Monday, November 16, 2009
The Wild Trees by Richard Preston
I have this Ansel Adams print hanging in The Writer's Nook: Redwoods, Bull Creek Flat.
When The Master Baiter and I went to California back in June, and considered spreading my buddy Al's ashes in the Cathedral of the Redwoods, one of the reasons was that it was Al who gave me the Redwoods print as a birthday gift.
It touched me deeply when The Master Baiter presented me with a copy of the book The Wild Trees by Richard Preston, about four months after we were in Humboldt County walking among the most magnificent trees on Earth.
I've been savoring The Wild Trees over the past few weeks. You can tell by the fact that I've only read about 1/3 of the book thus far.
You don't have to be a fan of trees, in general, nor redwoods specifically, to enjoy The Wild Trees. Richard Preston is an exceptional story teller and he did a wonderful job with this book.
These are some of my favorite excerpts...
"By the measure of overall size---the volume of wood--- the largest species of living tree on earth is not the coast redwood but the giant sequoia, a type of cypress that is closely related to the coast redwood. The giant sequoia occurs in sixty-seven small spots on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. (The species name of the tree is Sequoiadendron giganteum.) The giant sequoia thrives in sunshine, and it gets moisture from melting snows. Giant sequoias (mountain trees) and coast redwoods (coastal fog-belt trees) are never found in the same forest."
-Richard Preston, The Wild Trees, page 21
"Bill Denison, who had been the first explorer of the Pacific Northwest canopy, came to the wedding. By then, he had retired and was getting on in years. Denison was a bearded, wiry man, with a powerful voice and a booming laugh, and he wore black-rimmed spectacles. He had become incredibly fond of Steve Sillett, and had gotten to know and like Amanda LeBrun. The couple invited honored guests to say a few words before they exchanged their vows, and Denison got up and, in a loud voice, spoke about partners who climb together for life. 'Marriage is a rope you tie between you,' he said. 'It's like a rope that joins two climbing partners and keeps them from falling. Marriage is about rope management. You have to take care to avoid knots and snarls in the rope that joins you together. You can't keep the rope too tight, but you can't keep it too lose, either. Each of you has to give your partner enough slack for freedom of movement, so that you can both reach the top together.' His voice broke, and tears were running from behind his spectacles."
-Richard Preston, The Wild Trees, page 93
"It is the right and the privilege of an explorer to award names to things. The tallest trees on earth are redwoods in a class of height above 350 feet. A redwood that's more than 350 feet tall is a rare organism. There aren't many of them."
-Richard Preston, The Wild Trees, page 87
"The remaining redwood forests were thought to be virtually unclimbable. The redwoods were visibly dangerous---scary in the extreme, intimidating as trees. A redwood typically does not have any strong branches on the lower part of its trunk, which is just a huge, bare column, sometimes feathered with little branches, stretching upward to an impossibly high canopy. The lowest strong branch on a redwood may be 250 feet above the ground---twenty five stories up. Well into the last decade of the twentieth century, the redwood forest canopy of California was one of the last unseen realms of nature on the planet. Nobody had entered the redwood zone above the level of the ground, except for a college kid named Stephen C. Sillett, who had nearly gotten himself killed there."
-Richard Preston, The Wild Trees, page 57
"'A treetop in a forest, like a mountain peak or a deep canyon, is a remote world that is plainly visible but not easy to explore,' he said."
-Richard Preston, The Wild Trees, page 52
"He was a man who could find beauty in the small, hidden places that still existed on earth, the lost places that nobody had ever noticed. Michael was the stubbornest person she had ever known. He bore a resemblance to the great explorers who had lived in earlier ages, and had been convinced that there was something wonderful still to be found on earth."
-Richard Preston, The Wild Trees, page 89