Briony Penn, A Year on the Wild Side

On the other hand, there's Briony Penn's unwieldy but delightful wild almanac A Year on the Wild Side.

The world is on fire, and even if we survive these flames we'd be extraordinarily lucky as a species to make another 80,000 years, and then eventually the Sun will consume the Earth.

Granted. In the interim, though, there's cyclical time, through which we're so lucky to be able to eddy through the seasons, annual harvests, visits from migratory birds, and efflorescences of innumerable fungi species.

And if that's your bag, then on Canada's west coast, there can be no better settler guide than Briony Penn. A Year on the Wild Side is too long, its essays too short and too numerous, etc etc, but (and? hmm) it's a wonder of a book.

If you try to read this book in over-sized draughts, you'll tire of it, because as she notes in the introduction, she follows a fairly consistent pattern with each essay. So, don't. Dip into it regularly, erratically, repeatedly, because you're sure to find something remarkable every few pages:

"There are no skunk cabbages in Venice, Italy, although it is the sort of place you would expect to find them: a big swampy area that smells of rotting vegetables" (p.43).

I'm committing to reading each month's batch of chapters every month, for at least the next two years, along with each month of Des Kennedy's An Ecology of Enchantment. This way, I'll see through the eyes of a rabble-rousing gardener and a rabble-rousing greenie, as I try to think my way through each day of this crisis that's our lives. She's just good people, Briony Penn:

"And here I pause because I can't find anything in Dr. Seuss to rhyme with estuary, which is another reason why it needs some sophistication--whole parts of the ecosystem are ignored for their lack of ability to rhyme easily. No wonder this world is in such a mess" (p.203).

Find strength where you can, friends. Unexpectedly, partway through, that's what this book became for me.

Recommended, period!


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