The blog has been a little, ahem, “bare” of new content this past week, primarily because I’ve gotten away for a few days pursuing one of my secondary hobbies — looking at nature, particularly birds. Although I’m very much a couch potato type, there are times when I just have to get outdoors and breathe air that’s been neither recyled, reheated or artificially cooled. Aside from providing sheer relaxation, the natural world serves a number of functions for me; first and foremost, I’m very much a part of the 19th century school that views nature as a manifestation or expression of the sublime and that sees spirituality in nature’s workings. On a different level, the inter-relationships of the natural world — the ways in which the web of life binds plants, animals, birds, and insects into a functioning ecological system — can be incredibly interesting from a purely cerebral point of view. The more I learn about one little piece of nature (say, a new bird species or some strange plant) the more I become interested in the parts that connect to it. Moreover, there’s the added attraction of learning, if only a little bit (there’s usually not time for learning much beyond the birds) about the history and culture of whatever place I happen to go for my nature/bird viewing. And, last but certainly not least — nature activities can just be plain fun! Anyway, my “nature place” this time around was Jamaica, an island of bays, coves and mountains:
Unless you share my hobby you’re probably unaware that Jamaica has over 300 different species of birds, including 28 endemics, i.e., birds that naturally occur nowhere else in the world besides Jamaica! If you’re a birder, you go to Jamaica primarily for the endemics, such as this one:
And — you take this book, which you’ve hopefully studied before hand (I hadn’t!):
Remember my comment about finding the sublime in nature?
Now — for the “reading” part of my post. Because I’m talking Jamaica, I have to mention one of my very favorite writers, the immensely talented Marlon James. Has anyone read his Booker prize winner from a few years ago, A Brief History of Seven Killings? I think it’s one of the most powerful novels written by anyone in at least the last decade. A native of Kingston, James has set many of his novels on the island.
I can’t wait (but I’ll have to!) to read one of James’ earlier works, set in the British ruled Jamaica of the 19th century, when most of the island’s inhabitants were enslaved:
For the historically minded, there’s a fabulous nonfiction account of the history and culture of Jamaica and the other islands of the Carribbean basin. To my shame, I”ve never read my copy (which I’ve had for years) but — it’s on my TBR list for next year!
As for my other reading, when I wasn’t watching birds:
Finally (because I really, really, really have to get back to Great Expectations), remember what I said at the outset, about the fun aspect of nature activities?