Those lovely people at Experiment Books are back with Helen Pilcher’s The Time Nature Keeps. It offers a visual journey through the cycles of time in nature. I love a good infographic, and The Time Nature Keeps delivers.
What Is The Time Nature Keeps?
Time. It just sort of happens. It passes by and, as parents, we bemoan that we don’t have enough of it. There is certainly nothing truer than the old text adventure adage “time passes…” If I think about time in terms of scientific study, then I tend to think of it in terms of physics and chemistry—how long it takes for stuff to get done.
Yet, opening up the cover of The Time Nature Keeps and flicking through its pages, I immediately realized how many of nature’s rhythms I was taking for granted. The natural world around us just “is,” but stop and think for a moment and you realize that everything is governed by time, whether it be a short beat of the heart, the ebb and flow of night and day, or the life and dormancy of the seasons. The Time Nature Keeps aims, using infographics, to illustrate just how important time and rhythm are to the world around us.
The book is broken down into 6 sections, each one dealing with a natural timespan.
Evolutionary Spans: This section opens with the famous depiction of the existence of life on Earth translated onto a clock face. Where humans crash the party at 11.57 pm. It’s a sobering reminder of the sheer breadth of evolutionary time spans—spans that trace planetary-scale narratives, such as the extinction of species or the emergence of Homo Sapiens. (The two often, sadly, inextricably linked.)
Ecological Spans: These describe the dynamic nature of ecosystems, whether comparatively brief, like the building of a beaver damn, or something longer, like the ecosystem that springs up around the carcass of a blue whale. This section examines habitat and species loss.
Life Spans: The time between the beginning and the end of life, from the mayfly to the bristlecone pine. This section also includes a great description of the lifespan of the immortal jellyfish.
Growth Spans: Different from life spans, growth spans look at the development across a species during its lifetime, starting with egg hatching times. I had no idea that octopi were semelparous, or that some species can guard their eggs for up to 10 months (and indeed, beyond). The section also offers answers to the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. The suggestions are fascinating.
Behavioral Spans: How do species respond to their environment? From migrations—trust me, you want to read the book, just for this bit—to the microsecond reactions of carnivorous plants. Which animals sleep the longest? Which ones kill their prey the fastest? Lots of interesting stuff in the behavioral spans section!
Biological Spans: Physiological processes—metabolism and hormone production underpin this section. How long do animals poo for? How many breaths do they take in a minute? This section explores the innate processes that help organisms function and survive.
The book is just over 200 pages long and closes out with a further reading section, as well as an index and image credits.
Being a book filled with infographics, The Time Nature Keeps will appeal to readers younger than its text might cater for. The book covers its topics in depth and conveys lots of information, meaning it’s not a children’s book. It would be perfect for teenagers and adults who are interested in the natural world, but with help, younger readers will also find lots of things to hold their attention.
Why Read The Time Nature Keeps?
It’s taken me ages to work through this book and write my review. Not because it’s boring—quite the contrary. Because it’s fascinating. Each entry reminded me of other snippets of information that I wanted to investigate further or opened me up to processes and events in the natural world that I had no idea occurred. All sending me off to do some further investigation.
As I mentioned, I tend to take nature for granted, barely noticing its marvels and its rhythms. Coincidentally, as I write this review, I have been out in my garden quite a bit. It’s that time of year when everything is exploding and the garden looks amazing, even with my minimal input. Having kept a garden now for nearly two decades, I have become familiar with its ebb and flow; I notice when things start shooting, when seed heads appear, and when everything dies away.
Reading The Time Nature Keeps brought all of this rather qualitative observation into sharper focus and into context with the wider natural world. The book’s introduction mentions that up to two hours a week immersed in nature has been found to improve mental well-being, and it’s certainly true that I am rarely more content than when I’m working in the sunshine nibbling at the edges of my garden space. A space where, due to my general laziness, nature is often just moments away from completely overrunning.
The Time Nature Keeps is a book that opens its reader’s eyes to the elegance of the natural world. We’ve all seen nature documentaries, and we know that the world is a wonderful place, but The Time Nature Keeps shows us how deep its elegance runs. The hidden rhythms behind the countless creatures that inhabit the globe are staggering.
Each page in this wonderful book has something of interest on it. It’s not only full of facts that I didn’t know and information I didn’t know I didn’t know but it’s also stuffed to the gills (and not just those of the mangrove rivulus—page 194) with information that I didn’t know I wanted to know. That’s the hallmark of the very best non-fiction books.
If you would like to pick up a copy of The Time Nature Keeps, you can do so here in the US and here in the UK (where it’s published as How Nature Keeps Time). (Affiliate Links)
If you enjoyed this review, check out my other book reviews.
I received a copy of this book in order to write this review.