The Lost Spells – Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

This little book is becoming something of a talisman for me – I’ve taken to carrying it around and dipping into it when I need a moment to just stop. I really love The Lost Words, but that’s a book to pour over at the kitchen table with others. The much smaller Lost Spells feels more intimate an experience, its size allowing for briefer moments grabbed anywhere. The poems are incantations, poems to be savoured as Macfarlane’s words trip and glide off the page. This from Jackdaw:

‘Castle-clatterer,

silence-shatterer,

tractor troubadour,

talker and squawker in

fable and folklore from

farmyard to seashore,

giving it the nevermore!

Elsewhere, the tone is softer, an acknowledgement of what we’ve turned to nature to see in these trying times. Goldfinch begins,

‘God knows the world needs all

The good it can get right now –

Out in the gardens and fields

Goldfinches are gilding the land for free’.

Morris’ illustrations are once again just so beautiful, providing a comfort all of their own. There’s such a beauty to her observations, and sometimes a humour too, as seen in her images for Badger. Being a much smaller space, the replacing of the gold with blues, browns and greys works well and there’s a sense of darker nights and winter days. This somehow manages to be a cosy book and one much needed this autumn. As in The Lost Words before it, Macfarlane and Morris have recorded a natural world we’re in danger of taking for granted, and presented it to us afresh.

Edit: I started writing this last week (snatched moments) – yesterday’s news has made the world feel different, more hopeful again, and coming back to this today also now feels different. Last week, this book was a little beacon in an otherwise quite grim late autumn. Now I’m reading it as something different. I’m still going to be dipping in frequently, but now the final poem, Silver Birch, offers a real sense of promise at the end. The darkness is ‘held at bay until at last the sun emerges.’ Now I’m reminded that nature, as well as offering a refuge in the dark, contains a promise of renewal too. One for my Top Ten this year. Essential reading.

One thought on “The Lost Spells – Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

  1. Pingback: What a Year … my Top Ten reads for 2020 | Books and Wine Gums

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