'It takes both rain and shine to make a rainbow...'
...and we have spectacular rainbows here chez dovegrey.
It was a proverb written out by the doughty Eleanor and stuck to her fridge door by two magnets in the shape of grand pianos...
'... a small woman with a bird's light bones. Her soft white hair had the airy fluffed out quality of down feathers, and she raised her hands occasionally to pat it with open palms, attending to the outline..
From that tiny extract I wonder if you get the same sense that I do, about the minutiae being everything, the presence of the snow goose never far away, ever in his mind's eye as William Fiennes describes one of the people he meets on his wonderful journey to find and follow the snow geese north through America and thence to Canada.
After a bit of dithering, and a few false and rather dispiriting forays into fiction recently, and a bit more time spent thinking what on earth to read at the moment, a new edition of The Snow Geese by William Fiennes migrated into the post box. I can't ever not read anything, and if I browse one more edition of Caravan Club Monthly in a waiting room with the Tinker I might start thinking we need a Viking 'Marauder' with summer awnings and all amenities, which could be dangerous, so something had to be done.
I already have my very special original copy of The Snow Geese, signed twice at successive Port Eliot Festivals by William Fiennes,
...and the Knitsuke snow geese recently took flight on Twitter..
'The Snow Geese is above all a book about learning to see, and it is a book that changes the vision of its readers. We end it more attentive...
'...at times less a work of travel writing than one of transit writing...'
'...self perception, metaphor and new forms of imagination...'
'...Fiennes migration diary...'
And having taken those quotes from Robert Macfarlane's introduction out of the context of the whole you can read the entire piece here, because for me it offered new directions into a book I have read several times. The wefts of imagery that link in the mind's eye...as in the this-reminds-me-of-that experience that we all have in real time looking but here translated onto the page.
Can I just say that my primary school head teacher would skin me alive for starting a sentence with And. I know it's wrong but..
And everything is wrapped up in the urge to move on coupled with the urge to return home, something our adventurous children know well. Once I'd read all that I headed straight back in for my third or maybe my fourth (I'm losing count) migration from Texas to the spring breeding grounds of the Arctic tundra along with William Fiennes and these amazing birds. And my thoughts here a patchwork of new impressions, and different memories. I love this book. Every time the snow geese return home they bring something new with them, and interesting to dig around in the dovegreyreader basement and find my thoughts on The Snow Geese back in 2009, and to see that I wrote this...
'This is a book to treasure and read again and again, especially perhaps when the logistics of actually doing a journey defeat you yet perhaps you still have that yearning to travel somewhere,'
It's all about the Zeitgebers apparently, from the German for 'time-givers' ...the natural rhythms which define the moment when the birds know it is time to move on by the hours of light in the day. I can't be alone in craving more hours of light in the day at this end of the winter, how much easier everything becomes when you have longer evenings to sit out and enjoy the sunshine and the scenery, but all in good time, and while I wait I have discovered that 'journey' books are just the reading ticket right now.
The Zugunruhe is the migratory restlessness, the need to migrate and the route to be taken partially coded in the genes of the snow geese, but for William Fiennes his own travels are laced with homesickness having taken this journey after a prolonged bout of serious illness. Finding himself alone and far from home and weighing up both sides of the condition... the double challenge of a reaction to things loved and familiar versus the very strangeness of the new, and the remedies of distraction and the ultimate hope of going home.
And maybe last time I had missed the moment of homesickness in the hotel room when the Gideon Bible falls open at..
'But thy loving kindness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.'
As for those 'this-reminds-me-of-that' moments of imagery, it was the arc that stood out for me this time around, and starting with Eleanor's rainbow. Then the arc of the bird's flight, the bridges, the potato shoot, the trajectory, the starting in one place and landing in another (if a potato, in this case, then you ended up in Hudson Bay) and all the analogies with migration and travel and journeys, and life probably.
When William Fiennes finally arrives at the end of his journey with the snow geese, at their breeding grounds, in the parka that was 'like wearing a bungalow,' and he looks across Tellik Inlet I was there, transported and spellbound...
'It's like a sentence or two before Genesis,' says his guide Jeff.
'The silence was something you could hear...' writes William Fiennes.
Finally this on his return home...
'The taxi turned off at a passing place. I wanted to walk. I walked along the single-track road, carrying my two bags, a spring in my step...'
And in my this-reminds-me-of-that way I thought of our welcome home last May, for the Kayaker after his two years in Australia. He had told us he would walk along the lane to home, along the hedgerows, past the fields ...Coney Park Meadow, and Coombe Park and Poundy Park on the right, and then Mowhay Meadow and Long Acre on the left and in the front gate, and so we got busy...
'Don't worry mum,' said Offspringette, 'He's just gone a bit feral, it'll soon wear off, he'll be back to normal soon.'
Thankfully she was right.
And (sorry Miss Horsburgh, done it again) don't miss the Picador Classics Day at Foyles in London on Saturday February 7th to hear William Fiennes talking about The Snow Geese. More information and tickets available here.