For your stray attention this weekend...
In solidarity with the people of Iran, and all those who reach for the freedom to govern their own bodies.
Briefly: Support me on Patreon | This restlessly beating heart | Raynor Winn on The Wintering Sessions | Lissie choses Wintering on Spark Parade | RIP Hilary Mantel
My stray attention has been drawn to poignancy this week - if ‘all things must pass’ is a mood, then I am in it.
If you have yet to read Dorthe Nors’ excellent memoir, A Line in the World, then this article is a perfect distillation of her return to the North Sea and its ravaged coastline. I know the same sea from the other side, and yet I’d never imagined it as a place in its own right before discovering her wonderful work. (Paywall with free sign-in option)
While I was musing on a fleeting encounter with a sick bird in my newsletter, Elissa Altman was writing beautifully on the realisation that her beloved dog Petey is growing old. I’ve met Petey, and I can confirm that he’s a glorious old chap. I wish him many more paddles in the Maine sea.
And if all that was not quite bittersweet enough, I was so moved by Monte Reel’s piece reporting on the last member of an uncontacted tribe in Brazil. He had lived alone for the last twenty-six years of his life, and died recently, taking with him a unique language and way of seeing the world. And he really - really - did not want to be contacted.
Over in Chile, scientists believe they have discovered the oldest tree in the world. Gran Abuelo, a kind of cypress, is described as ‘a waterfall of green’ whose trunks are ‘huddled like the pipes of a great cathedral organ’. But he is under threat from the climate crisis, and now stands alone due to the activity of loggers and toursists, who tear of strips of his bark as souvenirs. Sigh.
Still, it’s not all bad news. Yvon Chouinard transferred 100% of his company Patagonia’s stock to a trust devoted to fighting the global environmental crisis. “Instead of ‘going public’ you could say we’re ‘going purpose’,” he wrote in his open letter. We can only hope that more will follow his great example.
I’m listening to…
Lauren Ober’s new venture, The Loudest Girl in the World, is excellent - and also dear to my heart, because it tracks her midlife autism identification with superb insight and humour. The most recent episode captures to moment she receives her diagnosis and it is…yep, poignant. Sorry. I can’t stop.
Anna Brones new podcast Creative Fuel examines the conditions in which creative folk can thrive. If the first episode is anything to go by, this is going to become a staple in my earbuds.
In an extraordinarily vulnerable conversation, Kate Bowler talks to Ibrahim Kendi about their common experience of bowel cancer. I love the way they both explore how life-threatening illness gave them a sense of mission, and a certain fearlessness as they went forward.
In a mini-series of The Last Archive that focuses on the archivists themselves, Jill Lapore talks to Reginald Dwayne Betts, a poet and extraordinary human being who is trying to build libraries in American prisons through his project, Freedom Reads. Listen, cry, and be inspired.
Peter Riley’s Strandings, a very personal reportage of the underground community of whale souvenir hunters, the people who gather around stranded whales to claim parts of their corpses. It’s strange, erudite, and completely fascinating.
Middlemarch (by George Eliot, but you probably knew that), in a chapter-by-chapter readalong organised by my author pal Peggy Riley. If you’d like to join in (it’s not too late to catch up!) the schedule is here, and you can use the hashtag #middlemarch on Twitter to share your thoughts/feelings/struggles to keep up.
Beyond Black, my favourite Hilary Mantel novel. What a loss we’re suffered in her passing: an extraordinary author, a supporter of other writers, and a believer in ghosts. ‘When you turn and look back down the years, you glimpse the ghosts of other lives you might have led; all houses are haunted.’
On my TBR…
Sharon Blackie’s Hagitude: ‘reimagining the second half of life’
Amy Jeff’s Wild : ‘tales from early Medieval Britain’
Rebecca Beattie’s The Wheel of the Year (probably self-explanatory)
Eleanor Parker’s Winters in the World: ‘a journey through the Anglo-Saxon year’.
And just in case you think it’s all become too serious around here, I’ve also spent a lot of time laughing hysterically at cat videos on Weird Lil Guys. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: cat videos will save us.
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