A fable to inspire a life

There are books that mirror our lives,
as there are books that have an impact upon a life

More than just few years ago when I was perusing the nature section of our local bookstore, that I came across a book called The Man Who Planted Trees. It is a rather thin book, with the pages amounting to no more than the thickness of a pencil, even after having been padded with numerous wonderful woodcut illustrations by Michael McCurdy, in this reissue honouring the twentieth anniversary when it was first published by Chelsa Green Publishing Company as a book. Before the first publication in book form, the short story, or fable as some would call it, was first published in 1954 and appeared in Vogue magazine.

The Man Who Planted Trees, cover
1985 Paperback edition, second printing

The short story by French author Jean Giono brings to life a Shepard who plants acorns every day over a period of thirty years, every time he went on his daily walks, transforming a scared landscape from years of war into a forest of hope. The books fable has mirrored my attempts to plant as many trees as possible.

The Man Who Planted Trees, cover
Hardbound version, first edition, April 2005

For as long as I can remember, I have had a personal relationship with trees. At the age of twelve I came home with a small young cutting of a branch that I had broken off from a larger branch and stuck into the ground behind our ascending staircase to the house front door. The location was by no means ideal, but this little patch of land was mine to do with as I choose. Within two years the branch had grown considerable, reaching the top of the staircase, By the time we moved out a year and a half later, it was more like a mature tree, still having more to grow before being fully grown as a eucalyptus tree.

inside view, pages 28-29
Hardbound version, first edition, April 2005

These days, for almost a decade now, I have raised trees from seeds. Beginning with seedpods from a California buckeye chestnut, gathered from the wild and transplanted into large 25-gallon nursery buckets, where they remained for two to three years. After achieving the desired height, they were planted on our hillside, others passed along to friends and even sent overseas while still a seedpod, but showing signs of life.

close-up view, page 11
© Michael McCurdy - All rights reserved

This year’s bounty of seedlings has exceeded any previous year. From a dozen plus California buckeye chestnut, there are about a dozen and a half Chinese Elm, ranging from a foot to two feet in size. My most prized are Japanese maple, grown for the first time. They’re still very delicate when compared to the other two species, never the less precious.

As autumn’s curtain call is fast approaching, the garden was blessed with this year’s first rain after have suffered a two-year drought and water rationing. This major storm was the remnants of a Pacific typhoon that stretched beyond its normal travels, reaching our coastline with its gentle fury, filling our streams and lakes with water.

close-up view, page vii
© Michael McCurdy - All rights reserved

The Man Who Planted Trees — twentieth anniversary edition
Jean Giono with illustrations by Michael McCurdy
Chelsea Green Publications Company: Link
ISBN 1-9311498-72-5

Some additional links to check out

American Forests: Link
National Alliance for Community Trees: Link
National Arbor Day Foundation: Link
National Tree Trust: Link
National Urban & Community Forestry Advisory Council: Link
Trees for the Future Organization: Link

Tree Canada Trust: Link

The Woodland Trust: Link

Information on the author Jean Giono and The Man Who Planted Trees

The Man Who Planted Trees text and authors biography: Link
The animation video of the story being read in French: Link
Copyrights vs the stories freedom: Link


Ian Foster said...

Thanks for sharing this book with us, it sounds fascinating and I will certainly try to get a copy. Thank you also for sharing your passion for planting trees which as you know I have been a beneficiary of.

Lawendula said...

This sounds like a book, I have to read.
Trees are very important for me too.
When you live in big cities most of your life, you are hungry for nature, big trees in streets can become close friends than.
My project "one tribe-one(he)art" could be interesting for you.
Please take a look:

Anonymous said...

Interesting story; the woodcuts are wonderful too!

Maggie Neale said...

Lovely post. It is a lovely book. I lived in Chelsea when the publishing company was just beginning. They have moved and so have I.

sophie munns said...

I was so glad to find this post and your blog this morning!
I have this book in my possession packed away - in fact i am not sure where to find it. I was given this story many years ago and we discussed it at length in a course i was running at the time. Its has been on my mind of late as I am now pursuing a project into which this story could add the most wonderful dimension.
It wasjust oerfect to find this reference today...thank you!

iNdi@ said...

another book to search for...

Calli said...

I was given this book by a dear, 80 year old friend of mine named Max.

I loved it and also have had a wonderful relationship with trees since very young. It's no wonder that they often end up in one of my paintings...

thank you for sharing this, Egmont~

Anonymous said...

So wonderful to discover that tree lovers are out there.

gunsan said...

Love this blog (but have been bad commenting, I am a little ashamed of that.
I am so gratefuk you helped me with the translator. it is not good, but far better than any others I have seen. I am very happy you like to follow my blog. I cangratulate youto the little bayleaf plant. Hope it will grow with your care about it..
here is still rainy, have been since late summer. All the seasons in Sweden have changed drastically over the ast years. No real summer and no real winter anymore. it' a pity. Hope all is well with you - Gun


oh, what a wonderful story within a story! i sat mesmerized as i read your post - so beautifully written - it's especially interesting to me because my favorite tree has always been an oak - and one of my very first oil paintings [can't tell you how many many years ago] was of an acorn - a large acorn in the foreground with a swirl of graduating sized acorns into the background - anyway, just brought back lots of memories of things i've always held as beautiful and special - thanks so much for a beautiful post - have a wonderful day!

Kelly Marszycki said...

We often take these beings for granted, don't we? My fond memories of trees (and I have many in my garden) is of climbing them and building tree forts, reading comic books all summer long and watching the grown-ups below. Thank you for sharing this book with us --

jeannette stgermain said...

I heard about the book!
Your name is soo Dutch, and your last name is the old spelling in Dutch. Needless to say I'm Dutch, and have lived in CA for last 20 years or so:)