Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for the first stop on the Blog Tour for The Wild Remedy by Emma Mitchell and published by Michael O’Mara Books.
About the Book
Emma Mitchell has suffered with depression – or as she calls it, ‘the grey slug’ – for twenty-five years. In 2003, she moved from the city to the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens and began to take walks in the countryside around her new home, photographing, collecting and drawing as she went. Each walk lifted her mood, proving to be as medicinal as any talking therapy or pharmaceutical.
In Emma’s hand-illustrated diary, she takes us with her as she follows the paths and trails around her cottage and further afield, sharing her nature finds and tracking the lives of local flora and fauna over the course of a year. Reflecting on how these encounters impact her mood, Emma’s moving and candid account of her own struggles is a powerful testament to how reconnecting with nature may offer some answers to today’s mental health epidemic. While charting her own seasonal highs and lows, she also explains the science behind such changes, calling on new research into such areas as forest bathing and the ways in which our bodies and minds respond to plants and wildlife when we venture outdoors.
Written with Emma’s characteristic wit and frankness, and filled with her beautiful drawings, paintings and photography, this is a truly unique book for anyone who has ever felt drawn to nature and wondered about its influence over us.
About the Author
Emma is an ex-biologist, naturalist, workshop-teacher, designer-maker, illustrator, mum, baker, gardener and keeper of guinea pigs. She shares her nature diaries and the things she makes on Instagram. Sometimes she likes to pretend I’m a Victorian museum curator with a massive crinoline and stovepipe hat.
Depression is a horrid illness that can thrive unseen in the people around us. Unless they are a very close friend or family member, it is only as the person suffering reaches the very limit of what they can tolerate that most of us come aware of their suffering. Emma Mitchell is one of those who has suffered from depression for over two decades. Sixteen years ago she moved from the city to the edge of the fens with the hope of overcoming ‘the grey slug’ as she has named her depression in her new environment. However, just over a year ago, it was back with a vengeance and it took her to one of her lowest points ever, right to the edge of the abyss.
This is her story of how she came back from that place with the help of her family and friends, her dog, Annie and most of all, the natural world. She is searingly honest in her account of the lowest points in her battle with the illness as she almost became a hermit. As she gains the courage to head outside once again, the healing power of nature combined with the medicine that she was taking begun to lift her out of her gloom.
Her journey back to better health was not without struggle, some days were much better and other days were bleak. As the days lengthen she begins to take longer walks with Annie, heads out with a friend to attempt to find glow worms or out to try and see a murmuration at dusk one night. Each sighting of one of the local flora and fauna such as an owl or butterfly raises her spirits little by little.
She has an eye for the inherent beauty in nature and this is what makes this an utterly glorious book. It is full of her own art sketches and photographs of the beautiful things that she has discovered as she goes out and about around her local area. But there is much more to it than this, through her recovery she is proving what science is confirming now, that we need exposure to the natural world for our essential and deep-rooted well being.
Getting out and about in the Natural World
So how do you go about getting rediscovering nature? You don’t need to book a train ticket on the overnight sleeper to Scotland, nor do you need to spend vast sums of money on kit. The first thing to do is to find where your nearest area for wildlife is here, here or here. Or head to the coast, still some of our wildest landscapes around if you are prepared to go beyond the arcades. There are also books with suggested places to visit, such as Wild and Free by Dominic Couzens or Where to See Wildlife in Britain and Ireland by Christopher Somerville.
If all else fails head to your local park, there will be trees, grass and you will probably get to see some birds and squirrels there. The important thing is to head outside away from the distraction of the screens. All the way through Emma’s book there are lists, photos and sketches of things that she finds month by month. There are some on the list below that you might be able to find when you are out and about:
I am fortunate where I live that we have a lot of coast and countryside right on our doorstep. I can walk down to the River Stour in about 10 to 15 minutes and be in a landscape that is immediately calming. I will almost always see a mallard or swan down there and occasionally there are kingfishers and I have been fortunate enough see an otter too. Having chosen where you want to go, pop on some sensible shoes and head out the door. Even 10 minutes spent near something natural will help.
For those interested in the science behind the recent discoveries of the impact of nature on our well being then I would recommend reading The Nature Fix by Florence Williams. Not only is it a brilliant read, but she clearly explains what the benefits are from spending time in the woods and includes lots of examples and case studies with solid evidence. For those wanting to improve their engagement with the natural world, I can also recommend reading Rewild Yourself by Simon Barnes. In here he has 23 different ideas on practical things that you can do to ensure that you get the most of being outdoors.
Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour
Do buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here
My thanks to Alara and Bethany at Michael O’Mara books for a copy of the Wild Remedy