Roger Deakin (1943-2006)

From: Landmarks (2015), by Robert Macfarlane:

“The moat was connected to a cattle pond that jutted out into the largest grazing common in Suffolk, and that pond was one of twenty-four set around the common, each linked to each by an ancient labyrinth of tunnels and drains. We think of an archipelago as a scatter of land existing within water, but Roger lived on an inverse archipelago – a scatter of water existing within land. Mellis Common itself, when the wind blew in summer, appeared to him like ‘a great inland sea of rippling grasses’, so that ‘although the sea itself is twenty-five miles due east at Walberswick’, he could ‘still enjoy some of the pleasures of living beside it’.

Roger was a film-maker, environmentalist and writer…Roger travelled widely, but always returned to his farmhouse and the twelve acres of meadow and hedgerow that surrounded it. This was his fixed point, where one foot of his compass was planted, while the other roved and circled…

It was while doing lengths in his moat during a rainstorm that the idea came to Roger for a swimmer’s journey around Britain – no, not around Britain, through Britain, via its lakes and rivers – the account of which was subsequently published as Waterlog.”

Closing stanzas of John Donne’s A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning (1611/12):

“…If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the other do.

And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.”

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