'When we lose our connection to nature
We lose our spirit, our humanity, our sense of self'
It’s been a long old winter but spring is finally here. The astronomical event of Spring Equinox (which occurs every 20th or 21st of March) marks the point in time when the sun sits directly over the Earth’s equator as it heads northward. This means warmer weather, longer days and blossoming blooms aplenty
Time then, to dust off the wintertide cobwebs, reconnect with the outside world and get that 'spring' back in your step. To guide your Equinox celebrations we have curated some of our favourite themed books and records exploring environment, conservation, herbal cooking and healing, Pagan history and improving our relationships with nature, both inside and outside our own homes.
The debut studio album by the British-American rock band Wings and the third studio album by Paul McCartney after the breakup of the The Beatles. Beloved by fans for its raw and direct vibe - having been recorded in just over a week, this album is a breath of fresh air to soundtrack your spring cleaning. Inspired by a safari McCartney did in Kenya in November 1966 the album reminds us to be aware of our natural habitat and stand up for causes such as conservation. Joyous freewheeling jams and introspective musings, Wild Life marked new beginnings for Paul McCartney and is a truly rejuvenating album to take into the new season.
An artist firmly acquainted with the wonder of nature, Jeremy Deller collects together his key works of his career, including his inflatable 'bouncy castle' Stongehenge artwork, depicting the ancient ritual which celebrates spring as the advent of rebirth, fertility and new beginnings. Art of Magic is a book for those drawn to ancient sites, stories and traditions, with folk tradition now echoing in many elements of popular culture. A much anticipated book for nature lovers.
Signed by Jeremy Deller, exclusive sticker pack and pop-up druid.
Johnny Flynn & Robert Macfarlane - Lost in the Cedar Wood
A beautifully crafted album inspired by one of the oldest surviving pieces of world literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh. Written during lockdown LITCW interweaves myth, magic, nature, love, loss, poetry and hope. It feels like walking barefoot through an ancient forest. It was recorded in a small solar-powered cottage in Hampshire and with this in mind it’s hard not to imagine the slight disconnection from the ever-busy world of today. Stand out tracks such as Home & Dry, released as an acoustic single for the Fishing Industry Safety Group, is a low-key sea-shanty style encompassing the longing for a safe journey home during a storm. 10 Degrees of Strange nods at the black dog that always seems on your tail and Bonedigger almost sounds like a ritual folk song about the old Gods.
Even though each track has been carefully crafted to hint at the story of The Epic of Gilgamesh you can’t get away from the trees that surround the songs, the roots that delve into the earth, the rush of the river and the blackbirds singing in the woods.
Of all the many things humans rely on plants for, surely the most curious is our use of them to change consciousness: to stimulate, calm, or completely alter the qualities of our mental experience. In this unique blend of history, science, memoir and reportage, Michael Pollan explores three very different drugs - opium, caffeine and mescaline, and participates in the cultures that have grown up around these drugs, while consuming (or in the case of caffeine, trying not to consume) them.
A 90-minute album about cosmic timings and earthly connections. Big Thief dive into the natural and otherworldly with dreamy tracks with layers of acoustic guitar and a trademark folk-inflected approach. With the album's inspiration starting during an attempt to ease back into life after the pandemic related isolation, the band met up for their first session in the depth woods of upstate New York, and then went on to record in Topanga Canyon, The Rocky Mountains and Tucson, Arizona, taking the influence of these environments into the music.
The album artwork indicates the music’s focus on the power of natural elements portraying animals around the campfire making music. Many of the tracks weave interpersonal relationships and the natural world together on this album, such as Sparrow, a biblically-tinged story of Paradise whipped around the symbol of a bird and Time Escaping, a psychedelic ode to the changes in nature as time passes.
Feeling bone-tired, anxious and overwhelmed by the rolling news cycle and the pandemic age, Katherine May seeks to unravel how to live in a way that leans into the more restorative properties of the natural world. A journey that takes her from sacred wells to wild moors, from cradling seas to starfalls. Through deliberate attention and ritual, she finds nourishment and a more hopeful relationship to the world around her.Enchantment is an invitation to each of enjoy nature as a wonder once again.
The spring of 1970 was a dark time for Marvin Gaye. His beloved duet partner Tammi Terrell had died after a three-year struggle with a brain tumour and his brother Frankie had returned from Vietnam with horror stories of the war. Channelling these experiences into an album about progression and renewal, Gaye goes through an itinerary of terrible things in society with emphatic protest messages and soul music which shimmers with spirituality, a positive and cathartic spin encouraging us to think about each other, the natural world around us and the moral obligation to look after the environment. One of the album's most recognised songs is of course is the brilliant Mercy, Mercy, Mercy Me where Gaye mourns the destruction of the environment through global warming many years before the threat has been acknowledged as a problem.
You simply can’t fault these pocket-sized, recycled books of pure joy. There are so many to choose from and they’re a firm favourite at Rough Trade! They delve into some amazing topics such as Simple Shelters by Jonathan Horning where he guides you through yurt building, Bedoiun tents and igloos. Other wonderful titles, such as Herbal Healers and A Hedgerow Cookbook by Glennie Kindred, look at delicious mouthwatering wild plants throughout the seasons. With the arrival of spring plants such as borage, nettle (classic), Shepherds Purse, mallow and many more, there are an abundance of recipes to experiment with. More titles include Poisonous Plants in Great Britain by Frederick Gillam and Sun, Moon & Earth by Robin Heath.
A dreamy synthesis with hints of ambient jazz and alt-country. Cassandra Jenkins' voice floats amid sensuous chamber-pop arrangements and raw-edged drums making lyrical observations of humanity that unfold magical worlds, introducing you to a cast of characters like a local fisherman, a psychic at a birthday party, and a driving instructor of a spiritual bent. The subdued beauty of this album mirrors the serenity of the natural surroundings, reminding us we all share the same Earth. “Nothing ever really disappears,” Cassandra Jenkins says. “It just changes shape.”
We love Rough Trade Books! And we love this collection in collaboration with The Garden Museum. Titles include Horticultural Appropriation by Claire Ratinon and Sam Ayre and Enjoying Wild Herbs: A Seasonal Guide with Hackney Herbal by Nat Mady and Catmouse. In this, we see Hackney Herbal’s Nad Mady and artist Catmouse join forces to address topics of how to live alongside nature in both public and private spaces. Together they introduce to us how to easily find, forage and responsibly harvest wild herbs throughout the seasons (starting with spring) and how to incorporate them into your life. For good hopefully!
Other notable books to pick up this spring...
Wild London, your guide to urban escapes around the city. Fungipedia, an A–Z treasury of mushroom lore and the truth about fungi being closer related to humans than plants. Herbarium, for the chefs and foodies amongst us, uncover the histories, associations and uses of 100 herbs, as well as providing ideas for both food and wellbeing.
Words by Locks, Rough Trade East