“The Man Who Planted Trees.” By Jean Giono
This delightful short story was written by Jean Giono.
On the barren slopes of Provence, the old Roman province in France with the California weather, the narrator encounters a shepherd and stays overnight with him. The next day he notices that the water soaked acorns the shepherd had so carefully culled the previous evening are intended as seeds for oak trees. Invited by the shepherd, he accompanies him on his rounds for the day, which consist of punching a hole in the ground with his iron staff, placing an acorn in the hole, and covering it with dirt. As they plant trees, the old man (in his 50’s in the 1910 setting of the start of the story) explains that he has planted over 100,00 acorns so far and expects 10,000 oaks to grow from them. He shows us his fenced-in plot of birch seedlings that he has planned for the river bottoms where ancients streams once ran.
The novel is a wordless one and reads as a meditation. One wants the book to be real more than fiction. Through Giono’s words, huge reforestation projects have in fact sprung into being, where only barren land lay before.