In the last blog entry I introduced the book Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth.  That being a text on the Earth element, this next book is a text of the Fire element.  I know I promised fiction and that is coming……

If you have never read anything by Gretel Ehrlich, you are in for a delicious encounter.  Gretel was already a luminous nature writer when she wrote books such as Islands, the Universe, Home and The Solace of Open Spaces

Then one day, up in the mountains hiking with her two dogs, (something I can relate to though I am usually with 3 or 4 dogs) she was struck by lightening. In her memoir

A Match to the Heart: One Woman’s Story of Being Struck By Lightning she recounts the experience, often with great attention to the minute details of the sensual experience of being in an electrocuted body. She writes:

An intake of breath is not just oxygen, a pulse is not just the rush of blood but also the taking in of divinity through an orifice, and as it moves through, it become s a spark.  To be inspired is to have accepted spirit in the lungs and heart, to watch it circulate through miles of blood vessels and capillaries whose tiny fenestrations allow oxygen, nutrients, and grace to leak into the tissues of muscle and consciousness, then be taken up again, reoxygenated, and returned.

The memoir is personal and intimate yet it is also science writing at it’s best.  It is also a meditation of the meaning of life and the way of death.

How odd we walk around with these bodies, lie in them, die in them, make love with them, yet know almost nothing of their intimate workings, the judicious balancing act of homeostasis, the delicate architecture of their organs and systems, or the varying weathers of their private, internal environments. Up to this point my living and breathing had been an act of faith. I existed but I did not know how. I was a stranger to the body whose consciousness said, ‘I know myself,’ which meant only that I had decoded the brain’s electrochemical message that told me to think such a thought.

Chinese medicine?  she writes:

Water puts out Fire.  The restoration of my health depended on it.

Gretel’s encounter with lightening was the beginning of her relationship with ice.  Her next book  This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenlandwere about the arctic where she spent much of the next seven years.

Gretel in the Arctic…..