Elegy for a Country's Seasons by Zadie Smith. There is the scientific and ideological language for what is happening to the weather, but there are hardly any intimate words. Is that surprising? People in mourning tend to use euphemism; likewise the guilty and ashamed. The most melancholy of all the euphemisms: “The new normal.” “It’s the new normal,” I think, as a beloved pear tree, half-drowned, loses its grip on the earth and falls over. The train line to Cornwall washes away—the new normal. We can’t even say the word “abnormal” to each other out loud: it reminds us of what came before. What “used to be” is painful to remember. Maybe we will get used to this new England, and—like the very young and recently migrated—take it for granted that April is the time for shorts and sandals, or that the New Year traditionally announces itself with a biblical flood.
It’s amazing the side roads you can will yourself down to avoid the four-lane motorway ahead. Sing an elegy for the washed away! Oh, what have we done! The most beautiful death. Brave New World novelist Aldous Huxley was diagnosed with cancer in 1960, at which point his health slowly began to deteriorate. On his deathbed in November of 1963, just as he was passing away, Aldous — a man who for many years had been fascinated with the effects of psychedelic drugs since being introduced to mescaline in 1953 — asked his wife Laura to administer him with LSD. She agreed. The following letter — an incredibly moving, detailed account of Aldous's last days — was written by Laura just days after her husband's death and sent to his older brother Julian.
Transcript follows. 6233 Mulholland Highway Los Angeles 28, California December 8, 1963Dearest Julian and Juliette:There is so much I want to tell you about the last week of Aldous' life and particularly the last day. For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II. Siberian summers do not last long. The snows linger into May, and the cold weather returns again during September, freezing the taiga into a still life awesome in its desolation: endless miles of straggly pine and birch forests scattered with sleeping bears and hungry wolves; steep-sided mountains; white-water rivers that pour in torrents through the valleys; a hundred thousand icy bogs. This forest is the last and greatest of Earth’s wildernesses. It stretches from the furthest tip of Russia’s arctic regions as far south as Mongolia, and east from the Urals to the Pacific: five million square miles of nothingness, with a population, outside a handful of towns, that amounts to only a few thousand people.
When the warm days do arrive, though, the taiga blooms, and for a few short months it can seem almost welcoming. Thus it was in the remote south of the forest in the summer of 1978. It was an astounding discovery. Beside a stream there was a dwelling. Proved irresistible for them…. Twigitecture: Building Human Nests. Designed and built by Jayson Fann for the Treebones “glamping” resort here (mostly yurts with a fantastic view), the nest, which costs $110 a night, is always booked. Mr. Fann, 40, a nest maker, artist, community educator and musician, said the nest is so popular, there have been nest marriages and, inevitably, nest babies. Proud parents send him photos. From New Age cocoons and backyard playthings of the rich to public installations made from the wood of hurricane-felled trees to contemporary art objects that you can buy along with your Richters and Oldenburgs, human nests are having a bit of a moment.
This spring, a South African nest maker named Porky Hefer, who was formerly a creative director at Ogilvy & Mather and Bozell, took his nests on a tour of the design fairs, from Design Miami/Basel and Collective .1 in Manhattan to Design Days in Dubai, where a stiletto-heeled fairgoer climbed into his leather off-cut nest and stayed for a half-hour. “Oh, my God, I want one,” she said. The World's Best Cat Burglar Has Died And His Obituary Is Simply Outstanding.
Tasmania: Maybe the Most Unforgettable Place Ever. It has history, beauty, wallabies, devils, prisons, cricket matches, museums, brewpubs … Steven Siewert/The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media/Getty I used to think wallabies were merely cute. I’ve learned to fear their cunning. One afternoon last year, my wife was sitting on the beach at the pristine Freycinet National Park in Tasmania, an island 150 miles off the southeastern tip of Australia, looking past the granite cliffs that surround Wineglass Bay and toward the Tasman Sea.
I asked her to hold still so I could take pictures of her to send to our family. I judge travel by the density of the memories it creates. The beautiful prison. The five days we spent in Tasmania were as rewarding as any trip we have ever made. The suffering devils. Some of the animals on the road were black, with a white stripe across the chest, and an appearance combining aspects of a dog’s, a large rat’s, and a small boar’s. The preserved past. The jarring future. The burnished present. Everything Was Fake but Her Wealth. Russia: solitude in Siberia. I stayed at Lake Baikal for the first time in 2003. Walking along the shore, I discovered cabins at regular intervals, inhabited by strangely happy recluses.
Five years later I chanced to spend three days with a ranger in a tiny izba, a traditional Russian log cabin, on the eastern shore of the lake. At night we sipped vodka and played chess; during the day I helped him haul in his fishing nets. We hardly spoke, but we read a lot. That was when I promised myself I would live alone in a cabin for a few months before I turned 40. So, two years ago, I left my home in Paris and spent six months in a little hut on the Lake's western shore, very far from civilisation: it was six days' walk to the nearest village, a day from the nearest neighbour, and there were no access roads. I wanted to experiment with the simple life and claim back time. Lake Baikal is 395 miles long, 49 miles wide, 1,642m (just over a mile) deep, and 25 million years old. I cut my day into two parts.