“wide-eyed, we enter the rook-black night”
Roger Deakin has a fluid perseverance. You don’t read him, you listen to him. He murmurs & chuckles away, with many diversions & quotes, all day & night. It’s like being camped near a stream. He will not just describe “layers of vapour” hanging “in the new shoots of the hazel coppice”; he will remind you that “In Suffolk, when a misty wood like this is called ‘rooky’, as in Macbeth’s ‘the rooky wood’, it has nothing to do with rooks.” But when rooks are the issue, then you’re bound to learn something you did not know: “Rooks like to fly high, and sometimes, when they arrive directly over the rookery at a great height, they will fold one wing flat against their body and execute a breathtaking perpendicular dive so fast it is audible, twisting at the last moment to land in the tree. This is called ‘shooting the rook’.” I saw this in Warwickshire when I was young, but I never heard it called that. Wildwood makes Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places seem very focussed, even a little impatient, by comparison; it makes Adam Nicholson’s Perch Hill seem neurotic, self-obsessed, flustered–a book determined to forgive itself for something it never quite lets us see & probably never did anyway (not that that’s a criticism). When I read Deakin I want to write the way I wrote Climbers; but I’ve grown apart from almost every technique necessary, losing, somewhere on the way from there to here, the resources of observation and syntax, along with–what was for me, anyway–a devastating patience. But if I can’t write like that again (at least not without two years’ retraining, stillness & application) there are two easier things I can do. Take a copy of Mythago Wood down to Clive & see what he makes of it. & look at Clive’s wood, instead of running through it, the way I did last time. I never learn. My simple lack of connection amazes me.