Sometimes I find great books by accident. I was helping a client gather books on global warming, kneeling to the right of some real estate books in the Dewey 333 area, when I spotted Stirring in the Mud by Barbara Hurd. The cover photo of a swamp with a dragonfly drawn on to it, the intriguing title, and the compact size of the book caught my eye. Jane Brox wrote one of the blurbs on the back. It just looked like a book I would want to read.
Barbara Hurd is an English teacher and poet who has loved swamps since her childhood. She has traipsed them on her own and with naturalists all her life, getting wet and muddy in an effort to see what is under surface and behind the bush. In Stirring the Mud, she visits wetlands in her native Maryland, Louisiana, and Alaska. She also tells about a trip to Tibet.
Hurd is a keen observer and thinker, and her book is full of passages that should be read and reread and sent to friends.
"There is no escaping the universal drama here: Isis lies down in the swamp with the dead, becomes mystery herself, and gives birth to silence. Haven't we all done the same? Slept with the past, courted dead ideas, been born into muck, found ourselves draped in a fine sheen of the worn and silky sediment of surrounding mountains, our hands slicked with the debris of the world? We raise our fingers to our eyes, wipe away mud, lift our heads and look around. For miles, for continents, for eons, the world seems to battle and blaze. We hunger for its glory. Then, singing and swinging my arms one day, I learned that what I approach in the swamp deflates its throat, withdraws its song. The question is how we can keep crashing about, proclamatory and crass, once we know that so much of the world grows silent in the face of our loutishness? Why don't we spend our whole lives, like Isis and her son, veiled and silent?"
I found the book with this passage next to the real estate books. The Library of Congress recommended the Dewey number 333.91'8'01. This is so wrong. The book is about nature, philosophy, the human spirit, and poetry. It should be with Walden and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
Stirring the Mud should be in libraries everywhere.
Hurd, Barbara. Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination. Boston: Beacon Press, 2001. ISBN 0807085448