Roger Deakin Author:- My buddy Roger Deakin died of a brain tumor four summers ago. Waterlog (1999), Wildwood (2007), and Notes from Walnut Tree Farm were his most renowned works on nature (2008). I say “nature,” but his work combines three very English rural writing traditions: dissent (William Cobbett, Colin Ward), labor on the land (Thomas Bewick, John Stewart Collis), and the gentle countryman or country gentleman, writer as watcher and phenologist (Gilbert White, Ronald Blythe).
Roger asked me to be his literary executor in early June 2006. It was a tough talk. His condition has progressed. He was having difficulty speaking. I was struggling not to weep. Sure, I replied, even though I had no clue what such a job entailed. He died shortly after.
Roger never threw anything away. He resided there for almost 40 years (a timber-framed farmhouse by a spring-fed moat in north Suffolk). And if he ran out of room to keep items, he simply constructed another shed, a barn, or threw an old railway carriage into a field and started stuffing it. For me, as executor, the major issue was what to do with his enormous archive: the hundreds of notebooks, manuscripts, box files, tapes, and diaries in which he had chronicled his life.
On entering the steep-eaved barn, the archive slowly collected. Two ladders, a trapdoor, and a small attic. A gable window’s slant light. 60 or 70 cartons, almost filled the area. A room full of vitality. I was overcome with sorrow and hopelessness. How could this deluge of paperwork possibly be managed?
I opened a notepad from an open box and sat atop a mound of folders. “Angels are the ones we love and who love us,” the page said, in Roger’s spidery black handwriting. After a short meditation on friendship, I gyrated out to the double hammer-beam roof of the church in the fenland hamlet of March (where the 200 wooden angels’ wings are feathered like marsh harriers).