The natural world under our feet

Peter Costello | The Irish Catholic
Portal: Otherworldly Wonders of Ireland’s Bogs, Wetlands and Eskers text and photographs by Tina Claffey, foreword by Matthijs Schouten (Currach Books, €29.99/£25.99)

This book came in hand during weeks in which California, the south of France, Spain, London and other places are being ravaged by fires, fires which are directly attributable to climate change promoted by industrial interests and short term local government politics.

This is an extraordinarily beautiful volume, in which the eye and the imagination can become engaged, quite lost in awed astonishment.

The subtitle refers to “otherworldly wonders’”; but these sights are not from another world at all. We are seeing in Tina Claffey’s images not Mars or Venus or some distant galactic planet. They belong completely and foundationally to our world, the only physical one we have.


Portal author Tina Claffey is pictured with her book.

Her images and the descriptive text that goes with them are seasonally arranged from spring to winter. Her camera works at such extreme closeness that the lens sees and records elements that we simply cannot see. As so often the artist is able to bring things we would, in our vainly self-centred ways, not see or care about at all. All quite wonderful. The book will lay wide open a world we have never imagined.




Dutch scientist Matthijs Schouten, who is Professor of Restorative Ecology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, writes in his foreword: “She brings us to the soul of that enigmatic, fragile and ancient ecosystem that we call a bog. Her work is a true portal to reconnection with the natural world and evokes a deep sense of wonder that can only bring profound respect for it. I am convinced that this book will contribute significantly to our re-enchantment with the natural world.”

False readings of their sacred texts has led many Christians to imagine that humans are intended to be the apex of the natural world: observation of the cosmos suggests that whatever its essential purpose is, it does not in any way depend on humanity. Our only real harvest these days is destruction, and ultimately self-destruction.

Portal by Tina Claffey is available to purchase at Currach Books.