I’ve been enjoying a brilliant book, ‘The Moth Snowstorm’, by Michael McCarthy.  Thanks Penny, for suggesting it.

It’s part nature writing, part memoire, part polemic, and a powerful and affecting read about McCarthy and his relationship with the natural world.  A constant theme though, is ‘joy’.

The book first got under my skin when defining ‘joy’, which is perhaps summed up as a moment of true happiness, with a spiritual, selfless, outward looking dimension. McCarthy’s first experience of joy was as a boy, learning to love the landscape and wildlife of the Dee Estuary. Later, it was bluebell woods, chalkland streams … and so on. Most of his joyful moments happen when he’s alone and surrounded by the natural world: though he acknowledges that our children, our grandchildren also bring us moments of undiluted joy.

What in the natural world brings me joy?  Nothing original.

The first snowdrops edging through the earth while winter is still bitter, dark and long.

Snowdrops at Sleningford, February 2017

Bluebells, with their sweet cool scent, apparently hovering in an unending hazy carpet across a woodland floor.

Bluebells at Ripley, May 2017

Lying in bed early, very early on a springtime morning, and hearing the very first bird as it calls out to orchestrate the morning concert which is the Dawn Chorus.

First thing in the morning, last thing in the evening, the blackbird sings. : Wikimedia Commons

A rare sight in England now, but fields scarlet with swaying poppies.

Poppies: Grain field with Field Poppies in Schermen, Möser, Landkreis Jerichower Land, Germany. J.-H. Janßen ( Wikimedia Commons)

Waves crashing on a beach, as a chilly wind whips sand across my face and into my eyes.

Haeundae Beach, Busan, South Korea

What brings joy to your soul?

Afterword:  Some of you have asked to be reminded when BBC Radio 4’s ‘Ramblings’ series about the Nidderdale Way is being broadcast.  The first of six programmes will be on air this Thursday, 18th May at 3.00.  ‘Our’ episode will be the sixth and final one, on June 22nd.  Podcast available.  

Walking the Nidderdale Way is pretty damn’ joyous, actually.



34 thoughts on “Joy

  1. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying the McCarthy. It’s a lovely book. I was surprised by how emotional his argument is — an approach I wouldn’t normally associate with British reserve. You’ll appreciate the section about South Korea, although it is less ‘joyful’ than much of the rest.

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    1. Sadly, the section about South Korea didn’t entirely surprise me. They do like to organise nature. Nice tickety-boo pathways everywhere, that sort of thing. It has its downsides, as McCarthy reveals. A thought-provoking book which made quite an impression on me.

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  2. Beautiful choices. Sometimes the unexpected, little surprises bring that fleeting moment such as walking beneath a lilac tree in full blossom and getting hit by nature’s perfume.

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  3. This book is somewhere on my tbr and I must consider bumping it up the list 🙂 Lovely post, Margaret: as you can imagine, I’m totally with you on those moments of joy.

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    1. I’ve a feeling you would enjoy it. A friend’s book group recently discussed it, and it strongly divided them. But what do you do about people who don’t think it matters if mudflats and some less cute species simply disappear?


  4. Margaret, I so agree with your list and the beautiful musings! With all of them – I mostly miss the water, rivers, lakes, the sea…. I also like the title of your book: So imaginative and inviting!

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    1. It’s interesting why he chose that title. You’ll have to read it to find out why! And yes, water is a big source of joy, whether it’s a tumbling stream, a slow-moving river, an expanse of stillness at a lake side, or surging ocean waves.


    1. Oh yes! I often think I ought to live by the sea, because I like it best when nobody else is there, and the wind is chill, rather than when the trippers – like me- have arrived.

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  5. Huge amounts of joy for me 2 days before Christmas when my daughter walked in the house calling ‘surprise’. She lives in Canada and we had no idea about her visit.
    In nature I love to see the blackbirds who nest in our ivy every Spring and then seem to show off their offspring to us.
    And although I travel widely I love nothing more than walking with my family through the beautiful landscape surrounding my home in North Yorkshire.

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  6. Lovely thoughts and images Margaret. It is important to think about what brings us joy, such as wild things and wild places for me. Oh yes and the purring of cats. I will look out for the book, thanks.

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  7. Wow–we *were* thinking along the same pathways yesterday, weren’t we?! You said it all so much better than I did, though . . . And I had the joy of seeing a field of poppies in bloom once, in Cornwall–etched in my memory!

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    1. Don’t you have poppies where you are? If not, no wonder those Cornwall poppies were so special. You always express yourself beautifully, Kerry. I love your writing.


      1. Thanks, Margaret, for reading so reliably and commenting so generously! We do have poppies in people’s gardens but I’ve never seen fields worth here. It’s that abundance that blows me away!

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  8. Love the photo of the snowdrops, they always bring me joy, I look out for them when finding Winter too much to bear. You’re right about the poppies, they look stunning but I only ever see the odd one these days. We have blackbird families too, and a pair of robins that always make me smile.

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  9. Michael McCarthy’s book is working its way to the top of my tbr heap! I am positive it is a read I will enjoy. Joy? I almost always experience it surrounded by nature and almost always I am alone. I have no experience of grandchildren but my own newborn daughters gave me so much joy.

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