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A Call To Enchantment
(In case you're heading to the beach)
Hi! This is Mike from Everything Is Amazing, a newsletter about science, curiosity, attention and wonder.
We’re still between seasons here, after the last one wrapped at the end of July. But it’s still gloriously sunny outside my window, the evenings are still cloudless and golden (above, returning from Arran a few days ago), and it’s still warm enough to go swimming in the sea here in Western Scotland. So I’m making the somewhat unscientific decision that it’s still summer. That’s what it clearly still is: summer! Absolutely.
And with that in mind, and since I’ll only be writing pieces for paid subscribers for the next week or so, I’m about to recommend a book to all of you, because it’s well-documented that most people read more books in the summer.
(For the record, this has always confused me a bit. I read most when the weather outside is ‘orrible - something about a warm drink bringing life back into your deadened fingers, your woolly-socked feet curled up under you on the sofa, the rain splattering merrily against the window. Something about the right biscuits. These are my book times. But apparently the modern publishing scene is powered by beaches, and as it’s still summer in the Northern Hemisphere, you’re probably more in the mood for a good book and I’m going with that.)
The book I’ll suggest to you is by Katherine May, who last week saw a flying ship:
“…it’s a well-known optical illusion called a superior mirage, caused by differences in air temperature - essentially, the air at the line of sight is cooler than the air above it (it’s normally the other way around). This temperature inversion causes light to refract differently, bending downwards. This makes objects look as if they’re floating above the solid thing on which they actually rest. Unlike the famous “fata morgana” illusion, which can make whole “fairy” cities appear in desert skies, the one I saw didn’t distort the object. It just made it look like it was a few metres above the sea at the horizon. Which was quite exciting enough for me.”
Yet again, Katherine is fascinated with exactly the same things I am - or more probably vice versa. This happens quite a lot, giving me the feeling that the most useful thing I could do with each of my newsletters is simply write “what she said!” and then link to Katherine’s Substack.
She’s also written a book about these fascinations, which came out earlier this year, and I’ll recommend it to you in the most publishing-industry-lazy-referral-copywriting sort of way because I can’t think of a clearer and more honest way to put this:
If you’ve enjoyed any part of Everything Is Amazing, I reckon you’ll love Katherine May’s Enchantment.
It’s a book about wonder, as the subtitle notes - but this is the deeply grounded version that’s most available to us every day, the kind we most neglect. You don’t have to go far to discover how infinitely fractalled our world is with mystery, hidden meaning and unexpected connection. You don’t have to go anywhere, really. It’s all right here, wherever we are in any given moment - if we can find a way to look hard enough.
(I often get pushback about the title of my newsletter. Am I really claiming that pollution, injustice, environmental collapse and the war in Ukraine are “amazing”? What the hell is wrong with me? So I explain I meant it the other way, where the word means containing endless potential to surprise you. It’s not about pursuing something as fleeting and fickle as happiness - it’s about protecting yourself from the corrosive ravages of boredom, cynicism and hopelessness.)
So. If it wasn’t a breathtakingly cheeky appropriation of someone else’s work, I’d change my About page to say “For an introduction to my newsletter, read Enchantment”. Katherine would be forced to send her lawyers after me and it’d all get very ugly. For reasons of brand security and professional cowardice, I won’t be doing any such damnfool thing.
But hey, do read Enchantment. There’s no better way into this stuff.
If you’re a free reader of EiA and want to listen in, I recommend going over to Katherine’s Substack The Clearing and becoming one of her paid subscribers, which will get you access to the event and so much more. You won’t regret it: her work is sublime and calming and welcoming & you will want to read all of it from beginning to end.
(And again, get that copy of Enchantment. You’ll want to read all of that as well.)