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A Cloud Where the Birds Rise by Michael Harding and Jacob Stack (illust.)

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Memoir

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

A Cloud Where the Birds Rise by Michael Harding (words) and Jacob Stack (illustrations) is published with Hachette Ireland and is described as ‘a celebration of what it means to love, and live in the beauty of the ordinary, everyday.’ It has been nominated for this year’s An Post Irish Book Awards in the category ‘Lifestyle Book of the Year’, with the winner to be announced November 23rd.

The voice of Michael Harding is very familiar to many of us, with his anecdotes and wise words lingering in the mind of the listener for some time. Now everyone can avail of his perceptive words by picking up a copy of A Cloud Where the Birds Rise. It’s difficult to convey the beauty of this book using the written word but when you open the covers you will be greeted by the most evocative and thought-provoking illustrations that wonderfully capture the essence of Michael Harding’s words. Jacob Stack’s artwork is very distinctive with images that are extraordinarily poignant.

A Cloud Where the Birds Rise is divided into eight chapters, each with its own very unique title, with thoughts expressed on love, dying, ageing, marriage, nature, the interior, togetherness and philosophy. Some sections will be more relevant to you on any given day but, what you will discover, is that on completion, you will dip back into it again, craving a specific quote, embracing its meaning. A Cloud Where the Birds Rise is a book that definitely encourages reflection, something we have all found ourselves doing during these past months of turmoil.

A page may contain one sentence or a story, but all teach us something about ourselves and those around us. In the chapter on dying, entitled ‘The Collective Hug: Thoughts on Dying’, Michael Harding writes of his mother with words I think will resonate with many…

“I kissed her forehead before the coffin lid was closed down on her. The last kiss, I told myself. must last my lifetime.”

As the page turns, there is a further observation by Michael Harding gorgeously illustrated by Jacob Stack…

“Now that my mother was buried, there was no meaning in the house. Her clothes didn’t mean anything and the ornaments and objects she had gathered, hoarded and loved for fifty years, that she had crammed into every mantlepiece and into every china cabinet in the house, were suddenly bereft of any further significance.”

A Cloud Where the Birds Rise really is a stunning work of art in so many ways. It will capture the soul of any reader. Michael Harding’s observations and quotes are quite deep and extremely meaningful. He considers his own mortality and the obvious love he has for his wife, who has always remained by his side through the good and the bad times. Michael Harding lives in the hills of Lough Allen, a place he calls home, a place where he belongs. He refers to his need to be alone sometimes, snuggling into “the little shell of my own self” and he finds this solace and peace by the ocean.

A Cloud Where the Birds Rise is a contemplative and immersive experience. It is much more than just words, with this magical partnership of Michael Harding and Jacob Stack producing something very unique, very special. A stunning collection for the everyday.

“Doing nothing is still doing something. So, the wisdom is in the not doing. The complete non-involvement in anything. Stillness. And if that’s not a sure way to induce a beautiful doze, then nothing is.”

(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.

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