When I first requested a copy of this book I wasn't sure what to expect - I hadn't taken note of the author, I just thought it sounded interesting. There was a small part of me that wondered if I was going to end up making dens and playing pooh sticks, but thankfully this book isn't as light and frivolous as all that, quite the opposite in fact; it is a sincere request, from a passionate naturalist, for us to consider being more mindful of the natural world around us.
As well as being a naturalist, author Nick Baker is a television presenter whom you may be familiar with from ‘Nick Baker’s Beautiful Freaks’, the BBCs ‘Autumnwatch Unsprung’ and ‘Springwatch Unsprung’, and ‘Weird Creatures’; he is a champion of all creatures (yup even the wasps), and plants.
Nick begins by talking about what ‘rewilding’ is, looking at how we see nature, what our current approach to conservation is and whether we are doing enough to protect and support our environment. The following chapters then take you through each of our five physical senses. This includes some explanation of how each of the senses work, such as explaining the structure of the eye and how each part operates in order for us to see. He discusses how these senses could have aided our survival when we were living ‘wild’ many years ago, and although there is a lot of detail, Baker’s writing is accessible and easy to digest.
With each sense discussed, suggestions are made for ways in which the reader can use that sense themselves to connect with the outdoors. That probably sounds pretty obvious right? And it is, but when was the last time you walked barefoot outside when not in your garden or on the beach? When was the last time you lay down on the ground and focused on the tiny bug kingdom right outside your back door? I remember lying on a sun lounger, having tipped a teaspoon of granulated sugar on to the concrete slabs beneath, watching the ants carry the grains away. I was about ten – that was a long time ago.
As well as suggestions on how we can gently ‘rewild’ ourselves, Baker illustrates some of his points by reminiscing about his own relationship with nature by adding tales from his childhood, sharing some of his experiences as a guide and teacher, and also recalling experiences he has had while travelling when he was the one being guided.
Unlike many of the books that we review on UK Handmade, which are usually photo-heavy project, or inspirational coffee table books, this is an actual reading book. It isn't instructional, it feels more like the opening of a dialogue - it makes you think!
Although not light and frivolous, it isn't too heavy going either. This isn't rocket science, mostly it is good old common sense, however as Nick illustrates throughout, it is the kind of common sense that we are in danger of losing as we comfortably wrap ourselves up in our busy, industrious, technologically driven modern lives.
I follow many creative individuals on social media, and what I see is a group of people with very similar everyday goals and passions; they want to surround themselves with colour and texture, plants and animals, they go out walking in hills or countryside, they want to be by the sea. While we are all clearly addicted to our phones (otherwise we wouldn't document everything on Instagram) it is obvious that we all have a need to desperately reach out to connect with the natural world around us (as well as each other).
This is exactly what ReWild aims to encourage you to do. Stop. Slow down. Reconnect.
Baker isn't asking you to do much really. He just wants you to try and use your natural instincts to remember who we were before we became obsessed with so-called progression, (where we do whatever it takes to make our own lives – as a species – easier at the expense of pretty much everything else). He just wants you to stop and take a quiet moment, to break the habit of thinking that ‘being still’ is a waste of time - if anything, Baker is asking you to consider doing less.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it serves as a gentle reminder and also a heartfelt plea to not take what is around us for granted - to appreciate it before we (humans) wipe it out. As an author it is clear that Baker not only feels strongly about this subject but that he is also able to connect with the reader and share that feeling with them too. There is both passion and compassion but it never sounds whimsical or overly idealistic, it is the kind of book that makes you want to go out and take (slow, mindful) action.
ReWild: The Art of Returning to Nature by Nick Baker
Published by Aurum Press Ltd
Cover image copyright of Aurum Press Ltd