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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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Norwegian Apple Cake and Lobster Bisque

Norwegian Apple Cake


3/4 cup softened butter

1 cup sugar

1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour

2 eggs, beaten

4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon sugar


  • Cream the sugar with the butter, until light, fluffy and pale golden. Slowly add the beaten eggs and then add flour, bit by bit – mixing well after each addition.
  • Mix gently, pour mixture into greased 9 inch square pan.
  • Peel and slice apples.
  • Place slices on top of the mixture. (Place apple slices as close as possible to each other).
  • Mix sugar and cinnamon.
  • Sprinkle this topping over the apples.
  • Bake for about 60 minutes in a 180C/350F oven, until well risen and golden.
  • This delicious apple cake can be served warm or cold with cream or creme fraiche.
  • It keeps and freezes very well – separate the slices with greaseproof paper for freezing.

Lobster Bisque


  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, celery, and carrot. Cook and stir until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, and season with salt and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Pour the vegetable and broth mixture into the container of a blender, and add 1/4 cup of the lobster meat. (I just used the immersion blender right In the same pot.) Cover, and process until smooth. Return to the saucepan, and stir in the half-and-half, white wine, and remaining lobster meat. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently until thickened, about 30 minutes.

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Naive.Super by Erlend Loe at Jane’s

Definitely a quirky little book that was enjoyed by everyone. As you will see, the book sparked interesting discussions during the meeting and amazing contemplations afterward. Interesting note: This book was chosen because of the antidote that Pete Buttigieg enjoyed this book so much that he taught himself Norwegian to read the other Loe books that had not been translated from Norwegian. Thank you also to Jeanne for bringing us all some of her fantastic pears.

From Karen:

To borrow a quote from “what makes a successful book club”… 

Good books and good friends are two of the yummiest things in my life. I treasure them both. My book club of 30+ years combines these two loves–a gathering of friends who share a love of reading…  Through the highs and lows of life, a constant for all of us has been our book club meetings. Month after month, year after year, these book-loving friends have fueled my tank and rekindled my spirit over and over again. “

These words sum up how I feel about our time together.  We are very lucky to have this club which provides an opportunity to read interesting books and discuss them amongst friends.  Last night’s meeting was delicious, fun and informative.  I would never have found Naïve.Super on my own.  Thanks Jane for introducing us to a deceptively simple story about figuring out how best to live.  The Norwegian meal, music and author’s video rounded out the evening PERFECTLY.

From Jill:

I found it hard to sleep last night, rethinking the evening, the interesting conversations, the delicious Norwegian style delicious lobster bisque and smorgasbord. Above all, our friendship. We come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and I so value and appreciate being part of this inspiring gathering of women, as we share our thoughts and feelings. Naive.Super gave me a perspective into my own life, what is meaningful to me, how I have dealt and continue to, deal with every day life. 

From Jeanne:

I am grateful for our bookclub, it is special and we are blessed to all be part of it. All “good” friends, this is a list that your names will all be on the top:-)It might be fun to do our lists like the ones in Naiive Super. Jeanne has some amazing suggestions for lists and I have written them down in my journal to start compiling.

1. a list of what we have and what we don’t have 2.. a list of qualities for an object that will make us think about nice things, or preferably just smile. 3. a list of what used to excite us when we were younger

4. A list of who we look up to.5. A list of what we know a lot about. 6. A list of animals we’ve seen lol with or without insects this could take a long time!7. A list of what we would paint if we were a painter 8. A list of qualities for something that would redress the damage done by a “bad” friend 9. A list of things we have in our room/house of things we are not using 10. A list of things that should never be animated in a commercial context 11. A list of things we appreciate 12. A list of things that make us happy 13. A list of things that are big and long and tall in a city/ place we visit 14. A list of things we remember from the day 15. A list of companies and products we love

From Erin:

For some reason all these emails reflecting on last night and our many blessings reminded me of Sam, my counselling internship supervisor’s advice to me as I started my new position as therapist at CATC in 2000.  We had become friends following my graduation, and his daughter Alice and wife ‘Ruthie’ became extended family support.  
It was Sam who gave me a reference that landed me the job after staying at home for 13 years with my young children.  One day over lunch, as I described my overwhelmed state with work demands,  Sam suggested I journal using these 3 questions from Rachel Naomi Remen’s ‘Growing New Eyes’ in reflection each day:

  1. WHAT SURPRISED ME TODAY? It surprised me that I found myself thinking about a group of women in book club as supporting and nourishing me in a similar way to the support I received from Sam and his family.
  2. WHAT TOUCHED MY HEART TODAY?  It really touched me to realize how each one of you has crept into my heart
  3. WHAT INSPIRED ME TODAY? As a result I am inspired to begin journalling again.

Here is a link:
“Sam” is Dr. Sarge Horwood, MD … who preferred to be called ‘Sam’ … as he thought it suited him more.  He is an unassuming man although a Harvard educated paediatrician who grew up in Cambridge with the background that implies. Later, his daughter told me, Dr. Benjamin Spock invited him to collaborate on a new edition of his book… which Sam declined… not sure why?  Later, Sam chose to work in the far north of Newfoundland near Gros Morne National Park as lone paediatrician to mostly fly-in communities.  Sam was/is an avid environmentalist…. I would visit him at his house in Westdale, often finding him in overalls mixing his compost piles which he had in big bins in his back garden.  When I first met “Sarge” (still Sarge at that time) he was still doing grand rounds at McMaster Hospital as he had been head of the NICU there prior to branching into counselling… all of which I found out much later after completing my internship. Anyway, needless to say we really connected… and I have countless stories of our families together… and looking back am so appreciative of the special interest he, then Ruthie and daughter Alice (mother’s helper living up the street when we lived in Hamilton)  took in our young family.

Like the Horwood family… our book club has become a place that fosters reflection, appreciation, and provides support and reflection… all of which help me deal with what life brings… the heartaches, the worries, and the gratitude and joy.

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