Liz Weir’s Monday Book

So y’all know that I’m holed up in West Virginia in a gorgeous luxury flat, typing away at a new book. As I won’t be getting much else done these three months, friends and fellow writers have stepped in to cover the Monday book through March. Liz Weir is the first – a longtime friend and magnificent storyteller. Take it away, Liz!

I wonder what American readers will make of this book, gifted to me by my daughter for Christmas?

lost wordsA sumptuously illustrated, coffee-table sized book, which contains magic within its pages. Inspired by the decision of the Oxford Junior Dictionary to remove 50 ”nature” words from its pages to replace them with words such as “broadband” and “attachment” . It has been recognised that there is a connection between the decline in natural play and children’s wellbeing so for me this is a partial antidote.

In this book Robert MacFarlane decided to explore words from the wild and with illustrator Jackie Morris they have produced a beautifully crafted book which helps young and old alike reconnect with wild experiences. The illustrations in watercolour and goldleaf do perfect justice to the text. It should be pored over rather than read cover to cover at one sitting, containing as it does acrostic “spell” poems intended to be read out loud, stunning images and a richness of language often lost to many of us.

Words like “acorn”, “bramble”, “kingfisher” “heather”, words which roll off the tongue, and yet which can so easily be forgotten. Often we talk and write about conservation but unless we retain the words to describe the beauties of the natural world they can disappear from our conversation.

Apart from the delight of simply exploring its pages I intend to use the book to work with young people during creative writing sessions. While I generally try to encourage them to find the very “best” words when writing poems, Lost Words will provide an added stimulus.

Visually, it is a lovely book, and while the librarian in me might ask where folks will shelve this large tome, I urge people to acquire a copy for the sheer delight of exploring it. The author encourages readers to “seek, find and speak”. Please do!

As one who is very reticent about letting other people choose my books I realise that my daughter knows me very well. What better gift for a storyteller and lover of language, or in my opinion for anyone?

Liz Weir is a storyteller from the Antrim Glens in Northern Ireland. Visit her website.

The Cabin without a Clock

Jack and I are fortunate to own a cabin out in the middle of the Tennessee woods. It was my home before graduate school, and the place where Jack and I had our first meal together. So it’s got a lot of history for both of us.DSCN0078

What it doesn’t have is a clock. Electricity, yes; flush toilet, check. Even a nice wood-burning stove. But no Internet access, telephone or clock. Which means once you get out there, you tell time by the sun, or the radio. It’s amazing how quickly this alters perspective. I remember a children’s book, To Walk the Sky Path, about indigenous people in Florida. The young protagonist observes his white teacher at school constantly being directed by the round thing on the wall. He offers to throw a rock at it for her, because it’s clearly bothering her, and she laughs. “How would we know when to do things without a clock?”

Jack and I use the cabin for escape time, and I use it for writing days. Free from clocks on these days, it is startling to identify the depth of their influence on our lives. At the cabin, we get up when it’s light enough to see the pond at the bottom of the hill. We go to bed when we get sleepy. And I write without deadlines of how much (or little) time I can spend on something.

The rhythm of the day rotates as gently and unobserved as the sun. You look up from a chapter and realize your stomach is rumbling, so you eat. Did you have breakfast? Is this lunch? Surprisingly enough, we eat less following this pattern.

If you’re going to take the dogs for a walk, go before dark. In the deep woods, eyes closed or open is almost the same; there literally is no difference inside the house on a dark night.

Life gets simple when you take the clocks away. Unfortunately, it only works for a few days, then you have to calculate your re-entry into society. Like as not, someone is expecting you at a numbered hour. But for those days measured by sunup and sundown, when it’s sleep, write, read, walk, cook and eat and clean up afterward, then sit on the porch watching a flock of turkeys, a herd of deer, or even (once) a bobcat shuffle up the hill on the other side of the pond, time’s measure is simpler, slower, sweeter. And oh so contented.

People have asked if Jack and I rent the cabin out; yes, if we know you or have only one degree of separation. Be warned that it is remote, and has proven too peaceful for some.