Followers of my blog will know that I have recently read, and thoroughly enjoyed, Robert MacFarlane’s ‘The Old Ways’; the account of his journeys on foot, and by sea, discovering ancient networks, the landscapes and the people who inhabited/inhabit them. As I said in an earlier post, the descriptive prose has a delightful rhythm, similar to that of your footfalls when walking.
Of particular interest to me was the idea of the lines in the landscape. Thus inspired, I have been out sketching on our recent trips to the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales. I have attempted to focus on the contours, and in some instances, tones. Below are some of my sketches;
A voracious reader, I love learning new words, well new to me anyways, and their derivation. Topophilia – the love of place or of a particular place – describes my feelings for the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales. I was also interested to discover that the verb ‘to learn’ or acquire knowledge comes from the Old English ‘leornian’ – to get knowledge, to be cultivated – which in turn comes from the Proto-Germanic ‘liznojan’ – to follow or find a track. ‘Book’ has an interesting derivation too – it comes from the High -German ‘bok’ meaning beech – the tree whose bark was inscribed with marks in order to indicate routes and paths. Isn’t it just wonderful how so much of our language derives from our history of travelling from place to place. I find this totally fascinating – and my thanks go to Robert MacFarlane for educating me!
MacFarlane’s book also considers how the act of walking is necessary for some people in order to formulate their thoughts. He includes lots of writings and quotes from philosophers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein – ‘Thought-ways’ or ‘paths of thought’: ideas that have been brought into being by means of motion along a path.
Other quotes or sayings that particularly resonated with me from MacFarlane’s book are;
‘To walk is to gather treasure’ – a spanish saying
‘There is no road, the road is made by walking’ – Antonio Machado
and I really liked Tim Ingold and Jo Lee Vergunst’s ‘Since to follow a trail is to remember how it goes, making one’s way in the present is itself a recollection of the past…onward movement is itself a return.’
This book has really inspired me to get out into the countryside, listen to the ‘exultation’ of skylarks (everyday is a school day as my husband would say – I didn’t know exultation was the collective term for skylarks – but it is a fitting name!) – to walk, to sketch and to formulate my ideas! I am just about to start reading ‘The Wild Places’, also by Robert MacFarlane – I can’t wait to see what inspiration I draw from this book…..