‘Get Lost and be Found Again’: Escaping into Nature Writing
By Kristin Heng Schanke
Edited by Hannah Laker and Chloé Rose Whitmore
“Gardens, dreamed, photographed or otherwise, seem to be spaces always of fantasy and escapism”Grug Muse
We’re ready to hit your inboxes again with the second letter from Volume 6, a beautiful piece written to us from the gardens of Belgrade. Ahead of publication, Kristin Heng Schanke considers why we continue to turn to nature writing as an escape in this digital era.
When I find myself missing home, I close my eyes and picture it. Not the little house where I grew up, but the many mountains right outside my doorstep that I spent my childhood hiking in, and the vast ocean at their feet. I see how the water glitters and I feel the shock of cold when I jump in. I think of the tall mountain ranges that are capped with snow even in the height of summer, and the smaller ones that are so steep you can only think about breathing while you climb them.
I imagine what it would feel like when I reach the top of one of the steep ones, when my face is red and my breathing sounds like I don’t do any cardio, like, ever. The moss would still be damp from spring rain, the wind would be a rewarding chill against my back, and the view would be right out of a fairy-tale. An endless horizon of mountaintops and ocean would lay before me. It’s an intoxicating experience. To feel like I’m standing on top of the world but then realise I’m only a tiny entity in the universe. It’s a brief existential escape from the mundane.
I spend most of my time in Nottingham now, which is decidedly flatter in terrain compared to my hometown, Sykkylven, in Norway. Combine this with a busy student schedule and the opportunities for me to escape into nature are sparse.
I suspect many have this same dilemma, and so it is no wonder that we turn to nature writing for a similar escape. In these fast-paced times of ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ and after the unmentionable lockdowns, I think nature writing can offer us an escape unlike any other. Nature, whether it’s the real deal or in writing, continues to be a grounding space we return to again and again.
You can open a book (or tab, if you prefer reading online) and be transported to all the pearls of this world. You can let Kathleen Jamie take you from Scottish shorelines to the aurora borealis and even under a microscope. Robert McFarlane can bring you the magic of nature and language, or you could dive into a personal journey from Orkney to London with Amy Liptrot. Newer voices in nature writing can be discovered through the Nan Shepherd Prize, which celebrates writers from under-represented backgrounds.
Whoever you choose to read and wherever you choose to go, it’s a reprieve from what makes your day heavy. In between the lines of nature writing, you can get lost and be found again in just a few phrases.
When Grug Muse’s letter arrived in our letter box in Nottingham, it gave us a way of escaping to a small corner of the world some thousand miles away. We found ourselves in a bustling greenhouse garden in Belgrade, chatting with friends and drinking glasses of perfectly cool water.
While I was dreaming of escape into the mountains along the fjords of Norway, Grug Muse was describing a different kind of escape.
So, whether you are lacking in time or nature, or perhaps both, Grug can bring a moment of fantasy and escape right to you. Sign up to our mailing list here and escape into a garden filled with flora, ferns, and friends in our next issue.
The Letters Page team are back in the office, and ready to read your real letters again. We publish stories, essays, poems, memoir, reportage, criticism, recipes, travelogue, and any hybrid forms, so long as they come to us in the form of a letter. We are looking for writers of all nationalities and ages, both established and emerging.
Your letter must be sent in the post, to :
The Letters Page, School of English, University of Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK.
See our submissions page for more information.
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