February 9th, 2009 at 10:19 am
This book is something else.
This is my kind of Pleasure Reading.
Not in recent memory can I recall a book that enthralled and engaged me more. And it’s about plants.
Not just any plants, of course, but Sequoia sempervirens, coast redwoods, the largest and tallest organisms ever. Ever.
As excited as I got about these gigantic beasts and the lichens, cyanobacteria, fungus, plants, and animals they support within their dense, unexplored canopies, what was really captivating about The Wild Trees was the crazy fucks who climb them. Now, these trees are 360-370 feet tall with branches not extending from them until 150 or 200 feet above the ground.
“I’ve been skateboarding practically all my life. But I can’t do it forever. So I decided to study epiphytes in trees,” is how one such crazy climber puts it.
An epiphyte is of course a plant that grows on another plant, typically on the branches of a tree, without parasitizing it. The roots of an epiphyte do not touch the ground.
And if epiphytes don’t tickle your pickle, the thought of climbing and exploring these incredible trees will; living in them, knowing them, making love in them.
It’s quite a story. A story told by Richard Preston with clear, affectionate prose. It’s a marvelous story, one that reminds me of tales such as The Happiest Man in the World.
Because though Thoreau said that the majority of man lead lives of quiet desperation, again and again I read books like The Wild Trees that illuminate a thriving and fascinating world of “normal” people participating in magnificent feats of passionate, daring adventure.
Thoreau be damned.