This past weekend I read a really good ghost story (actually more a short story in the horror genre) that featured a tree that was rather terrifying to come across. A yew tree to be exact and one that would make people who stayed in a nearby cottage disappear--make of that what you will! I have to say that after reading the story I might think twice of entering a forest filled with such twisted gnarled trees, but then I do have a very vivid imagination sometimes. Thinking of my post I feel a little bad to diss on the poor yew tree.
I love trees actually, so today's teaser is coming from Roger Deakin's Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees. I also love Roger Deakin's nature writing and just recently I picked up this book. I am making amends for showing the yew tree in such poor light (actually it is just a good excuse to share some of Roger Deakin's marvelous prose). I just started reading the book last week and suspect it will be my companion through the end of the year--me being a very slow nonfiction reader.
So, it's early days yet with this book, but the chapters seem almost like shorter or slightly more extended essays. Some seem even to be journal entries of sorts, which is the kind of nature writing I seem to be drawn to normally. Deakin was such a careful and keen observer. I imagine him to have been a very gentle spirit, one who never felt that anything was too small or unimportant to merit notice and attention, which is what I like most about his writing. Part of what makes my nature reading so slow is my desire to take it all in--to absorb all the little details. I'll never remember it all, but this is where the beauty of rereading comes in!
For now let me share a bit from the opening chapter of the book titled "The House Sheds: Camping". I want one of these . . . When Deakin was a boy he had what he called a (literally named it) "Cosy Cabin". He writes that he "used to spend hours in there conversing with the lodgers". The lodgers being anything and everything from beetles to toads--all "grateful to have a roof over their heads". At the time of writing he had a shepherd's hut on his property not far from his house (and near to a big ash tree). He would work in the hut and sleep in it. It seemed a refuge for him. (I want one, too, now).
"Why do I sleep outdoors? Because of the sound of the random dripping of rain off the maples or ash trees over the roof of the railway wagon, or the hopping of a bird on the wet felt of the roof, or the percussion of a twig against the steel stove-chimney. Out there, I hear the yawn of the wind in the trees along Cowpasture Lane. I feel in touch with elements in a way I never do indoors."
There is certainly nothing terrifying about the trees Deakin writes about. His 'shed' is actually almost more like a boxcar--it sits on iron wheels. The interior seems quite spacious with a door that can be propped open to take in the air and sunlight.
"In the warm embrace of the wagon's wood, I always sleep like a cat for eight hours at a time. It is almost as if I were actually being rocked and lulled by the rhythm of its wheels on a nocturnal Night Mail journey. What is it about being enclosed by wood that is so comforting?"
And there is no need to worry about the dark. Especially when you think about it this way:
"When I light the three Moroccan lanterns, I think of something the artist Roger Ackling said to me, quoting Thoreau: 'Electricity kills the darkness, candlelight illuminates it'."
Deakin had a knack for moving from subject to subject so smoothly that you don't even realize it. He mixes what he sees out his window with other naturalists experiences with his own youthful memories and anything else that crosses his mind. So interesting is it all that his writing simply flows. I bought Wildwood before I had even finished Notes From Walnut Tree Farm. And only a little way into this book, and I have already ordered Waterlog. Perfect writing to see the year out with. In case you have never read Roger Deakin--his writing is sheer delight.