New York Times Book Review: another great shout out for Witness Tree
The June 4 edition of the New York Times Book Review includes a wonderful recognition for Witness Tree, in a round up of books about the outdoors:
“The intriguing, and more intimate, WITNESS TREE: Seasons of Change With a Century-Old Oak (Bloomsbury, $27), by Lynda V. Mapes, portrays trees as “scribes, diarists, historians.” They are “among our oldest journalists.” A reporter herself, covering environmental issues for The Seattle Times, Mapes sets out to tell the story of climate change through one tree. But that is, marvelously, the least of it.
She finds her oak in the Harvard Forest in Massachusetts and spends a year with it, telling of the farm on which it grew, twisting up out of a stone wall, and drawing forth people devoted to befriending and studying trees. They are the tree’s interpreters. Bob Leverett, a former Air Force engineer and a “committed big-tree hunter,” arrives to take measurements and tells Mapes, “I need trees for my emotional stability and health.” He bemoans all we have lost in the destruction of ancient forests: “We have robbed a species of its dignity.”
Mapes is a graceful writer. She describes “the quiet finesse” of a tree; “the fructifying funk” at the base of an oak; the “wand of time” that is a core sample drilled out to ascertain age; the “choring and the weariness” in the diary of a 19th-century farmer’s wife; a spider that has “rappelled gracefully” off her glasses. She is spending so much time with her tree that it’s becoming a part of her; she sheds it only when she goes indoors at night.
The natural world is an unimpeachable witness, and we would be wise to heed its testimony. “We are not separate from nature,” Mapes writes, and in this she echoes what the artists and scientists and gardeners are telling us too. “We are of it, and in it, and we need an ethical framework to match.”
Delighted to see the book get this national recognition for the second time, the book review also gave Witness Tree a lovely mention in the spring books guide.