Now I'm in the delicious hiatus between acquiring a great new book to read and actually beginning the reading. So far I've just dipped a toe in, and I think it's going to be a good choice.
Here's how it begins:
I want to know what it is like to be a wild thing.
It may be possible to know. Neuroscience helps; so does a bit of philosophy and a lot of the poetry of John Clare. But most of all it involves inching dangerously down the evolutionary tree and into a hole in a Welsh hillside, or under the rocks in a Devon river, and learning about weightlessness, the shape of the wind, boredom, mulch in the nose, and the shudder and crack of dying things.
Nature writing has generally been about humans striding colonially around, describing what they see from six feet above the ground, or about humans pretending that animals wear clothes. This book is an attempt to see the world from the height of naked Welsh badgers, London foxes, Exmoor otters, Oxford swifts, and Scottish and West Country red deer; to learn what it is like to shuffle or swoop through a landscape that is mainly olfactory or auditory rather than visual. It's a sort of literary shamanism, and it has been fantastic fun.