Here, published for the first time in the United States, is the last book by Roger Deakin, famed British nature writer and icon of the environmentalist movement. In Deakin's glorious meditation on wood, the "fifth element" -- as it exists in nature, in our culture, and in our souls -- the reader accompanies Deakin through the woods of Britain, Europe, Kazakhstan, and Australia in search of what lies behind man's profound and enduring connection with trees.
Deakin lives in forest shacks, goes "coppicing" in Suffolk, swims beneath the walnut trees of the Haut-Languedoc, and hunts bushplums with Aboriginal women in the outback. Along the way, he ferrets out the mysteries of woods, detailing the life stories of the timber beams composing his Elizabethan house and searching for the origin of the apple.
As the world's forests are whittled away, Deakin's sparkling prose evokes woodlands anarchic with life, rendering each tree as an individual, living being. At once a traveler's tale and a splendid work of natural history, Wildwood reveals, amid the world's marvelous diversity, that which is universal in human experience.
In this last book before his death in 2006, Deakin (Waterlog) delights with his curiosity and affection for rambling forests in Europe and Australia. The book is as much about the woodland animals and humans engaged with forest life as it is about the trees, the rooks "flinging themselves into a strong wind and somersaulting wildly upward, then diving straight down again into the woods like bungee jumpers"; the Essex Moth Group clustering around a mercury lamp to view moths with poetic names like "the willow beauty, the dingy footman, the clouded silver"; and artists engaging with nature, like John Wolseley, inspired by the fire-struck Australian Whipstick Forest to create works expressing "all the urgency and energy of the racing bushfire itself." Deakin's lyrical, sometimes anthropomorphic portraits of trees and wood are saturated with his scientific knowledge and passion: a hazel branch, "more of a magician's staff than a walking stick... naturally fluted and spiraled by the strangling effect of the honeysuckle stem that still encircled it like an asp... was a masterpiece of nature, the voluptuous embrace of the honeysuckle exciting the hazel into a frenzy of cell division."