‘A thoughtful, sometimes melancholy book as the author finds solace from the stress of life in visiting and re-visiting some ancient oak trees. It is always alert and sensitive, and links to both science and mythology about these trees as well as some extended conversations with experts of various kinds, but there’s a little too much strain in the ‘awe’, ‘wonder’ and ‘glee’ for me as the writer climbs deeper and deeper into his woody meditations.’
I should have added that it DID have the effect I like, even when I sometimes haven’t loved the book, that it drew me out into the world and to re-visit some local oaks in The Briars near my house. So, it was worth reading after all.
Above: one of the oaks near my house. (Photo: Warrick)
Long ago, when the present and the living appealed to me more, I endeavored to compile “best of” reading lists at the close of each year. Even then, those were inherently incomplete and subjective reflections of one person’s particular tastes, but at least my scope of contemporary reading was wide enough to narrow down such a selection.
In recent years, these subjective tastes have taken me further and further into the past, deeper and deeper into the common record of wisdom recorded decades, centuries, millennia ago, drawn from the most timeless recesses of the human heart and mind. Outside the year’s loveliest children’s books — a stratum of literature with which I still actively and ardently engage — I now nurse no illusion of having an even remotely adequate sieve for the “best” of what is published each passing year, given that I read so very little of it (and given, too, that this particular year I birthed the first book of my own — itself the product of a long immersion in the past). But of the books I did read in 2019, these are the ones that will stay with me for life.
Wise words. There’s a case against too much of this and I don’t pretend to speak with authority. Simply put, my book of the year was Overstory by Richard Powers, a story for our times. You can read others I liked, and lists from previous years here at my poetry pages here.
Driving back from Beechworth, via Lake Eildon, I passed this scene of stillness on a cold morning on Lake Nillahcootie. I pulled over and grabbed the camera and a moment later another man pulled behind me for the same reason. We had a conversation, mainly about the need to stop and look when you see something special, and then went our separate ways.
Here’s a couple of the photos. The trees looked to me like ink on paper, calligraphy of a kind.
I was up in the Murray River area for a few days and saw this Moreton Bay fig in Swan Hill. They call it the Burke and Wills tree, mainly because it was planted in Swan Hill about the time those explorers called through on their way up north. According to the signage it’s on the list of Significant Trees of Victoria, but I can’t find that list anywhere online. It was pretty impressive in any case.