Sienna's Reviews > Mountainfit: Fjällsommar, Fjällsjälv

Mountainfit by Meera Lee Sethi
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 2012

We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls. What you are reading was supposed to be a book about birds but it is about this, too.

Shall we begin?

Have you backed a project on Kickstarter? It's gratifying, exciting, an exercise in connection. All of a sudden there's a new person or set of people in your life. You've never met him, her, them, but you share a dream and, together, you bring it to life. It can be about music, food, history, creativity. Some of the projects are wearable or edible; others illuminate your home, or the pages of Darwin's Origin of Species. They range from the silly and personal to the noble and altruistic. And they work because of us, because in spite of all our differences we have far more in common. And let's face it — this is the internet. Here you can virtually find those who share your teensy niche interest and literally change the world together. It's pretty awesome.

This book is the result of one of the more satisfying projects I've backed. Last summer, Sethi, a Chicago-based science essayist, volunteered as a field assistant at the Lake Ånnsjön Bird Observatory in Handöl, Sweden. There she tagged and tracked birds, heard a vagrant's voice of unrelenting conviction, discovered what it meant to experience a good lemming year, and set her sights upon a mountain inhabited by werewolves — er, wolverines. The Kickstarter project I supported was meant to be a bite-sized collection of bird essays: "part myth, part science essay, and part travelogue." The finished book is all those things and more, significantly longer than expected, personal, poignant and a pleasure to read. Diana Sudyka's cover art forms the perfect feathery carapace for these snapshots of Sweden and Sethi herself.

What better way to recommend Mountainfit than with one of my favorite passages in a book full of them? On the challenges and rewards of tracking:

I loved it because it meant a kind of meditation. The focus it required quieted the eternal mental hum most of us, no matter how content we are, carry around. With something so direct and practical to focus on, every question, doubt, desire, and confusion of my three decades on this earth fell away.

I loved it because it meant a kind of understanding. Radio tracking was probably the closest I will ever come to learning the language of the birds — or one small version of it. Over time, I grew sensitive to small changes in the volume, pitch, and quality of the signal, became used to how it altered in relation to the terrain I was covering, and could tell whether a bird was truly close, or just sending out a signal over the valley. As I listened, I had a fragile but totally immediate connection to the snipe I was following.

And I loved it because it meant becoming at home in the mountains.

Like the act of backing a Kickstarter project, what moved me most about Sethi's words was the sense of connection they evoked. I closed the book feeling pensive and satiated and... lucky, actually, as though I had made a new friend who was clever and kind and funny and sharp as the marks on a lanceolated warbler, both of us far from home and willing to wander wherever life takes us. It's not a bad way to live.

You can (and should) buy an electronic copy of Mountainfit here.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
April 29, 2012 – Shelved
April 29, 2012 – Finished Reading
July 23, 2012 – Shelved as: 2012

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