Listening to the Wind
Here is Connemara, experienced at a walker’s pace. From cartographer Tim Robinson comes the second title in the Seedbank series, a breathtakingly intimate exploration of one beloved place’s geography, ecology, and history.
We begin with the earth right in front of his boots, as Robinson unveils swaths of fiontarnach—fall leaf decay. We peer from the edge of the cliff where Robinson’s house stands on rickety stilts. We closely examine an overgrown patch of heather, a flush of sphagnum moss. And so, footstep by footstep, moment by moment, Robinson takes readers deep into this storied Irish landscape, from the “quibbling, contentious terrain” of Bogland to the shorelines of Inis Ní to the towering peaks of Twelve Pins.
Just as wild and essential as the countryside itself are its colorful characters, friends and legends and neighbors alike: a skeletal, story-filled sheep farmer; an engineer who builds bridges, both physical and metaphorical; a playboy prince and cricket champion; and an enterprising botanist who meets an unexpected demise. Within a landscape lie all other things, and Robinson rejoices in the universal magic of becoming one with such a place, joining with “[t]he sound of the past, the language we breathe, and our frontage onto the natural world.”
Situated at the intersection of mapmaking and mythmaking, Listening to the Wind is at once learned and intimate, elegiac and magnificent—an exceptionally rich “book about one place which is also about the whole world” (Robert Macfarlane).
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Praise and Prizes
“Many landscape writers have striven to give their prose the characteristics of the terrain they are describing. Few have succeeded as fully as Robinson.”
“[Robinson's] work is reminiscent of that of some early explorers and geographers in its painstaking exactitude. But instead of bringing back the record of a hitherto unknown terrain, he is resurrecting the ignored or forgotten from under our feet. He attends to wildflowers, heathers, pollens, and to phenomena ranging from the cemeteries of unbaptized babies to the mythology of hares. His scientific rigor is suffused by a marveling poetry.”
“Visitors to Connemara, that expanse of stony beauty in the west of Ireland, are often struck by its stillness. One of the most eloquent readers of that silence is the Yorkshire-born writer Robinson, whose new collection of essays succeeds in the difficult task of staying true to the verities of a place on to which so many fantasies have been projected. . . . Robinson writes with lapidary precision about a landscape so frequently shrouded in cliché that its unmediated truths are often invisible.”
“Robinson is a stylist of exceptional cadence, tact and ingenuity. . . . At their most intricate, measured and exalting, his sentences sound like the sermons of John Donne, or the elaborate essays of Sir Thomas Browne. And yet: there is nothing antiquarian about this style; it may echo the voices of the great writers who have passed before him—Roderick O’Flaherty in the 17th century, Thackeray in the 19th—but Robinson’s is a medium woven as much out of modern environmental science, land art and fractal geometry as it is from the sonorous periods of the past.”