The sea is not made of water: Life Between the Tides by Adam Nicolson


Bookseller review by Kath:

‘This is a revelation of a book! Building rock-pools on the west coast of Scotland, Nicolson reflects on life, living and death. What he sees in the water, from winkles to kelp,  illuminates his wondrous way of looking. Referring to philosophers and scientists from the ancient world and the recent, Nicolson gives us a feast to feed our minds. Embedded in this remote part of Argyll, where he has come for thirty years, the folklore and clan culture are peeled back and examined; the powers of a beautiful, harsh seascape shown to have carved a people with a deep affinity to their community. Nicolson is a polymath, knowing his Highland history, as well as his ecology and philosophy.  To marvel at the tides and their harvest, and to dig deep into the rich tidal patterns that flow across his glorious bay is one thing, but to make a book that is so marvellous in giving the reader a completely new way of seeing life, is breath-taking. Being with his rock-pools, being with nature, just being, is in the end, the gift. To read this book, is to emerge renewed and re-awakened – there’s something miraculous here.’

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Few places are as familiar as the shore – and few as full of mystery and surprise.

How do sandhoppers inherit an inbuilt compass from their parents? How do crabs understand the tides? How can the death of one winkle guarantee the lives of its companions? What does a prawn know?

In The Sea is Not Made of Water, Adam Nicolson explores the natural wonders of the intertidal and our long human relationship with it. The physics of the seas, the biology of anemone and limpet, the long history of the earth, and the stories we tell of those who have lived here: all interconnect in this zone where the philosopher, scientist and poet can meet and find meaning.

In this blend of fascinating, surprising ecology and luminous human history, Adam Nicolson gives an invitation to the shoreline. Anyone who chooses can look beyond their own reflection and find the marvellous there, waiting an inch beneath their nose.