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Among Mountains by Jim Crumley

Among Mountains

by Jim Crumley

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An enjoyable book if your gravity pulls you north. Like the author I was born a Scot, and an exact contemporary sharing from the early days of childhood an addiction to the hills of our native land and no more able to resist the attraction of their northward pull than the needle of my compass or of tides responding to the moon.

Among Mountains is a personal miscellany ranging wide over the Scottish landscape; and tells us of the mountains their aesthetic beauty and their role in the lives of men. Crumley pays tribute to the landscape and it’s peopled past and describes a mountain credo formed in the lifted and uplifting stones of the earth. This is a book rich in poetic sentiment, supported by some rather good poems and photographs.

There is much to enjoy. The sheer grandeur of the hill, compelling wildlife, the kaleidoscopic mesmerising weather, and the photographic potentialities of slanting light spilling over an angular landscape these are portrayed and recorded well. Though, I must confess by the end of the book I wasn’t quite sure whether its reach was too ambitious or the book was simply too short. Regretting finishing a book is in itself a goodly recommendation. Descriptions of mountain wildlife are first class and vivid. Crumley’s keen eye and telling prose bring these experiences to life. The mountain photography is very good; and while it’s rather difficult to bring originality to hill photography Jim Crumley achieves something special with his thoughtful explorations for new perspectives to old favourite and much loved hills.

Less successful are the occasional forays into the realms of ‘mountain philosophy’, for sure mountains encourage introspection and not much harm is likely to come from a thoughtful consideration of the relationship between the natural environment and the place of human beings in the great scheme things. Perfidious man confronting the boundless beauty of fragile nature has from classic times been the working stuff of thinkers, poets, and many more besides. Accordingly, you need to be rather good at it if you wish to say something new and worth listening to. Unfortunately the author doesn’t quite hit it off, for instance:

‘I trod the path of equipoise as narrow and treacherous as the A’Chir but you cannot balance the needs of man against the needs of a mountain, when man turns a piece of the mountain to his own uses, thereby belittling the mountain. He cannot then offer the mountain a piece of himself’.- Well quite, and if you say so, is about as much as I can muster to that, my own thoughts trodding that way were quite different...

Better by far is the poetry and I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Empty Glen’ on which the book ends:-

this high, this mighty. Here
hope springs and sings
eternal meltwater-pure
- I drink - and sure
of the destiny of this
cold and empty glen, I urge
some slumbering God-of-the-wild
to one newborn mountain child.

The book is dedicated to the doyen of all Scottish nature writer/wildlife photographers Mike Tomkies and Crumley’s chapter describing how Tomkies pursues his craft illustrates the commitment of the man. The book is worth it's price for this chapter alone. ( )
  summonedbyfells | Jul 26, 2007 |
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