Someday, we’ll all talk about what we did during the pandemic. Most of us will just be grateful to have survived it. Some have focused on children, pets and changing work. There’s been much said about not worrying if we are not "productive," and I’ve been thinking that one way of being productive is how our minds and bodies are adapting and changing to this moment. Maybe we’re creating things we don’t even know about yet.
During this past unusual year, environmental writer and Cambridge University professor Robert Macfarlane, who Steve talked to for this weekend’s repeat of "Going Underground," has said he’s focusing on homeschooling his three kids. Macfarlane’s book "Underland: A Deep Time Journey," was a literal and poetic look at the world beneath our feet, from catacombs to neural tree networks.
Sensing people needed a way to connect without meeting in person, Macfarlane started a lockdown book club on Twitter, reading "The Living Mountain" by Nan Shepherd, virtually gathering readers from 40 countries who collectively spent time with the book. "The Living Mountain" happens to be the book he chose to talk about for our “Bookmarks” series, and if you haven’t heard it, it's a lovely and literary five minutes.
Macfarlane has also worked on lyrics for an album, The Epic of Gilgamesh, with British actor and singer Johnny Flynn.
And, Macfarlane has published two new books in 2020. "The Lost Spells,”"(with Jackie Morris) is a pocket-sized book of "spell-poems" about the wonder of nature, and "Ghostways: Two Journeys in Unquiet Places" with Stanley Donwood and Dan Richards, is a strikingly illustrated look into corners of England.
I’ll admit, I’m a little jealous of Macfarlane’s creative productivity. But it’s some beautiful work emerging from the depths of this difficult time, and it encourages me to keep creating in my own way too.