Below – is part of the introduction to Matthew Oates’ book
BEYOND SPRING: Wanderings through Nature.
It will make a fabulous present – Christmas, Birthday… especially as you will be able to say it is a limited edition; and maybe you will want one for yourself too!
Thanks, Nadia x
Before the Beginning
part of the Introduction to BEYOND SPRING Wanderings through Nature – Matthew Oates
I can hardly claim authorship of this book. It was inspired by, and perhaps written by, some of the wonderful places I found myself in during the brighter months of an English year. All I did was wander about, or loiter with intent, in special places in the great outdoors, and observe what was going on around me; and because I carry pen and notebook, and am accustomed to muse and write as I wander, I simply wrote down what was happening. Perhaps nature used me, as a conduit.
Beyond Winter might have been a more appropriate title, but sounded a trifle negative. Whatever, this book is a love affair, an entirely natural love affair – with nature; and with some of the places and times which I’ve been privileged to experience. It explores aspects of the experience of spring and summer in England from the differing perspectives of poetics, traditional natural history, and the evidence-based approach of modern ecology.
The book’s essential subject matter is the experience of spring and summer in the natural world, in England. Our experiences, of course, take place within the contexts of time and place, so this book is concerned with love of time and place too, through the stained-glass windows of two of our seasons. It describes fragments of a journey through time, from the genesis of spring to summer’s ending – as undertaken by someone who is simply a pilgrim in the world of nature. The journey meanders over much of England. Essentially, though, it is not offered up as my journey but the reader’s; so much so that most chapters avoid or minimise usage of the first person singular.
These chapters have been inspired by the great Victorian and Edwardian nature writers, Richard Jefferies, WH Hudson and Edward Thomas; by one chapter of rampant pantheism in Kenneth Graeme’s The Wind in the Willows; by the Romantic poets’ metaphysical relationship with Nature; and equally by today’s conservation scientists with their ever-evolving ecological knowledge; and the phenomenon of outpouring which has been labelled ‘new nature writing’. Perhaps art, science and spirituality are at their strongest when they combine, which they do around nature.
One of the main themes is memory, and in particular how our experiences of nature pass into memory, and transmogrify. But memory is not something confined to the human mind – for places somehow collect people’s memories, and retain them as their own. I do not understand this, which can loosely be termed the collective memory of place, but am convinced that it is real. It is explored here. Places use us, and situations. Poets at times understand this, which helps make them relevant.
Although the bulk of the adventures and experiences described here happened over a seven-month period during the sunnier side of one particular year they are not necessarily rooted there (some pieces were penned in preceding years). They are simply of spring or of summer, or both. Therefore, this book is a tribute to Spring and Summer more generally.
As a benchmark or touchstone, some forty years on, there are reflections on, and even excursions into, that most glorious of summers of modern time – the one that became known as The Long Hot Summer of 1976, that annus mirabilis – and to which this book is gratefully, and eternally, dedicated.