Deakin’s ‘Wildwood’ pt.III

Roger Deakin, in his book, reflected on the various bits of driftwood lying on his writing desk; one was a Japanese prayer sandal, made of pine, washed up onto the shore.

There is a custom among the monks on a certain island in Japan of an initiation in which the novice lies in a wooden box made specially for the purpose and is launched on the tidal rips. The currents may take him out to sea and he will never be seen again, or they may carry him on a circular voyage that will bring him back to the shore. So the box may be a boat or a coffin, a way towards a new life or straight to death by exposure or drowning. The novice consents to be human driftwood. The sandal on my desk might have belonged to such an initiate, stepping out of it on the beach as he embarked on his uncertain voyage, but its true story will always be a mystery. It is carved from a single piece of pine, with three drilled eyes that once held the thongs, and a pair of ridged platforms to raise the foot above the mud. Sea and sand have worn the sole to little more than the thickness of a book cover, reducing it to an abstract embodiment of Japanese simplicity.

– from the recently-published ‘Wildwood – A Journey Through Trees’ (p.190).


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