The Overstory by Richard Powers, hosted by Moira, Sept 30, 2021

From Moira:

Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful, insightful contributions to our discussion- I am so impressed that everyone read the book and I hope it stays with you and continues to resonate for a long time as it has for me.

From Jeanne:

Yes, it was a wonderful book club evening!! I’m adding my appreciation for Dean and his bbqing skills, altogether a great meal Moira and thank you for the thoughtful meat free menu. What I love about this book, aside from; the trees, the beautiful language and the impact that it has on almost everyone that reads it, is the message that there are so many levels in which change can happen and even the most insignificant seeming thought/word/action can have a significant effect which may not show up for generations, or be recognized ever, but that is how change happens. The understory and the overstory and all the stories in between have purpose. The ripple effect of kindness or a smile, the impact of one meatless meal, one choice that is made with an extra variable; nature, in mind, one tiny conscious thought all work their way through communication networks like the fungi and bacteria that spread invisibly through roots and underground systems, like the pheromones and signals through which trees talk to each other, like the wind and rain and like the ebb and flow of life and decay. I think our book club is an illustration, how our awareness of nature has progressed, no less and no greater than every other part, and our responsibility to respect and keep our activities in some kind of balance with nature will evolve. Whether this will be fast enough to save the species and the earth will be revealed in tree time. I’m very happy we are having these conversations and hope we will continue to up our energy and action towards issues that impact the future of our beautiful planet.

From Karen:

First, I must say we should consider making Dean an honorary member of our book club.  He has always smiled through our visits (even though we can be rowdy), has made the best martinis (remember Anna Karenina?) and now has demonstrated his expertise with the barbecue!   Moira, please thank him for putting up with us.  Very much appreciated. And as Bev and Jill attest below, our evening together was another great success.  Thanks, Moira, for your power point presentation (could you please send me the file so that I can put it on our blog?), and the yummy dinner.  You proved that you don’t need meat to make a meal delicious.  The conversation was stimulating and I too learn so much from everyone’s opinions.  And the story couldn’t be timelier.  I shall reflect on its themes today as I work in the garden.  Coincidentally I planted a Japanese Maple yesterday.  May it gain strength and life force from the surrounding trees and live happily in my garden for many years to come.

From Jill:

What a great evening that was. As usual after our book club meetings, I mull and consider everyone’s thoughts and opinions. I enjoy hearing different perspectives on the chosen book and learn so much more than my own personal opinion.
Thank you, Moira, for giving such an informative and detailed research background about the characters who in their individuality gave so much of themselves to protect the trees.
I learned a lot from this book, and how much human beings are involved in trying to protect and save these majestic beauties, all such a very necessary part of our environment and climate. Moira your meal was perfect and delicious for an early fall evening.
I have a documentary recording by Judi Dench about her passion for trees, that I watch occasionally.
She hires a man who is the head of the tree collection at Kew Gardens to learn more about her trees.
She says that since she was a little girl, she has always adored trees.
She talks and learns about they live, breathe and communicate. How they survive the harshest winters and what she can hear within the bark, (a special horn device is used that is put against the trunk and one listens through the other end of the horn, to hear water travelling up the bark. A mature tree needs up to 200 litres of water a day) to how they fight back against disease and how woodlands have shaped our history, and how trees live in communities. She’s heard of a tree that is 5000 years old. Imagine that.
On her property Judi Dench has nurtured her trees since she’s lived there. She is most attached to her beloved oak. I can well understand how she feels about her trees.  I have read The Hidden Life of Trees, so much to learn and understand about the majestic beauties that help to save our planet.

From Bev:

So good to see everyone in person. The hamburgers really hit the spot on a coolish fall evening. Thanks for hosting Moira. Great book choice. It seems in many ways all of us have developed a love of trees and this book was amazing in sharing with us the hidden life of trees. I will never see them the same way. It breaks my heart to see the devastations logging has had on our old growth forests. And even more so the impact it is having on our climate. > Thank you for using the closed captioning. I try to catch the gist of our conversations but must admit it can be a challenge and if my comments seem to come out of left field thank you for bearing with me. I enjoyed the way the author wove each character’s story into the narrative. As story telling is a profound way to change minds and hearts. Each character came from such a different space and yet they found themselves in a life changing struggle to save the trees at huge cost to themselves personally. Jeanne does a great job of story telling as she shares her thoughts and struggles making a discernible difference in fighting climate change in her blog. I am in awe of the challenges she sets for herself. I personally am not doing enough.

I am currently reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Fascinating! And available at the library. Much of his work and the work of Dr Simard the Canadian botanist are referred to in the book. A very interesting and enjoyable read. I will never look at a tree standing alone in a field the same way.  Those who choose to march to a different drummer often face ridicule, harassment, isolation even imprisonment. I think of Mimi sitting day after day alone in self isolation; recalling the protest and haunted by the past and uncertain of her future. I guess we are all uncertain of our future.

From Jane:

Thanks, Moira, for the great evening and plant-based meal – I did find the book challenging (and long for my ever-shrinking attention span 😎) but as always, your insightful preparation and the book club members made me glad that we pick challenging books with such important themes. I keep thinking about this book and am now more aware of the echoes in real life that I am hearing and feeling everyday. It is easy to think that management of the earth resources/climate is too difficult and overwhelming to solve but we cannot give up and I am resolved to increase my efforts.

From Erin:

Moira et al,

The discussion has been percolating with me for 5 days now… and my delay is a reflection of my slow digestion of the richness of our gathering. I am struck by:

  • The timeliness of this book discussion given it took place on the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation… the understory of our presence on this continent… and the intertwining of indigenous practices with this understory of trees… and the earth, as their understanding is of being one with the earth… coming from and returning to the earth… in that way trees are a part of us, as we are a part of trees.
  • the spiritual aspect of trees and old growth forests and the vast biodiversity and the capacity for healing of that riches, either through medicinal qualities of specific plants, or simply by soaking in their presence…. today I was reading an article about the Japanese practice of “shinrin-yoku,” which literally translates to “forest bath”.

and so much more than I can articulate but that we all feel on some level… the spirituality and majesty of the ancient… an appreciation for all that is gained through years of existence… whether it be forests or the elders of our fleeting human life … and an appreciation of earned understandings that come with fully embraced and timelessness of an “in-the-moment” life journey. Thank you for welcoming us into your space for rich reflections and digestions… I am honoured to be a part and partaker.  

From Laura:

Thanks Moira (and Dean for co-hosting in the background). It really was a memorable evening, and the presentation, the meal, the discussion and the company were all such a pleasure in these times of staying at home. I read The Overstory a couple of years ago and was immediately struck by the image of thousands of hectares of virgin forests, and the loss of the beauty of it all as well as the Indigenous cultures that lived there. It’s a sobering thought to realize what it has all come to now. I was so impressed with what I learned about trees from the novel that I immediately bought several books about the wonder of trees and the history of the Indigenous peoples of North America for my grandsons. (Does anyone remember “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein? Not the best book, but a good lesson in how incredibly useful trees are to mankind.) Also, it was timely that I was away in B.C. the week prior to the meeting, where forestry is a huge component of their economy. Due to the pandemic and the forest fires, we stayed in very quiet areas in the area known as the Sunshine Coast, where a lot of the properties are accessed only by water. We took a plane trip up to the community of Bella Bella, which is fairly remote by our standards, and if you don’t mind, I’m attaching a small photo album of a few of the sights we saw. I was constantly struck by the beauty of it and of how we must find ways to actively protect what is left. I hope some of the images enhance what Richard Powers conveyed in his story.

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