Book Review: The Wild Remedy
Emma Mitchell is a naturalist, designer-maker and illustrator who has suffered with depression - or as she calls it, 'the grey slug' - for twenty-five years. In 2003, she moved from London to the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens and began to take walks in the countryside around her new home, photographing, collecting and illustrating her nature finds on her Instagram (@silverpebble2). As she walked, she realised her mood lifted and her time with nature proved to be as medicinal as any pharmaceutical: “When life is incessantly exhausting and you feel dreadfully, dingily sad, a leafy place and the sight of a bird being to heal the mind,” she writes.
The Wild Remedy is a beautifully honest, hand-illustrated diary of her travels following the paths and trails around her cottage and wider countryside, tracking the changing seasons through the lives of local flora and fauna. Reflecting on how these encounters impact her mood, this candid account of her own struggles is a powerful testament to how reconnecting with nature may offer some answers to today's mental health crisis.
Mitchell’s writing is mesmerising. it’s simple, honest and real: “The sound of solitary bees visiting the bluebells to collect nectar and pollen is soporific. I feel a pull to lie down and sleep here among the flowers. I allow time to drift.”
This is forest bathing or shinrin-yoku (the Japanese concept of bathing in the woods that is gaining popularity in the West) in all its rawness and we all need to try it. Through her eyes and drawings we follow the seasonal cycles of wild flowers, birds and wildlife, bees and insects. Her year begins in October when “Leaves carpet the ground and migrant thrushes arrive.” The onset of Autumn is when I too believe our year should begin (see here) and as I join her on her seasonal journey, I’m ever hopeful that she finds the peace she is seeking.
Mitchell touches on medical treatments for depression and how nature affects our neurochemistry in just enough detail to offer the lay reader some insight into the science behind mental illness, but not too much to render this overly technical. We also gain some nuggets about the daily life of the bees, ladybirds, deer and other species that inhabit nature’s wonderland.
Honestly, The Wild Remedy is one of the best books I have read in some time. Don’t just buy one copy - this is the perfect gift for anyone who needs to stop and reconnect with the simple things - most especially those who are too busy to bother!
The Wild Remedy, by Emma Mitchell is published by Michael O’Mara Books is available at leading bookstores and online. Hardback £14.99/€17