10 Minutes with Ben Goldsmith, Author, Re-Wilder and Father
As a father of seven, who better to catch up with this Father’s Day than Ben Goldsmith, who knows a thing or two about being a dad. Following the tragic loss of his daughter, Iris, Ben has emerged on the other side with his new book, ‘God Is An Octopus’.
Here, he bravely tells his story of the loss he endured and the glimmer of light that can be found beyond the darkness. Even before its launch, Ben has received incredible support and feedback from some well known faces, with praise from Stephen Fry, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Joanna Lumley, to name a few!
His beautiful story of loss, love, and being called back to nature, ‘God Is An Octopus’, launched last month and is available to buy online at Bloomsbury.
It’s an honour to meet you Ben, and thank you for agreeing to catch up with us!
Great seeing you Alice and Georgie!
Firstly, tell us a bit about your book, ‘God Is An Octopus’, and what your hope is for this book.
God is an Octopus is a book about a year of magical thinking in the aftermath the accidental death of my teenage daughter Iris, a loss which left us all reeling and grasping for answers. It’s a book about love, loss and deep solace in nature.
When did you get the idea to turn your experience into a book?
What we all went through was so devastating, so life-changing, so profound and ultimately meaningful, that I felt it would be helpful to others suffering similarly if I were to lay things out in a grief memoir of sorts. I’ve come to the belief that death is not what we think it is, and that we are part of a grand mystery which is far beyond our ability to understand. None of this brings Iris back, but it’s of some comfort.
We understand that nature has been one of the biggest healers and teachers for you following this loss, what is the most important thing that we can all learn from nature?
Nature is like the tip of a far larger iceberg. Every day science uncovers new, miraculous mysteries. The trees really are talking to us, by way of compounds which slow our heart rate and reduce our blood pressure and make us feel well as we walk through the woods. Who’d have thought? The trees talk to and even nourish each other via a great fungal wood-wide-web beneath the ground. We know so little of this magic, and yes we are intricately connected with it. We need nature on every level. So go out and spend time in it, and fight for it in whatever way you can.
How important is nature to childhood?
All children are born with an innate love of nature. There’s even a word to describe this: biophilia. We are only beginning to understand the cascade of benefits brought to children by time spent in nature, from strengthened immunity to greater happiness. And yet far too many children are deprived of contact with nature. This is one of the great iniquities of our time.
How can parents immerse their children in nature when they live in a city? Any tips?!
More than a quarter of London is green space. Our cities have wonderful parks and green belt areas. And increasingly nature is being re-wilded in these places. Take your children into the nearest woods and just hang out, with snacks and water but no plans. Hunt for interesting things.
With Father’s Day fast approaching, how do you like to spend this day? You have quite a large family, do they throw any surprises for you?
I like it when the children bring me a cup of tea and give me a hug when I wake up on Father’s Day. They don’t always oblige, but usually at least one does. And if we’re able to go outside together for a while that makes me happy too.
What’s been your best Father’s Day present over the years? Or most memorable!
The children (and Jemima) once got me a silver sculpture of a beaver which I treasure!
What’s your favourite thing about being a father?
Fatherhood is such an extraordinary gift it’s hard to do it justice in a short answer. Nurturing and guiding a young person as they make their way from babyhood in the world, without any idea who they’ll end up being, is a beautiful and life-fulfilling thing.
If there was just one piece of advice you would like to pass down to your children, what would it be?
To trust your gut.
We believe that children can be our biggest teachers. What’s the most important lesson you have been taught by your children?
Children have a wonderful way of being in the moment, not thinking about events gone by or coming up – just focusing on the immediate moment of felt experience. This is a blissful way to be, and we should all try to do more of it.
How are you spending Father’s Day this year?
Swimming in the pond in Somerset!
Lastly, we have our quick fire questions!
Tea or Coffee? Both, lots of.
Cats or Dogs? Dogs.
Movie or Boxset? Boxset.
YouTube or Netflix? Netflix.
Cosy night in or Evening out? Evening out.
Beach BBQ or Sunday Roast? Sunday roast.
Starter or Pudding? Starter.
Christmas or Summer Holidays? Summer.
Beach or Forest? Forest.