This winter, one of the mentors of the writers academy in Antwerp, recommended me this book. I bought it. I do not get only inspiration for my current fiction book, but I also start dreaming about a project, that I have already been making in my belly, bones and brain.
“In Writing Wild, Kathryn Aalto celebrates 25 women whose influential writing helps deepen our connection to and understanding of the natural world. These inspiring wordsmiths are scholars, spiritual seekers, conservationists, scientists, novelists, and explorers. They defy easy categorization, yet they all share a bold authenticity that makes their work both distinct and universal. Part travel essay, literary biography, and cultural history, Writing Wild ventures into the landscapes and lives of extraordinary writers and encourages a new generation of women to pick up their pens, head outdoors, and start writing wild.”
The blog highlights also ecofeminists as Carolyn Merchant, who is “most famous for her theory (and book of the same title) on The Death of Nature, whereby she identifies the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century as the period when science began to atomize, objectify, and dissect nature, foretelling its eventual conception as composed of inert atomic particles”. I also like how Kathryn Aalto described ecofeminism; she mentioned that a simple way of describing it is calling it ancient wisdom.
Ancient wisdom of Belgian lands
Last year, I wrote how guiding forest baths felt as an act of ecofeminism. Last year, I have not been guiding so much, but I have been walking. Or not walking, from point A to B. I gave myself some prompts, less about somatic experiences, but more about mythmaking. When I walked in the landscapes, I looked for ancient wisdom. At some point, I realised they were coded in local tales, and I have been drawn to stories about local female saints, like Dimpna and Amelberga. I have been integrating references in my own creative work or retelling their stories, weaving it with stories of the landscapes they probably touched. I was first a bit resisting against the religious part, a bit careful about these local saints that called me. But then the resistance dropped and I found a lot of ancient wisdom in their stories, I found something back. Is religion not about this? Re-lego, to choose again something carefully to be something sacred for you?
Focus on North-American and British writers
So… I discovered the amazing book “Writing Wild” by Kathryn Aalto, which celebrates these 25 women whose influential writing helps deepen our connection to the natural world. Although some of these women were role models for me (e.g. Rachel Carson, Robin Wall Kimmerer), they were all women whose mother tongue was English. Language shapes also the way how we perceive the land and others. English is my second/third language. I am happy I can understand English, because this language gave me a new lens in the past 15 years on the world. But I also see the world through other Germanic languages, like Flemish, Dutch, German, and Norwegian.
Viking fingers for writing
I lived and rooted in Belgium, Austria, Sweden, and now in Norway. I identify myself as a Northwestern European woman. I am born in Belgian soil, but my hands, my writing “tools”, probably contain a genetic disease. Last year, my mother underwent painful operations -and even more painful recovery exercises – to fix her hands, because she has Dupuytren’s contracture. Only few months, when I had already moved to Norway, I learned that the disease is called Viking fingers, and that there is a chance I have some viking genes. It might explain why I have been called to the north, and its myths and landscapes, since I am a child. The north was in my blood, belly and bones.
However, I cannot deny that the microbes of Belgian soils have also shaped and made me. So therefore, I see myself a northwestern European woman.
In the footsteps
I decided to keep a blog where I celebrate other Northwestern European women whose mother tongue is not English, who were scholars, spiritual seekers, conservationists, scientists, gardeners and explorers – and wrote about landscapes and other living beings in the landscapes they belong too. I will visit the landscapes, or recall visits to the landscapes, highlight stories and landscape archetypes that might have influenced their own way how they saw nature and wrote about it. I am not a scholar in literature or history, so I hope you forgive me if I make some literary or historical mistakes. I have a PhD in environmental science and have explored some methods of social science and narratology. Moreover, I am also a Northwestern European women who wanders and writes, so I am going to visit their stories and landscapes through my own experiences and perspectives. I might also write about some more female local saints and retell their stories more, highlighting the landscapes they were part of. Let us see where this new journey takes us.
I will make a new category in this blog “writing wild” and post 2-3 times a year a portrait about a female writer and a landscape. I will document the most (and in Dutch) in a new instagram profile @schrijvendwild .
Feel welcome to suggest interesting women writing wanderers in the past 1000 years, who have been communicating with microbes in Northwest Europe 😉