Saturday, 23 October 2010

The tree

I've just finished reading John Fowles book-essay The Tree. He writes about his personally experienced, but universally applicable, limits of our scientific and artistic approach to explaining and exploring nature (and ourselves). How nature – the "green" – is ultimately inexplicable by the thought and living processes we live by. How the "gardened" world – of literally gardens, but also our gardened, delineated lives, sciences and arts – further restricts our perceptions. And, finally, about trees. Though, of course, it's immeasurably better explained and explored in his writing than my gardened synopsis.

In fact, it's a marvellous, deeply thought book which is perhaps increasingly relevant (it was written 30 years ago and is available in an anniversary edition). So much to ponder, to agree with (so much to quote). It's unique. Not a green manual in any way, it's about the "wild", but a wild that still involves us – and much, much more in its short length. If you see someone reading it on an iPad or Kindle feel free to weep – for them and for us all.

An aside: Trees get the best and worst of times in Japan. Central Tokyo can feel, compared to London, relatively treeless, but Japan, compared to England, is extensively forested. 68% forest land compared to England's 11.8 – and a percentage higher than most of the modern world. Certain ancient trees are revered locally in temples and other areas, others challenged by concrete or serious pruning – while bonsai manages to both admire and restrict. Pictured: trees in Japan – in Sayama; Akihabara; a bonsai display and a tree and concrete; in Shinjuku; moss-covered.

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