The Raven's Nest

At night a different energy takes hold of me. I am energized by the darkness: it is not heavy. It crackles, and the sky feels infinitely high. On clear nights, when the moon is full, it has seemed as if it is brighter than the day. One night I sat out on the front step reading by moonlight, just because I could.

‘The Frozen Bell’ (Chapter 14)


The Raven’s Nest is a meditation on belonging in a world in flux and of learning to imagine differently. As the global financial crisis tremors through the world’s economies and the Eyjafjallajökull volcano ash cloud closes airspace, I found in Iceland a place of dynamic beauty where disruption, resilience and restoration play out visibly and clearly; a land that seemed to embody fundamental questions to which I might find my own answers. I was beguiled and curious, and on a quest to be more fully human. I moved to Iceland’s remote Westfjords and fell in love — with the land, the light and the language, with a fisherman called Bjarni, and with an old wooden house at sixty-six degrees North which became my first true home. This memoir examines what happens when a place speaks through human stories, and when a new language illuminates the boundedness of one’s thinking.

The Raven’s Nest is a memoir of the Anthropocene — this epoch in which humans have left an indelible mark on the geological record, and in which the earth’s systems have been unmoored from their millennia-old rhythms. In the midst of crisis — personal and planetary — I find inspiration on how to reside in this uncertain state in the natural world: the raven’s nest of the title is encountered towards the end of the narrative, woven from human-made, animal and vegetable detritus; a collaborative ‘home’ which can withstand coming apart and be rewoven.

The Raven’s Nest would be enjoyed by readers of Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, Jay Griffith’s Wild and Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby.


“A raven’s nest, made from twigs, natural fibers, nylon fishing rope, other man-made detritus, is secure & temporary, intentional at the same time it is coincidental. So like a life that belongs; made of stories we are told of place, and the place we make with our own stories — the feeding-between of the two like weaving twigs to blue nylon, made with things that came before and happened without us, and the intentionality of our building.

“Both anthropological and tender in detail, Sarah Thomas recalls an immersion that sometimes feels like drowning, at others a rush on swell to the shore… She is a participant in this story, present and implicated in what it means to dwell between tongues, cultures, landscapes and geological timescales.” — Abi Andrews, author The Word for Woman is Wilderness

“Reading it feels like spreading wings.” — Stephen Rutt, author Wintering: A Season with Geese