Gaze into the brutal, beautiful world of tide pools
As Nicolson observes his companions, his relationships develop. Once, he experienced shrimp as “meaningless sweet meat” mixed in mayonnaise. However, when he saw the delicate form of a live shrimp, he was amazed by its “invisible genius”, whose life was as magical as his own. Such natural close relationships, he writes, diminish “self primacy” and “allow the other person to have a valid and living place in your mind.”
The concept of dredging big truths from small coves is not new; Steinbeck urges readers to “look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.” But very few writers have done so with Nicolson’s profound erudition. He introduces a team of scientists who have been looking for commonality in tidal pools, these easily accessible, self-contained aquariums. Darwin appeared, along with Descartes, Newton and Galileo, who mistakenly thought that the tides flowed around the planet like water on the bottom of the sea. Most memorable, alongside Paine and his sea stars, is John Vaughan Thompson, biology’s “great unseen hero” who demonstrated that crustaceans have a larval stage, only to ridiculed by peers. With his education bankrupt, he moved to Australia to work in a penal colony. Genius is rarely appreciated in its day, even if its preoccupation is with crab metamorphosis.
In his final act, Nicolson turned to the inhabitants of the Scottish coast. For millennia, the coast has inspired mythology, provided “food for the famine” when crops failed, and facilitated blood donation and disposing of corpses. Homo sapiens belongs to the intertidal zone just like any mollusk: “We suffer and struggle like other animals, fight and dominate, threaten and display, ally, establish systems our hierarchy.” As he freely delves into human history, however, he abandons his swimming pool, leaving the reader unmoved one bit in time and space.
Nicolson was at his best as he focused on his precious coastal world. Here, even the rocks have stories: They formed 200 million years ago, when volcanoes pumped out so much carbon dioxide that it boiled the earth, acidified the oceans, and caused mass extinctions. series – events reminiscent of human-caused global warming. Nicolson warns: “An acidic sea hostile to the life forms we love to find in it. As our planet cooks up, tidal pools will continue to provide microcosm, even though we may be horrified by what they show us.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/22/books/review/life-between-the-tides-adam-nicolson.html Gaze into the brutal, beautiful world of tide pools