Saturday, 2 August 2008

The man who planted trees

I've been re-reading Jean Giono's "Lhomme qui plantait des arbres" in a lovely junior edition illustrated by Willi Glasauer, a Czech artist who divides his time between the Pyrennees and Berlin.
The story of The man who planted trees tells of a young man meeting and observing the widowed shepherd Elzéard Bouffier over several decades. On his solitary shepherd wanderings Bouffier plants acorns, beech nuts, chestnuts. Where he has wandered forests grow and change the arid landscape. He stops shepherding and takes up beekeeping because he fears the sheep may eat the young saplings.
Forty years on the trees completely change the ecosytem, people resettle the area.
It's a beautiful, romantic story, speaking of tenacity, simplicity and of the spirit of resistance. Bouffier goes on planting trees even when part of the forest is wiped out because of disease.
It's sad to read it at a time in human history when we are so intent on tearing trees down. But perhaps it offers hope that with gentle persistance we can change things for the better.