Read a book about trees cover to cover? Not likely. Except, perhaps, My Life with Trees.
Like a field guide, Gary Saunders introduces most of our eastern trees chapter by chapter, noting habitats and characteristics, heights and life-spans, uses by wildlife and people.
The gift of this book, however, is that Saunders weaves these details into engaging stories, from his Newfoundland childhood home, to his Nova Scotia woodlot and his Labrador travels. A firewood-cutting trip with his father, an afternoon in his grandfather’s barrel-making workshop and making alder whistles for kids come to life in poetic detail. Some descriptive passages are as good as any I’ve read.
Quibbles? A better proofread may have smoothed out typos and saved a Robert Frost stanza. Saunders is a talented artist and I wanted to see his work illustrate some of the trees described. A forest ecologist might fault the role Saunders attributes to fire and his notion that the decline in beech caused a rise in red maple. Also, Saunders mistakenly notes that environmentalist Elizabeth May won a court battle over forest spraying in the 1980s (and attributes this to a loss of logging jobs). In reality, May lost the case.
In summary, Saunders’ superb storytelling and poetic passages will enthral most anyone who picks up the book — tree nut or not.
My Life with Trees
by Gary Saunders
$28.95, paperback, 256 pp.
Gaspereau Press, October 2015