If I could save just one of my books from a fire, it would probably be Notes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin. Deakin was a naturalist and writer who lived in Suffolk in a rambling old house he rebuilt many years ago. His books on wild swimming and trees, Waterlog and Wildwood, are beautiful and insightful in many respects, digressing only a wee bit with words that are well-chosen and incisive. Notes From Walnut Tree Farm was published not long after Deakin’s death in 2006 and is made up of his jottings and diary entries, broken down by month with thoughts on his surroundings and wanderings tinged with each season’s lights and darknesses. For quite a few years, I’ve tried to read a little bit every month, usually keeping a particular month’s chapter to read that month. This morning, on the way to work, I had three whole months to catch up with, January, February and March. I read up to mid-February and on a busy bus commuting, reading of Walnut Tree Farm and the moat and all that is utterly joyful. This passage from January sums up how I feel about this book:
‘Books are like seeds: they come to life when you read them, and grow spines and leaves. I need trees around me as I need books around me, so building bookshelves is something like planting trees.’
There are very few books I can pick up and know my spirits will lift as soon as I open them. The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd (as written about here) is one, another is the picture book I sometimes use for class visits It’s A Book by Lane Smith. When I sit down to read Roger, I know my day is about to get better. I’ve read him on trains and in train stations, lying on my bed or many miles away but the effect is always the same, of greater and reaffirmed life having once more grown spines and leaves.