Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Otter Country

I just finished Miriam Darlington's Otter Country: In Search of the Wild Otter. What a beautifully written book.  It is one of those books that subtly affects your consciousness as you travel with Miriam around the UK in her search for wild otters. In exquisite prose, with her poet-sensibilities, she infiltrates our imagination and lays down a mesh-work of rivers, streams and teeming tributaries. She brings alive the watery world of otters; she exposes our complicity with the annihilation of their habitat while at the same time not losing touch with the magic and possibility of their returning presence.

Miriam, and therefore her readers, travel from a state of curiosity about otters to a more subtle, mature and sensitive awareness of their needs, habits and unique qualities. She moves through the challenges of either startling the otters or not finding them at all to being able to sit quietly for hours and almost become part of their environment. She begins in a camper van, traveling north in search of the wild where she assumes she will find otters, and ends sleeping out among the textures, smells and sensations of her local river life. She conveys this alchemical process with humour and a rueful awareness of the challenges of human/animal interaction. She writes: "As we have expanded and colonised, the wild has become knitted around us, in a living, breathing mesh. The otter is truly among us" (123).

She stirred questions in me:
How do I move in my environment?
What tracks do I leave on all levels?
How often do I still myself in a way that allows me to really notice?

                                                                     © Julia Doggart 2014

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