In this book, Tim Dee tells the story of four green fields spread around the world: their grasses, their hedges, their birds, their skies, and both their natural and human histories. These four fields—walkable, mappable, man-made, mowable, knowable, but also secretive, mysterious, wild, contested, and changing—play central roles in the sweeping panorama of world history and in the lives of individuals. In Dee’s telling, a field is never just a setting for great battles or natural disasters, though it is often this as well. A field is the oldest and simplest and truest measure of what a man needs in life, especially when looked at, contemplated, worked in, lived with, and written about.
Dee’s four fields, which he has known and studied for more than twenty years, are the fen field at the bottom of his private garden, a field in southern Zambia, a prairie in Little Bighorn, Montana, and a grass meadow in the Exclusion Zone at Chernobyl, Ukraine. Meditating on these four fields, Dee makes us look anew at where we live and how. He argues that we must attend to what we have made of the wild. We must look at and think about the way we have betrayed nature. And we must also notice the way in which we have maintained her through the conversations we continue to conduct with grass and fields.
Shortlisted for the 2014 Ondaatje Prize, one of the very best of the new nature writers meditates on the relationship between man and grass. “He pushes the boundaries of nature writing, creating a form that is lyrical but deeply alert to ecological crisis.” (Miriam Darlington BBC Wildlife)