Thursday, 24 July 2014

Sightlines: A Conversation With the Natural World, by Kathleen Jamie

Reviewed by Rebecca Johnson

Kathleen Jamie’s essay collection begins with a vast silence, a freedom from all human and animal interference, among the ice cliffs of Greenland. “A mineral silence that presses powerfully on our bodies”, as she describes it. This silence forces you as a reader to focus. It draws you into the place and her description of it, into your own mind and senses, so that you become aware of yourself as a living body, and into the book itself through her quiet style of delicate attentive listening and precise observation. It creates an intensity that she sustains throughout, as this is a book about listening and looking, sensing and perceiving at an almost hypnotic level. It is a task that Jamie seems to suggest is the essence of being alive, as it is for other living creatures: being in our animal senses, experiencing and responding to the natural world. The visceral and emotional awareness of bodies in landscape.

In essays ranging across her native Scotland and its islands, to Shetland, the Orkneys and the Hebrides, and further afield to a Norwegian whale museum and beyond, Kathleen Jamie explores myth, history, scientific understanding, and cultural responses to the natural world as well as her own sensory experiences. She sees it as a ‘conversation’, a dialogue of co-existence in which she learns about her humanity – not always a happy lesson, sometimes a brutal, shameful or humbling one – and the ways in which people respond to and explore the non-human and the reasons why they do so, as well as trying to understand the lives of the creatures she encounters. She dismisses sentimental approaches to nature:  It’s ‘not all primroses and otters’, she points out, while examining cancerous tissue with a hospital pathologist; she does not shy away from death as part of life.

 As you would expect of prose writing from a poet, beautiful descriptions spangle her sentences. Writing of icebergs: ‘They are a blue you could fall into, as you could have fallen forever into the silence of the morning.’ Or of a gannet colony: ‘Here they were in the air, gannet, gannet, repeated like a stammer, the whole idea of gannet amplified and displayed.’ Or when she moves into the sublime, experiencing the evanescence and transience of animate life in remote places: ‘I had the sensation I always have on Atlantic islands, in summertime, when the clouds pass quickly and light glints on the sea – a sense that the world is bringing itself into being moment by moment. Arising and passing away in the same breath.’

This lyrical appreciation of the natural world contains within it a subtle anger, a witnessing of loss, which is also an awareness of time and the changes that have been wrought on bird populations, animal and human communities. Yet here she doesn’t carry through the implications of her observations to engage with political concerns: she does not indulge in polemics. She is forever the observer, never involved or passing judgement. Again, this may be a reflection of poetic technique, but I found it frustrating in essay form that she did not pursue the potential of the ideas latent in her descriptions, instead backing off into ambiguity, even contradiction, or leaving underlying implications to hang. Only in her last lengthy essay on whaling does she allow her views and emotions more scope.

Kathleen Jamie’s fascination with, love for and awe of whales ripples throughout the book. She describes the exhilaration of sighting killer whales off Rona; she cleans and admires whale skeletons in the Hvalsalen in a Bergen museum, imagining herself into their seaborne bodies; and, in ‘Voyager, Chief’ she visits whale jaw and vertebral relics dotted around the Scottish landscape to tell the story of the now extinct whaling industry – a history of which I was completely unaware. These remaining artefacts have something akin to religious meaning for her and she sees them as a form of atonement for the shame of the wholesale slaughter of these awe-inspiring and magnificent creatures for whale oil and flesh.

This is a lovely book, full of gentle joy and anger and an almost spiritual wonder for and affinity with the natural world. It is written in crystalline language that enhances perception, and explores the essence, ultimately, of our human existence in relation to the rest of the natural world.

20 comments:

  1. I loved this book where you can learn so many things about the world and there many unspoken and unseen things to talk about with friends anyway, also I am taking help from essay writing services australia online to get my essay and writing things to get done without any errors as error gives less grades

    ReplyDelete
  2. the best thesis writing provide the best writing that helps you out for any education related problem, the thesis writing service provides the best writing that helps you out from university.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for sharing this useful material. The information you have mentioned here will be useful. I would like to share with you all one useful source https://order-essays.com/buy-literary-analysis-essay which might be interesting for you as well.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey i was searching through the net and accidentaly found your blog. Should say that it is excellent! Good info and you have the great talent to write, I see it cause I am a writer too and represent proffesional writing platfrom - https://papermasters.org/synopsis-writing

    ReplyDelete
  5. Grant winning Scottish artist and writer Jamie composes of her inundations in nature and history in 14 finely tooled, scoured, flushed, and cleaned papers. However adroitly bewildered as she may be eagerly attentive, Oil And Filter Change Service In Dubai however inventively interpretive as she seems to be interested, Jamie goes to the Arctic, where she contemplates time, unfathomability,

    ReplyDelete
  6. In Sightlines, Kathleen Jamie reports from the field-from her local Scottish 'byways and slopes' to the cold Arctic in fourteen exciting expositions. VAT Accounting Software Dubai
    She takes apart whatever her look tons of cells underneath a medical clinic magnifying lens, orcas adjusting a headland, the aurora borealis illuminating the frozen ocean.

    ReplyDelete
  7. In Sightlines, Kathleen Jamie reports from the field-from her local Scottish 'byways and slopes' to the bone chilling Arctic in fourteen captivating articles. She takes apart whatever her Best Hr Software In Pakistan look heaps of cells underneath a medical clinic magnifying instrument, orcas adjusting a headland, the aurora borealis illuminating the frozen ocean. In this manner, she addresses what, precisely, comprises 'nature,

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is a flawless book, loaded with delicate bliss and outrage and a practically profound marvel for and liking with the regular world. It is written in glasslike language that faux fur coat womens improves discernment, and investigates the substance, eventually, of our human life comparable to the remainder of the regular world.

    ReplyDelete
  9. In papers going across her local Scotland and its islands, to Shetland, the Orkneys and the Hebrides, and further abroad to a Norwegian whale gallery and past, Kathleen Jamie Pakistan Cargo Dubai investigates legend, history, logical agreement, and social reactions to the characteristic world just as her own tangible encounters.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is an impeccable book, stacked with fragile euphoria and shock and an essentially significant wonder for and enjoying with best leather jackets the normal world. It is written in glasslike language that artificial fur garment womens improves insight, and examines the substance, at last, of our human existence tantamount to the rest of the ordinary world.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi everyone, my name is Abbie Moore, am from USA. I want to share my wonderful testimony how I got back my husband back, who I sworn ever to be with until when he left me to another woman for no reason and I try to make things work for both of us yet things where getting worse and I love him so much and there is nothing I could do to get my husband back until I saw a testimony share by a woman called Lauren from Australia on the internet talking about a powerful spell caster who brought her husband back within 24hours and I decide to give it a try and to my greatest surprise he also did it for me just as he did for Lauren and I have a lot of people complaining of fake spell caster but this one I met was a real spell caster who help me to solve my problem I have no solution to, I introduce many of my best friends that have a similar problems, and their problem were solve with the great help of DR WALE, who help them to get back their lovers within 24 hours. I am so happy that my husband is back to me again, and the most surprising thing is that our love is very strong, every day is happiness and joy. and there is nothing like been with the man you love. I am so happy my love is back to me with the help of DR WALE. if you have similar problem I will advice you to contact him ,he is there to help you and put a smile on your face as he did to me and others you can also WhatsApp him +1(978) 406-9575 or Email him at : everlastingspellcast@gmail.com or or view his website for more review https://everlastingspellcaster.website2.me/contact

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi everyone, my name is Abbie Moore, am from USA. I want to share my wonderful testimony how I got back my husband back, who I sworn ever to be with until when he left me to another woman for no reason and I try to make things work for both of us yet things where getting worse and I love him so much and there is nothing I could do to get my husband back until I saw a testimony share by a woman called Lauren from Australia on the internet talking about a powerful spell caster who brought her husband back within 24hours and I decide to give it a try and to my greatest surprise he also did it for me just as he did for Lauren and I have a lot of people complaining of fake spell caster but this one I met was a real spell caster who help me to solve my problem I have no solution to, I introduce many of my best friends that have a similar problems, and their problem were solve with the great help of DR WALE, who help them to get back their lovers within 24 hours. I am so happy that my husband is back to me again, and the most surprising thing is that our love is very strong, every day is happiness and joy. and there is nothing like been with the man you love. I am so happy my love is back to me with the help of DR WALE. if you have similar problem I will advice you to contact him ,he is there to help you and put a smile on your face as he did to me and others you can also WhatsApp him +1(978) 406-9575 or Email him at : everlastingspellcast@gmail.com or or view his website for more review https://everlastingspellcaster.website2.me/contact

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for sharing this useful material. The records you've got referred to here might be beneficial. I used to be looking through the internet and accidentally found your blog. Need to say that it's miles top notch!

    Top 10 Immigration Consultants
    Australia Immigration From Dubai

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is a dazzling book, loaded with delicate happiness and outrage and Tyres Shop Near Me a practically profound miracle for and liking with the normal world. It is written in glasslike language that improves insight, and Tyre Repair investigates the pith, at last, of our human life corresponding to the remainder of the common world.

    ReplyDelete
  15. i introduce many of my high-quality friends which have a comparable troubles, and their problem have been resolve with the awesome assist of dr wale, who help them to get lower back their fanatics within 24 hours. waterjet mosaic manufacturers | Waterjet Mosaic supplier

    ReplyDelete
  16. Interested post! you discuss about human and animals nature. This post is very informative. I really like this post. Furthermore garage door companies in ct deliver the best services for garage door repairing and installation. Our aim to fulfill customer's requirements.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Very interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing. Good job! this time to take advantage of Remodeling Services in Sacramento CA visit for more details.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing. it's time to avail this Flooring Repair Services in Houston visit for more details.

    ReplyDelete
  19. In this Blog we have learn a human can understand the animal. A strong relation between them.
    Reliable Towing Services in Las Vega NV

    ReplyDelete
  20. You share a beautiful book. I like your post. Thank you for sharing outstanding article. Besides, If you finding the best services for vehicles then you should hire vehicle detailing services in Arlington TX for quality work.

    ReplyDelete