Wild Comfort – Book Review

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature,” Rachel Carson wrote. “The assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” I have never felt this so strongly as I do now, waiting for the sun to warm my back. The bottom may drop out of my life, what I trusted may fall away completely, leaving me astonished and shaken. But still, sticky leaves emerge from bud scales that curl off the tree as the sun crosses the sky. Darkness pools and drains away, and the curve of the new moon points to the place the sun will rise again. There is wild comfort in the cycles and intersecting circles, the rotations and revolutions, the growing and ebbing of this beautiful and strangely trustworthy world. – from Wild Comfort, page 102 –

No measure of human grief can stop Earth in its tracks. Earth rolls into sunlight and rolls away again, continents glowing green and gold under the clouds. Trust this, and there will come a time when dogged, desperate trust in the world will break open into wonder. Wonder leads to gratitude. Gratitude opens into peace. – from Wild Comfort, page 103 –

Kathleen Dean Moore experienced a year of despair, sorrow and loss. In an effort to make sense of her grief and find healing, she turned to the steady, trustworthy rhythms of nature. She traveled to the desert, camped along swollen rivers, walked through forests, and paddled along inlets. Along the way, she observed the life around her – the birdsong, the beetles, the cry of a loon, a feather brushed by the breeze – and she wrote. The result is a book of essays which are deeply moving and filled with wisdom; a book of meditation about the seasons and cycles of the earth and the living creatures who inhabit it.

Moore is a philosophy professor, but she could just as easily be a poet. Her use of language is strong, musical and highly observant. She lives in Oregon, but summers in southeast Alaska – and her love of nature, and awe of the natural world is reflected in her writing.

So much of what I found between the pages of Wild Comfort spoke to me. Moore was able to put into words what I have long felt about the wild world – the mountains, streams, wildlife, and flora which have always called to me, are brought to vivid life in Moore’s essays.

Moore addresses human loss and grief, the struggle to move forward through darkness or navigate the rough waters of our life. The metaphors she uses illustrate how nature offers us many opportunities for healing. A simple walk along a footpath in the fog at night provides a lesson in finding one’s way:

I don’t know any other way to move through darkness, but to put one foot ahead of the other and listen for the exact sound of our footsteps. If we have to drop to our knees sometimes and press the palms of our hands against the duff and damp of the earth, then that is what we will do. – from Wild Comfort, page 60 –

A snow squall brings forth memories of Native American signal fires and a way to find peace in the midst of fear:

If we are not afraid, if we keep our balance, if we let our anxious selves dissolve into the beauties and mysteries of the night, we will find a way to peace and assurance. – from Wild Comfort, page 70 –

And a treacherous journey across a stormy ocean inlet teaches us how to find a pathway through chaos:

Waves rise and give way randomly, skinned every shade of gray, teethed white. There is no way forward through this chaos. But in our wake, the path we have taken trails out behind us like a country lane, smooth and green between wakes that peel off to port and starboard. The fact of going forward creates a path. I don’t understand why, but it seems to be so. – from Wild Comfort, page 113 –

Time and again, Moore discovers the beauty in nature and its connection to how we live our lives in sorrow, gladness, through good times and bad. Even in the blue of a magpie-jay’s wing, she finds a metaphor for life:

We all in our own ways catch the light of the world and reflect it back, and this is what is bright and surprising about a person, this rainbow shimmer created from colorless structure. Maybe there is no meaning in the world itself – no sorrow. In fact, no good or bad, beginning or end. Maybe what there is, is the individual way each of us has of transforming the world, ways to refract it, to create of it something that shimmers from our spread wings. This is our work, creating these wings and giving them color. – from Wild Comfort, page 82 –

I can’t tell you how much I loved this book. I wrote earlier this week about serendipity – how books find their way to us when we need them the most – and this is a book which I needed to read. I marked passage upon passage, jotting thoughts on my post-it notes, or just scratching down “YES!” when I found something especially pertinent. I found it hard to pick and choose which passages I most wanted to share in a review because they are all so wonderful.

Readers who love nature and who want to read a poetic book filled with razor sharp observations of the natural world, will love Wild Comfort. This is a book I will pick up again and again, if only to sink into Moore’s wise and comforting words.

Highly Recommended.

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4 comments

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  1. This does sound like a book that could bring comfort when read at the right time. The cover is gorgeous too.

    • Wendy on August 15, 2010 at 08:15
      Author

    Kathy: I love that cover – and it describes the book well.

  2. I marked passage upon passage, jotting thoughts on my post-it notes, or just scratching down “YES!” when I found something especially pertinent. I found it hard to pick and choose which passages I most wanted to share in a review because they are all so wonderful.

    I think you know me well enough to know that this is my kind of book. Thanks for the lovely review. I can see how it spoke to you…and how it would be the type of work to return to in the future.

    • Wendy on August 23, 2010 at 07:50
      Author

    Les: You would DEFINITELY love this book 🙂

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