Hidden Nature: A Voyage of Discovery by Alys Fowler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Alys had always wanted to be an adventurer; someone who would climb mountains and forge rivers, sail and cycle to parts of the world that she had never been before. But life got in the way, she fell in love and married a penniless artist who sought to expand her mind and gave her a different way of looking at the world. A degree in science with an environmental element offered a perspective between the wild and the controlled. As her writing career blossomed a move to Birmingham presented itself with an opportunity to put down roots and make a garden of her own.
But after a while the call of the wild tugged at her still even deep in the city, a friends suggested sleeping under the stars or canoeing the canals. That struck a chord and a small inflatable canoe was acquired; the urban wilderness awaited her. Alys starts to explore the canals of Birmingham, discovering the beauty in the watery lines that criss-cross the city. It became an escape from her current life, a place where she could be free, so much so that her neat and tidy garden began to blur at the edges as weeds grew and slugs and snails resumed their relentless munching. These moments of solitude she came to cherish.
It was a time to rekindle old friendships too; she had known Sarah and Ming for a while and caught up with them for lunch. They bought their friend along, someone Alys knew a little, as she was a landscape designer. That moment of meeting Charlotte was to shatter her stable world and marriage for Alys had begun to fall in love with her. The moment of discovering her actual sexuality would be the toughest point of her life and separating from her husband who has cystic fibrosis would be the hardest decision to take.
Time alone in nature was what I needed most. It’s my reset button.
Fowler has written an honest, lyrical and whimsical memoir of her very personal journey. She has an incredible eye for detail seeing both the beautiful and the unsightly as she floats along the canals of Birmingham and occasionally London. The deep life changing events happening in her life means that she does get very introspective at times, analysing the tiniest details for meaning and understanding. You do feel for ‘H’ as he is left to drift, as Alys finds her new identity and way in the world. It is worthy addition to this new sub-genre of personal story tied into interaction with the natural world.
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