Su Blackwell in More Intelligent Life:
It begins with a family argument at the dinner table. The year is 1767, and in a mansion in Liguria a small boy is taking a stand. Cosimo, our 12-year-old hero, refuses to eat the dish of snails that has been set before him. His father, the Baron Arminio Piovasco di Rondò, whose horsehair wig flaps over his ears, is in no mood for dissent. But Cosimo pushes away his plate, rises from the table, picks up his tricorn and rapier, runs out into the garden and climbs the great holm oak whose branches spread beyond the windows of the dining room. “I’ll never come down again!” he cries. And he never does. From the holm oak, Cosimo clambers into a nearby elm tree; from the elm to a carob, from the carob to a mulberry, from the mulberry to a magnolia—and then he is beyond the curtilage of his father’s property, and into the immense forests of late-18th-century Europe. Up in that continent-wide canopy, Cosimo learns how to sleep, eat and wash at altitude, and how to fish and farm without setting foot on the earth. His legend as a levitator spreads; followers join him, and he founds an informal republic of the trees. For 53 years he haunts the branches, “Il Barone rampante”, looking down as Europe is wracked by revolution.
Imagine it. Imagine taking to the trees and staying there. It speaks to two dreams grained deep into many of us. The dream of escape to a forest Utopia (Robin Hood, Francois Truffaut’s “Enfant Sauvage”), and the dream of the wildwood—an impossibly vast forest as yet unruptured by roads and unschismed by settlements, through which you might travel for days in any direction.