Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane

Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane is one of those books which increases your wish list of books to read as he makes so many of the books that he mentions sound so interesting.

As the author says on page one, it’s a book about the power of language and each chapter ends with several pages of glossary, descriptive words for natural landmarks, sounds, plants, beasties, weather and more which are local to places all over the UK, and sometimes having roots further afield.

I’ll just mention some of the people who appear in this book: Nan Shepherd, Roger Deakin, John Muir, Richard Jefferies, Kenneth Allsop, J.G. Ballard, John Ruskin, Jacquetta Hawkes, Clarence Ellis and many more.

Chapter 11 is titled Childish and Macfarlane writes about the lack of experience that the children of today have of playing outdoors in nature. Their play worlds have shrunk to their garden (if they’re lucky enough to have one) and a bit of pavement. When they do get the chance to sprachle about in the wild it unleashes their imaginations and they enter another world entirely. I can completely empathise  with that feeling as I was born in a city flat and moved out to ‘the country’ when I was five years old, for the first time I had a garden that I could just daunder out into via the back door and poke around in, and see sheep in the distance whenever I felt like it. I can clearly remember that feeling of freedom, and not too many years later I was able to walk in those not too distant fields on my own. Such was life for children in the 1960s and 70s.

At the end of the paperback edition of the book Robert Macfarlane writes that people from all over the world have written to him to tell him of words that are still used in their locale to describe weather, landmarks and such. I won’t write to him but the word that I love is Xirimiri,  which the way it was pronounced sounded like smirimiri.) I’m not sure if that is how it should be spelled because it was just given to me by a tour guide when I was visiting the Basque country in Spain. Anyway, I love it because it’s so close to the Scots word smirr and they both mean that very fine rain which you can barely see but soaks you through to the skin. The word must surely have a Celtic background, as the Basques and Scots share that heritage.

2 thoughts on “Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane

  1. Google says you spelled Xirimiri correctly 🙂 It’s a good word! The book sounds fabulous. I already have it on my TBR list, but thanks for the warning that it might cause me to add even more books to my list!

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