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The Man Who Planted Trees part 2 of 3

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The pasture for his sheep was down in a dell leaving his dog in charge of the little flock, he begun to climb towards me where I was standing. I feared he was coming to reproach me. Not at all. It happened to be on his way and he invited me to go with him, if I had nothing better to do. He was going a little further on, to the top of the hill. When we reached his destination, he begun to drive his iron rod into the ground. He made a hole, dropped in an acorn, and filled in the hole. He was planting oak trees. I asked him if he owned the land. He said no. Did he know who owned it? He did not. He thought it was common land, parish property or perhaps it belonged to people who did not care about it? That did not concern him. So with infinite care, he planted his hundred acorns. After the midday meal, he began to sort out more of his acorns. I supposed I must have been quite insistent with my questions, because he answered me. For three years, he had been planting trees in that desolate country. He had planted 100 000. Of the 100 000, 20 000 had come up. Of these, he still expected to lose half either to rodents or to any of the unpredictable things which only Providence can account for. That left 10 000 oaks to grow on this track of land where before there was nothing. It was then that I wonder about the man’s age. He was clearly more than fifty. Fifty-five, he told me. His name was Elzéard Bouffier. He had owned a farm down in the lowlands. It had been his life. He had lost his only son, and then his wife. And had withdrawn into this solitude, where he was contempt to live quietly, with his lambs and his dog. It was his opinion that the land was dying for lack of trees. He added that, having nothing very important to do himself, he had resolved to remedy this state of affairs. I was young and only thought of the future that affected me and my search for happiness. I told him that in 30 years, those 10 000 oaks would be magnificent. He answered quite simply that if God granted him life, in 30 years, he would have planted so many more that these 10 000 would be like a drop of water in the sea. Already he was studying the growth of beech trees and had a nursery full of seedlings grown from beech nuts. They’re quite beautiful. He was also thinking of birches for the dells, where he told me there was moisture just below the surface of the soil. The next day, we parted. The following year came the 1st World War, in which I was engaged for five years. An infantryman was hardly likely to have trees on his mind... After demobilisation, I found myself the possessor of a small gratuity and a great desire to breathe pure air This was my only thought when I set off once more on the road to the barren land. The country had not changed. However in the distance, beyond the deserted village, I noticed a sort of blemish mist that lay on the hill tops like a carpet. The shepperd who planted trees had been in my mind since the day before. 10 000 oak trees...I thought to myself... really need a lot of space. I had seen so many people die in those 5 years that it was easy to imagine that Elzéard Bouffier, too, was dead. especially since at 20 we think of men of 50 as ancient with nothing left to do but die. He was not dead. He has changed his occupation. He had only four sheep left, but now he had over a hundred hives and bees. He had given up sheep because they threatened his young trees. War had not disturbed him and he had calmly continued his planting. The oaks of 1910 were now ten years old and taller than either of us. It was such an impressive sight, I was stricked down, and as he never said a word, we spend the whole day in silence, walking through his forest. It was in three sections, I measured 11 km long and 3 km at its widest. When I reminded myself that all this was the work of the hand and soul of one man, with no mechanical help, it seemed to me that man could be as effective as God in tasks other than destruction. He had followed his dream and beech trees as high as my shoulder, stretching as far as the eye could see were witness to it. The oaks were strong and passed being at the mercy of rodents; as for Providence, she would have made a cyclone to destroy this creation of man. He showed me handsome groves of 5 yr old birches planted in 1915, the year I was fighting at the battle of Verdun. He had set them out in all the hollows where he guessed, and rightly, there was moisture near the surface. They were like young children, tender but firm and confident. And creation, it seemed, had just followed in a natural sequence. He hadn't worried about it. Resolutely, he had gone about his simple task. On the way down, through the village, I saw streams flowing with water, which in living memory had always been dry. This was truly the most impressive effect of creation's natural cycle that I ever seen. Long ago, these brooks had been full of water. Amongst the miserable villages I mentioned before some were built on sites of ancient Roman villages, and archeologists digging in the ruins had found fish hooks Whereas in the 20th century, cisterns were needed to ensure even a modest supply of water. The wind had scattered seeds too. And as the water reappeared, so did willow trees, reeds, meadows, gardens, flowers and a reason for living. But the change had come about so gradually and that it was simply taken for granted. Of course, hunters who climbed these hights in search of hares and wild boar, had noticed the sudden appearance of little trees but they’d put it down to some caprice of Nature. That is why no one had mingled with the work of the shepherd, if they' d suspected it was man’s work, they would have interfered. But who would even think of him, who in the villages, or amongst the authorities, could ever have imagined such constant magnificent generosity? Each year from 1920 on, I paid a visit to Elzéard Bouffier. I never saw him lose heart, nor was he ever deterred, and often, God knows, it must have seemed that Heaven itself was against him...

Video Details

Duration: 9 minutes and 56 seconds
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: Frédéric Back
Director: Frédéric Back
Views: 173
Posted by: simitsekphd on Jan 27, 2010

Beautiful award-winning animated film based on an short story (also public domain) by Jean Giono. Features a message about the power of the individual and has inspired wild tree-planting worldwide.

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