dismayed materialism and his thoughts of death.’
‘Like the ‘white granular powder’ that gathers lethally upon a thriving landscape in the opening pages of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), Jefferies’ dust contaminates both body and soul…’
You can find the book here.