The Silent Traveller in the Yorkshire Dales

I bought this book a few weeks ago in the big Oxfam Bookshop in Byres Road in Glasgow. This is a shop - I must confess- that I don't wholeheartedly approve of. I don't approve of the fact that it sells large quantities of almost new books at quite high prices, by writers who reap no benefits whatsoever from the transaction. But that is, I suppose, beside the point. I still browse their shelves when I'm in the area, and comfort myself with the thought that I usually buy books which are well out of print, like this one.
It was written in 1940 in English, by a Chinese traveller, poet and artist called Chiang Yee. It consists of little chapters about various places he has visited, interspersed with poems in Chinese and English, and the most beautiful delicate illustrations very much in the Chinese style, and yet they are of recognisably Yorkshire beauty spots, many of which I visited with my parents when I was a little girl and we lived in Leeds. My Polish father was an enthusiastic hill walker and rambler. Most weekends we would go somewhere within striking distance of the city (usually by bus - we didn't have the luxury of a car in those days) to walk and picnic.
Everything about this book is enchanting. He has captured the quality of being 'in the moment' so that he is describing what he sees and how he feels about it even as he is seeing it. His observations are perceptive, quiet, full of minor epiphanies and little words of wisdom. You read it and feel peace seep into your soul. I doubt if it would ever find a publisher nowadays.
I was enjoying it in bed this morning, while I drank a large mug of tea, and forgot that I also had a pen in my hand, since I was planning to take some notes. But I got so completely lost in the 'now' of the book (Chiang Yee would have been delighted!) that I forgot where I was, and that the pen was open. It was one of those 'gel' ink pens, and it leaked black blotches all over my nice white duvet cover. I had to get up and change the bed. Which is as good an illustration as any of the benefits of being wholly in the moment and something which this wonderful poet would almost certainly have recommended.

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