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  • Lindy Latham

DCH Member’s Book Club: The Moth Snowstorm

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

On Thursday, August 24th, the Delaware Center for Horticulture, collaborating with Women in Horticulture, hosted a Member’s Book Club led by Emilia Zabegay and Lindy Latham. A small group of DCH members met in the beautiful courtyard classroom at DCH to discuss The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy by Michael McCarthy.

McCarthy is an English naturalist and journalist, and his book weaves together poignant memoir, science journalism, environmental philosophy, and poetry and offers a defense of the natural world through joy.

We started the discussion by talking about the most memorable part of the book – the title. The “moth snowstorm” refers to a particular phenomenon, where 50 years ago when driving down a summer road at night, the headlights would show such an abundance of moths that they would appear as snowflakes – a snowstorm of moths. This phenomenon no longer exists (but, as one member pointed out, does occur in parts of Florida). The loss of the moth snowstorm is part of a larger, more significant loss – known in the UK as the great thinning, where McCarthy writes, “There was simply less of everything, year on year: fewer birds, fewer wild flowers, fewer butterflies." The book club echoed this sentiment, observing less wildlife over the years, and each offered personal initiatives to combat this decline.

McCarthy then pivots from loss to the crux of his book, joy, and he offers numerous examples of when nature evoked absolute joy in him. In one example, he writes of the magic of bluebells, “It was a blue that flowed like smoke over the woodland floor, so that the trees appeared to be rising out of it, a blue which was not solid like a blue door might be solid but constantly morphing in tone with the light and the shade, now lilac, now cobalt, a blue which was gentle but formidably strong, so intense as to be mesmerizing: at some moments it was hard to believe it was composed of flowers.” Everyone then took a turn to share moments where nature brought them joy, each a tender and unique but relatable experience, including witnessing a beaver in the river, mushroom foraging with their mother, and seeing birds hatch in their nest.

We finished the discussion by exploring if loving nature and its joy is enough to activate political change and save the natural world, as McCarthy argues. The group agrees that though powerful, it does not seem like it would be enough of a motivator and lacks scalability. Others noted the need to incorporate mental health into the discussion. In closing, the group highly recommended this book and wished for it to be more readily available in both public libraries and Little Free Libraries around town.

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