My bookshelves are blessed with many books of nature writing, much of it lyrical, most of it poetic and shiny, each book part of a big, gloriously green canvas painted in homage to our most revered natural spaces. Rob Cowen’s book was all these things and more: unflinching and honest, and with more than a whiff of rot; that foundational process without which there would be no sparkling damselflies, no majestic oaks, no birdsong.
This book is a love song to lichen and fallen leaves, fox shit and bird wings, crushed ferns and fag butts. We walk the very ordinary paths through common ground with Rob Cowen’s eyes, share the liminal spaces he inhabited as his own life became caught somewhere between the Here and There, as the fox paths, holloways and barb wire boundaries informed his own transformations. He has keener eyes than I, and through this book has caused me to take in the details of the paths around me, to see, listen, dissect and accept, to examine and understand my own common ground, my own personal edge-lands.
This is a book I will re-read again and again. Beautiful.
“Time spent in one place deepens this interaction, creating a melding and meshing that can feel a bit like love. In the drowsy light of the coming evening I not only see where I’ve walked before, but who I was when I walked there. What I was feeling; what I was thinking. And isn’t this how we navigate this sphere? Creating fusions of human and place, attaching meaning and emotions, drawing cognitive maps that make scenes of the realm beyond our comprehension? Our connection to the world is always two things at once: instinctive and augmented.”
“The scene that unfolds is dreamlike, out of time, refusing to fade even as the day yawns and reaches for its glasses. Snow brings an ecstatic calm, the same high,lightheaded buoyancy you feel after crying. Although cold, the air is clear and mistle thrushes burble from the wood’s edges. Irrepressible, nimble-footed, life dances over the fields in the delicate searchlight sun.”
The quotes above are from Common Ground by Rob Cowan.
The photographs are of my home, my own common ground.