Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees
Nature writer Roger Deakin considers wood as a vital element of life.
Many writers have fetishes. Roger Deakin’s started with water and ended with trees. The late British naturalist, environmentalist, and wanderer writes in his arboreal memoir, Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees, that “to enter a wood is to pass into a different world in which we ourselves are transformed.”Skip to next paragraph
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Deakin’s own life is proof of that statement.
Before he died in 2006 at age 63 (just after finishing this book), Deakin was celebrated as England’s contemporary version of Henry David Thoreau. This says much about the reverance with which Deakin is regarded, but in actuality the comparison discounts the novelty of his approach.
One of the hallmarks of Deakin’s writing is his unbridled, youthful exuberance. He would do practically anything to gain a different, fresh angle on his subject, whether it meant crawling through mud on all fours, swimming a forest-girded waterway naked, exploring a moonrise by traipsing into spooky black darkness, or encyclopedically chronicling the myriad ways a particular forest planted the seed that helped human society to grow.
Eccentric behavior for a middle-age man?
Deakin has been described as such. It seems justified. After all, this is a man who wrote from a 450-year-old Elizabethan cottage on a piece of Suffolk property called Walnut Tree Farm, surrounded, fittingly, by its own moat.
Along with his love of feral and manicured greenery and, of course, the creatures inhabiting it, he was intrigued with the effects of water on the human spirit. Prior to “Wildwood,” he gained critical praise for “Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey Through Britain” (a book inspired, in part, by the John Cheever story, “The Swimmer.”) Deakin’s research deposited him in the Atlantic, mountain lakes, garden ponds, canals, and quarries.
In “Wildwood,” he goes even deeper.
Deakin has a keen knack for combining observations about ecology with a conversational, limerick-style pacing often associated with adventure travel. He further highlights his nature writing with notations about historical human drama.
He is as giddy musing about the establishment of new walnut groves in England and France as he is exploring the origin of the apple in Kyrgyzstan (the land where the armies of Genghis Khan once plundered and marched).
Deakin tells us that he has set out “on a quest for the residual magic of trees and wood that still touches most of us not far beneath the surface of our daily lives.”