What a day today has been! And while words like “apocalyptic” were bandied about on Twitter, the epic skies made me think not only only of texts like this manuscript of Beatus of Liébana’s commentary on the Apocalypse , with its rich and terrifying visions of the end of all things, but of the icon gold of Jackie Morris’ art work in The Lost Words. The icon is important here, the translation of the Divine into the here and now. I remembered the colours in the Corfu Icon Museum and the gold in the Palatine Chapel in Palermo and Monreale Cathedral in Sicily. It is as if I am back with de Hamel and the Remarkable Manuscripts again: so much beauty. Back to myth and might-have-been.
I have said I won’t review The Lost Words, although I have commented on it, notably in response to Rob McFarlane’s wonderful essay and on the original movement around excising words from the dictionary. My avoiding a “proper” review is partly because Dara McAnulty’s blog reviews it so much better than I could. I will however comment on this one other aspect of the work: how nature writing and art have an astonishing double edge to them, revealing the instant beauty of the thing or event, and at the same time revealing the “mystery…instressed, stressed,” that is at the heart of the icon, maybe at the heart of this book of spells and the pictures than conjure not only this kingfisher, those otters, but also an almost Platonic ideal. Nature -dare I personify it? – herself.