Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Wilder Time

A Wilder Time by William E. Glassley
Bellevue Literary Press: 2/13/18
paperback review copy; 224 pages
ISBN-13: 978194265834

A Wilder Time: Notes from a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice by William E. Glassley is a very highly recommended combination of nature writing at its finest with the recording of geological discoveries and observations.

"Geology is not generally considered an enterprise rich with drama." ( pg. 60)
While perhaps this observation is true, there was a richness and drama of a sort in this account of the time William E. Glassley and his Danish colleagues, Kai Sørensen and John Korstgård, spent on six expeditions to Greenland, a place that truly defines the word "wilderness." The geologists went there to sample, photograph, and measure any rock formations that would provide evidence of the terrain's history and the tectonic movements. They wanted to find out how deeply the rocks had been buried, how hot they had been, and when the deformation of them occurred; and they wanted to find the place where that marked the point of collision between two continents.

While Glassley does discuss some of the amazing geological discoveries and observations he and his colleagues made, he is also poetic in his descriptions and observations of Greenland, including the overwhelming silence and the natural environment there. The scientific focus may have been the geology, but Glassley also shares his keen observations of the nature around him - the huge bumblebees, the small arctic flowers, the lichen, the arctic foxes, ptarmigan, herring, an encounter with a falcon, and an almost magical mirage.

The narrative is divided into three parts, Fractionation, Consolidation, and Emergence, each of which describes the sensory experiences that shifted his perception. The first part, Fractionation, documents the way his expectations about Greenland had been altered. Consolidation marks his coming to terms with the reality that "ignorance is an integral part of being aware." The final section, Emergence, covers what he feels, based on epiphanies he had in Greenland, we can and cannot know of the world. The book contains a glossary for those unfamiliar with geological terms. (As a secret geology geek, I was transfixed by the scientific observations of the expedition that Glassley chose to share. I desperately wanted pictures.)

A Wilder Time is a celebration of wilderness, written in poetic prose that can be appreciated by anyone who enjoys good nature writing. It is also a call to save the wilderness areas we have left.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Bellevue Literary Press.

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