Grassy locations

Tim Dee

Four Fields (by Tim Dee) is a book of nature writing dense with observation, but I note that one of the endorsees suggests that it is more than nature writing, as it roves so widely, not just geographically speaking. As the title suggests, the book is about four grassy locations – in the East Anglian fens, Zambia, the Montana site of Custer’s Last Stand and Chernobyl. He describes, just to touch lightly on themes, parasitic birds, the effect of radiation on pines at Chernobyl, the various attempts to keep the sea at bay in East Anglia, and the attachment of Crow Native Americans to the earth (which reminds me of how Cathy Freeman said she just had to sit down and make a connection with the earth after winning at the Sydney Olympics). Nature writing is an interesting genre, as, like sports writing, it removes the separation often made between writing and being out in the world. Dee shows how important it is for us to be naming, describing and understanding what we see, which has a natural corollary in writing these things down. As with other nature writers, Dee also shows an inclination to flit between what he is seeing and what he is reading. Nature writing, more than simply being in the here and now of observation, often moves back and forth across the years, creating dialogue with those writers who have observed before us.


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