Morgan-Grenville pledged to follow the Manx shearwater for a year, from its breeding grounds off the British coast—where he was first enchanted by them during childhood visits to his grandmother, herself something of a force of nature--to its summer digs off Argentina, allow himself “to be changed, or not, by what” he learned, and make the facts available to raise awareness of this extraordinary bird, which, unlike so many others, is not only supremely adapted to its lifestyle, but, so far, is beating the odds of climate change, plastic, rats, and the rest, to thrive. Telling their story with gusto, heart, and humor, Morgan-Grenville revels in the history and habits of this “ultimate flying machine,” a 400-gram creature that doesn't touch land for four years after it leaves its burrow at ten weeks old and makes its way alone to South America, navigating by a keen sense of smell and continuous adjustment to the winds to travel at the rate of roughly 55 kmph and complete the 10,000 or so miles in under two weeks—a feat brought into sharp focus in the comparison with Morgan-Grenville’s own fraught trans-Atlantic airplane flight.
The Heartbeat of Trees is both a celebration of the wonders of trees--and an accessible go-to source for arboreal facts--and a cry of outrage at how recklessly we treat them. But “what we need right now is hope, not despair," Wohlleben writes, and this lovely, uplifting spring read provides it. Wohlleben offers a wonderful journey into the very pulse and hidden lives of trees and shows how a simple walk in the woods can't help but lead to both an appreciation of trees and optimism about a bright future--for them and for us.
“In the end, all we are is our attention, there is nothing else,” Hamer notes. As his rich second book moves month by month through the year of a working gardener, his attention is alternately on the mechanics of how ferns unfurl; the process of sowing cosmos seeds; the whys, whens, and hows of pruning and deadheading; issues of class and masculinity; the lives of poets and stoic philosophers; thoughts on his long, warm, marriage; and observations of the well-heeled, kind, but often opaque Miss Cashmere, whose garden he tends. As readers of Hamer’s unforgettable How to Catch a Mole know, he’s a real character, and the journal format here allows full-play for his humor, wisdom, irrepressible childlike wonder, and (mostly faux) curmudgeonliness. There is much to savor and treasure on every page, from hard-won lessons such as how “nature doesn’t require individuals; they are disposable as long as there are enough of them,” to vivid descriptions of the natural and human lives of “this ever changing here and now,” where “twilight lets the shadows out and transforms the mundane into the magical.”