This book was just lovely, far more than I had anticipated. It’s a blend of memoir, natural history writing and poetry. The author was for many years a molecatcher, using traditional methods. He states at the beginning of the book that he’s going to tell you what he knows about moles and how to catch them (if you need to), but he goes about it in a very meandering fashion. There will be one little tidbit of information that starts off a chapter, then gently diverges into a story about how he wandered fields and hedgerows as a homeless young man, or how he feels about the current state of his family, or just observations on the weather and scenery about him as he does his work. You get one piece of the picture about moles every ten pages it seems, with a lot of musings and quiet observations on other nature things in between. Which I didn’t at all mind. For once I also didn’t mind the back-and-forth of the narrative- sometimes about his past, sometimes present tense, sometimes thinking on the future, and not at all in order. There are thoughts on gardening, on why he prefers solitude, on how the landscape has changed as the years pass, as housing and industry slowly replace the fields. There’s a lot about how nature recycles everything back into something new to grow again. I really liked that. In fact I tore my bookmark paper into little strips to mark pages to remember, and thought for the first time in a good long while of underlining passages that really struck me.
“We don’t need to know everything . . . being comfortable with not knowing is an important part of hunting, as it keeps all the options open, offers choices. Not knowing is for me the best of all possible worlds; it contains a sweetness and a playful willingness to accept change and to enjoy the million-petalled flower of life without having the compulsion to know what everything is.”
“I lost my self-importance early on and do not want to differentiate myself from the world around me. I am just another animal . . . among billions of others, each unique in their own way, each just like the others in other ways, each one just another expression of nature trying to survive. There is something deeply magnificent in being just ordinary.”
“I once heard a friend…. with a broken relationship, say ‘The glass is broken, it can’t be repaired.’ But she was wrong. Things cannot be made as they were, but they can become something else. They can be re-made. All things are impermanent, and everything wears down to dust. Everything has its end and each things carries the beginning of the next thing. Healing is not about re-making things as they once were, healing is about acceptance and forgiveness and love and growth and beginning again.”
In the end, he finally tells about placing the traps and how his knowledge of mole behavior enables him to catch them without fail- and then why he no longer wants to do so.
I liked everything about this book. The voice and sentiments immediately resonated with me, the black and white woodcut-style illustrations by Joel McLaren are so nice, I even liked the parts expressed in poetry (which usually isn’t my thing). This is right up there with H is for Hawk, Braiding Sweetgrass and Bringing Nature Home.
I’m delighted to discover he’s written other books- Spring Rain: A Life Lived in Gardens and Seed to Dust: Life, Nature and a Country Garden are two I’d really like to get my hands on someday now.