Ruth Padel’s meditative book about migration comes down to one line: “We’re all from somewhere else.” Where we belong and where we call home drives us—and by us, Padel means cells, trees, birds, animals and human beings. The pull from one place to another is a phenomenon that most of us have observed, at least casually—in Albuquerque, we can look overhead these days to watch Sandhill cranes moving along the flyways. On Migration: Dangerous Journeys and the Living World presents a beautiful fusion of Padel’s prose and her poetry.
Padel explores the ways in which all beings are affected by leaving and returning, whether it’s cellular, selected or forced, and she comes back to the implications of such movement.
Padel, the great-
Her knowledge is sweeping. One of the book’s earliest references is to sixth-century philosopher Boethius, while one of the last is to the show tune “Over the Rainbow.” But she’s careful not to lose readers and instead connects with them by sharing personal details of selling her home or bird watching in her yard. The poems underscore that she’s technically nimble enough to write as successfully in the voice of a ship’s barnacle as in the voice of an Ellis Island immigrant.
Ultimately Padel’s take is one of compassion, as she places migration within a frame of empathy. Migration, she suggests, "moves you into a disorientated world. ... You have to start putting things together in a new way.” It is precisely what her book asks of readers.