In her fine biography, John Fowles : A Life in Two Worlds, Eileen Warburton writes of the great novelist and naturalist's frequent walks, during which he often "plunged into the woods, cutting his way off the path, secateurs in hand. He led friends out along the cliffs, and left them bewildered, as as he charged off to examine some new discovery, moving quickly out of sight."
Fowles's approach to the territory he explored with his typewriter was much the same as the terrain he entered with his secateurs — off the known paths, in search of discoveries.
The right tool, as it were, for the particular job.
And the right name — le nom juste! — for the right tool.
When I slide the latch open and use mine near the house they are pruning shears, and reliable ones that have served me well for years. They take and hold an edge well, and other than sharpening have required very little in the way of maintenance.Good pruning shears.
But when I leave the vicinity of the house and yard, the same tool magically becomes my secateurs, a lovely word for a lovely tool. With "secateurs in hand" I can press deep into the woods, and do so in at least occasional, if unworthy, company with the great naturalists of the past.
I carry my secatuers with me almost everywhere and have used them on everything from vines and branches to rusted strands of ancient barbed wire discovered deep in the woods, far removed in space and time from any clearing that would need to be fenced..
I have many tools that I love, but this may be the tool I love the very best.
I wonder, now that John Fowles's personal library is being sold, what became of his no doubt equally cherished secateurs. I hope that they found a good and appreciative — and an owner who carries them, and a bit of John Fowles with them, at least occasionally off the easy path.