(Image Credit: cornerstonebooks.org.uk)
With studied contributions from twenty-one writers and two visual artists, Antlers of Water, is an assemblage of specially commissioned writing that is edited by noted essayist and poet, Kathleen Jamie. Scotland, for an awestruck tourist is a bewilderingly beautiful assortment of Caledonian forests, upland moors, valleys and glisteningly transparent lakes. The authors of this wonderful book educate their readers as to how and why their country is all of these, and much more in terms of both symbolic sense and spiritual essence.
The collection kicks off with an arresting Chapter titled, Getting the Hang of the Wind by cyclist and teacher of creative writing at Stirling and The Open Universities, Chris Powici. While cycling towards, around and away from the gargantuan wind turbines dotting, or as some claim marring, the Braes of Doune, a hillocky moor across the Highland Faultline, Powici mulls how the initial apprehensions about a gigantic mass of rotating blades have given way to hope and expectations. When these turbines were first installed, people expressed grave reservations about these turbines crushing birds in addition to being an eyesore tarnishing an otherwise captivating landscape. But, all those fears, as Powici informs his happy readers, have come to naught. Red kites, hares and deer have made cheerful appearances and the number of birds falling prey to the rotating blades of the windmills constitute an astonishingly negligible number. A perfect case of Science and nature co-existing in a perfect and symbiotic harmony.
At Diarmaid’s Grave has writer Dougie Strang following the footsteps of poet and folklorist Hamish Henderson, as he attempts to find the elusive grave of Uaigh Dhiarmaid, a legendary mythical character who perishes after being poisoned by the bristles of a monstrous boar – which he himself bests – in the process of measuring its corpse. Strang even though unsuccessful in his attempts to track down the final resting place of Dhiarmaid, discovers precocious lessons taught by the isolated landscape of the bealach between Ben Loyal and Ben Hiel.
Wait a minute. Did you say bealach? Fret not. Seven-time Scottish Design Awards winner Alec Finlay in From A Place Away Dictionary, provides a much needed bird’s eye-view of terminologies that constitute the heart of Scottish nature. A bealach is a way and the pass that leads through or over that way. In the event you are accosted by a Scotsman with an offer of Chumming You, please do not be wary. It means offering company on a short walk, usually along city streets. The walk may lead to you being introduced to Coihm-Imeachd, fairy-lore for your other, twin, alter or co-walker. Even though it might be an improbable event while traipsing around the city, please be on the look out for Eileirig, Gaelic for a natural deer-trap formed between two hills, into which deer were driven for slaughter.
Winner of the Wainwright Prize and the PEN Ackerley Prize, and an incorrigible water body, Amy Liptrot wistfully reminisces about her swimming escapades and how the birth of a child altered such unfettered adventurism. For a person obsessed with water, every swim snatched when a baby is being supervised is an absolute, albeit short-lived pleasure. Swimming Away From My Baby, is one of the most vivid pieces in the collection.
Three Meditations on Absence in Nature and Life has award winning author and journalist Chitra Ramaswamy, evoking in a brutally candid manner the walks which she never had, yet which have been indelibly seared into her conscience and etched in her memory. Her ruminations on a pigeon that gave irrepressible joy and curiosity to her son whilst being an untenanted occupant of one of their windowsills for a short period of time, is a positively life affirming read.
The Lurgies by poet Lesley Harrison and Mointeach Leodhais; the Lewis Moorland by artist and painter, Anne Campbell, introduces the reader to a poetic and visual expression, respectively, of humanity’s confluence and conflicts with Mother Nature. As we bond, so we break and as we rend so we merge.
Antlers of Water is a stirring paean to nature by a group of dedicated Scottish authors, artists and dedicated human beings. More importantly, it is a precious lesson to mankind not to take for granted both the cause and consequence that would create a cleave between Mother Nature and her children. For while she may be the most benevolent Mother ever, she is also an unrepentant, remorseless and ruthless teacher!