Alan Watts

Book by Alan Watts

Reading Alan Watts in my teens I experienced my first taste of eastern thinking which has led to a life long interest. In his essays on Zen and the Tao I could feel deep truths were lurking just beyond the words. A particular favourite is Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal.

This collection of essays and transcribed lectures was compiled in 1973 shortly before his death. Watts was an enigmatic character who during this latter period of his life lived on a houseboat moored near San Francisco. He was a hedonist who loved life and indulged in it, causing many to dismiss him as something of a charlatan. For myself and many others however his writings opened the door to eastern thinking. He attempts to convey something to the reader that points to reality and to evoke flashes of insight. I came across an animated cartoon with an excerpt from a talk of his today via a post at Post at Goodlife Zen, definitely worth checking out.

Recordings of Alan Watts are available here and are very stimulating and entertaining.


A very small farm

When I considered which of my favourite books to write about for this blog, one of the first to come to mind was William Paul Winchester's wonderful memoir of life on his 20 acres - A Very Small Farm.

This is a book to pick up over the years and read a few pages, just for the enjoyment of immersing yourself in the manifest simplicity of Winchester's life. Divided into chapters that are essentially diary entries, you are drawn into the joy he experiences from being engaged in the world around him. Many entries begin with details of the weather (particularly clouds) and then precede to illustrate his appreciation of the rhythms of life that flow through his farm.

Winchester built his own house, barn, put in a garden and orchard, acquired a milk cow and took up beekeeping. Yet he describes his simple life with a humility that belies these substantial achievements, the size of which will be apparent to those who have taken on a piece of land and made it into their own sanctuary.

This book fits into a cannon of naturalist writing that is often compared to Thoreau's Walden, and it is for me at least, a book that I turn to with the same anticipation of reward.

It is not a how to book for the "back to the lander", however there is much in it that will appeal to those readers.

It was published by Council Oak, however they no longer list it on their site, so it may be out of print. Amazon still have copies available.

Another very good publisher of books relevant to this blog is Chelsea Green, I will be reviewing some of their books in future posts.