Tag Archives: Nature

Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country by Pam Houston

Deep Creek by Pam Houston Title: Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country
Author: Pam Houston
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 978-0393241020
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoirs
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 stars

Pam Houston’s Deep Creek has to be read, actually savoured with enough time on your hand. It cannot and shouldn’t be rushed with. This book is about home and place and what is their meaning to someone who has spent half her life travelling around the world. More than that though, it is about the places we inhabit, the landscapes we belong to, the daily rituals of living and caring for people around you. Deep Creek is all about celebrating nature, and above that survival not only in the wilderness, but also around you.

The book is about Pam’s 120-acre homestead high in the Colorado Rockies. It is about more than that though. It is about what it means to take care of land, nurture it, care for creatures on it, and finally make it such a part of you that nowhere else really is home. Pam Houston’s book isn’t something others perhaps haven’t written on or dabbled with. What makes this book special then? In all honesty, and to put it as simply, and as clichéd as it might sound: The writing.

What struck me the most delightful about the book is the connections Pam makes between her ranch and the travels she undertakes. At the same time, the beauty of it all in the ranch being the only place she sees as home and almost a sanctuary – the place that provides her much comfort and solace, after going through a childhood of parental neglect and abuse. So that’s another aspect to the book, but Houston for once doesn’t stray away from the core of the book as it were.

Pam’s writing to me is as lucid as the air she breathes. It is as stunning and clear as her experiences with nature – land, animals, seasons, the fire experienced, and in all of this the person she becomes or evolves to be. The thing is that while reading the book, I wanted to be a part of the landscape that Pam inhabited, with every single turn of the page. At times, I thought there was more to every chapter, but more than happy with what is written as well.

Deep Creek is the kind of book that makes you soak in all of it – it is a memoir,    it is written from the heart (to me any book that does that is more than enough worthy to be read and it shows), and more than anything else it is absolutely fascinating to see what it feels like to lose contact with land and then to regain it (this will become clearer as you read the book).

The stories in Deep Creek are real (but of course) and motivated mainly by gratitude – for spaces that are available to us, and nature that surrounds us. There is this sense of comfort, longing, and delight while reading it. I read it over a period of time – a couple of chapters here and there and loved it even more. Deep Creek to me, must be read by all, cherished, and passed over to spread the hope and perseverance.

 

 

The Tree Lover by Ruskin Bond

the-tree-lover-by-ruskin-bond Title: The Tree Lover
Author: Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN: 978-0143428749
Genre: Children’s Books
Pages: 64
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

The Tree Lover is one of the short stories of Ruskin Bond that was a part of a larger collection. This time though it stands alone as a Puffin chapter book which I think is great, because honestly these chapter books are the way children will read more and be interested in stories, not to forget, the brilliant watercolour illustrations in this book by Ahlawat Gunjan make it even more special.

The Tree Lover is an autobiographical story of Rusty and his grandfather and nature. As the title suggests, the story is about trees and how they love back when you love them unconditionally. The watercolour illustrations of course added the extra pizazz to this short read but the narrative, as all Bond fans would know is simple and descriptive and that ends up magical for the reader.

I think these chapter books introduced by Puffin would also be read a lot by adults. These are more than just quick reads because they stay with you. Ruskin Bond has created a whole new world since the time he started writing – I think the entire convergence of growing up Anglo-Indian in India and thereby noticing the differences and the similarities, and more so the expression of it through his books is one of a kind. I am yet to read another writer who does this with as much grace. Do gift this book to a child who has just learned to read in your house. Sit with him or her. Read to them. Do yourself a favour.

Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver

upstream-selected-essays-by-mary-oliver Title: Upstream: Selected Essays
Author: Mary Oliver
Publisher: Penguin Press
ISBN: 978-1594206702
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Sometimes in life, you just need to step back and look at life differently. Mary Oliver’s books often lend that perspective. They make you rethink life and its subtleties and what transpires in our often ignored surroundings – especially nature and how we ignore it, most of the time.

Her latest offering – a prose collection “Upstream: Selected Essays” is a magical book – it speaks of writing, life, nature and creativity – all rolled into one. My only grouse with the book is that it ended too soon. I wish there was more.

“Upstream” is the kind of book that you won’t be able to rush through even if you tried. It is meant to be read languidly and at your own pace. “You must never stop being whimsical” she says and I this one sentence hit home. Mary Oliver says things you want to say and more particularly, feel. Her writing isn’t long-drawn. She comes to the point and the beauty of her writing lies in her brevity.

“Upstream” is an ode to nature, to other writers such as Whitman, Emerson and Poe. Those by far were my favourite essays. Her poetry is of course remarkable but her essays are also not far behind. Mary Oliver is the kind of writer that observes keenly and emotes beautifully through her words.

The Secret Sanctuary by Stephen Alter

The Secret Sanctuary by Stephen Alter Title: The Secret Sanctuary
Author: Stephen Alter
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN: 9780143333982
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 136
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It is not easy to write children’s books. It is definitely not easy to write a children’s book on nature and the environment. Stephen Alter does it though and it seems while reading it, that he has written it also with as much ease. There is a lot of research done to write this book, given it is a mix of both fantasy and nature (took you by surprise, didn’t it? It sure had me all wondering about the plot) and interspersed is almost a quick lesson in nature for young readers.

“The Secret Sanctuary” is about three children who are lost in the jungle and before they know it, the jungle is magical and full of surprises and shocks at every turn for them. The book is extremely readable for young readers, between the ages of six to ten and quite riveting too.

The book is more than about just three children who are lost. It is about the preservation of nature and how as humans we tend to overlook and ignore it – that it has no choice but to appear only when seen through new eyes.

“The Secret Sanctuary” is a delight to read. I was majorly disappointed when it ended so soon. I wish it had gone on longer. At the same time, I also felt that may be the book could have had more dialogues.

The descriptions though are fascinating – whether it is about sleeping in a bear’s cave or listening to a concert at dawn which is not orchestrated by humans or whether it is about going in search of a rare mountain quail, Mr. Alter does a splendid job of making you want to lose yourself in his idyllic world and make you want to be a part of it.

Book Review: Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton & John Armstrong

Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton Title: Art as Therapy
Author: Alain de Botton
Publisher: Phaidon Press
ISBN: 9780714865911
Genre: Non-Fiction, Art, Essays
Pages: 239
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

It is the end of the year and I close the year with a book I just finished and cannot stop talking or thinking about – “Art as Therapy” by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong. May be a lot of people know Alain and are aware of what and how he writes and then there are others who are yet to discover his style and works. I envy the latter set of people. They are so lucky to discover his works and his line of thought. At the same time, because this book is co-written, it is always good to see another perspective, in this case of John Armstrong.

Alain de Botton according to me is a master at what he does – he integrates human behaviour across a range of topics and we have witnessed that through his works. “Art as Therapy” on the other hand is a different matter altogether.

“Art as Therapy” speaks of art in the manner, which is accessible to everyone. It is not about wine glasses in hand and appreciating something on the wall, and acting all pretentious. It is about nonetheless, life and how we live art and also sometimes its therapeutic and redeeming nature in our lives. The bigger question that the book seeks to answer is: What is art’s purpose? What does it do or not do for humans? Why is it needed at all?

In this book, de Botton covers different aspects of life through art – love, nature, money, and politics and how art acts as a catalyst to solve the daily worries of life. A photograph then becomes more than a photograph. A painting then becomes something that you connect with so strongly, that you can never let go. Alain looks at everyday problems, everyday issues and uses art to solve them. May be solve is an incorrect term here, he uses art to get an understanding of life and then perhaps cure the soul.

With examples and more illustrations throughout, Alain and John reveal how we as humans cannot lose sight of the bigger things, and how sometimes art is the only solace. They talk about looking at art with fresh eyes and viewing it the way you never would have thought of. Each painting, each art form transforms itself in their hands and that is more than reason enough to read this book. They show us how art heals us in ways we cannot even imagine. Art is then an imperative force in our lives, which perhaps we do not pay attention to – given the hustle-bustle of our technology-ridden lives. They remove art from the shallow galleries and bring it out to readers and the so-called common man through this fascinating concept and even more wondrous book.

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Here is he talking about Art as Therapy indeed and it is brilliant: