When I was a boy, growing up in apartheid Johannesburg, “nature” for me meant the pine plantations my father ran on the Eastern Transvaal escarpment. I remember being about ten, running barefoot on the carpet of needles in the light filtered by these trees marching out into a geometric infinity that inspired my awe. Retrospectively, the only other childhood experience I can relate this to is that of sitting with my father in the Great Synagogue on Wolmarans Street, looking up at the vaulted ceilings while the cantor sang.

Even if the forest and the shul failed to evoke the divine for me, they gave me my first sense of volume, my place in a bigger world, but a man-made one of course, since I knew that my father had planted the trees and that they were destined for the Acme sawmill in the Sabie valley — where I had watched, in another kind of awe, the way the machines stripped them of their majesty and turned them into objects of use...

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