• Winner of the BC National Award for Non-Fiction
• Nominated for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction and the 2011 Hilary Weston Writer's Trust Award.
During Charlotte Gill’s 20 years working as a tree planter she encountered hundreds of clear-cuts, each one a collision site between human civilization and the natural world, a complicated landscape presenting geographic evidence of our appetites. Charged with sowing the new forest in these clear-cuts, tree planters are a tribe caught between the stumps and the virgin timber, between environmentalists and loggers.
In Eating Dirt, Gill offers up a slice of tree-planting life in all of its soggy, gritty exuberance while questioning the ability of conifer plantations to replace original forests, which evolved over millennia into intricate, complex ecosystems. Among other topics, she also touches on the boom-and-bust history of logging and the versatility of wood, from which we have devised countless creations as diverse as textiles and airplane parts. She also eloquently evokes the wonder of trees, our slowest-growing “renewable” resource and joyously celebrates the priceless value of forests and the ancient, ever-changing relationship between humans and trees.
"Wherever men make it their business to cut down trees," Gill writes, "chances are you'll find people who make a job of putting them back." In this admirable and occasionally poetic account, the reforester recalls her years spent with "Johnny Appleseeds for hire." They are an itinerant group, they aren't unionized, and they have "no benefits, no holidays. When the work runs out we're laid off." She details their efforts in Canadian forests, planting in rough-and-rugged areas that had previously been clear-cut, and though Gill (author of the short story collection Ladykiller) admits the experience is grueling, she finds satisfaction in it. She likes the feel of the soil between her fingers, and she describes the "rituals and routines of planting" as being "as familiar to me as boiling water or brushing my teeth." Interestingly and refreshingly enough, Gill steers clear of politics for the most part. She makes little mention of environmental policy, for example, choosing instead to focus on the ordinary people whose actions speak volumes. The trees they plant each year "shimmy in the wind. There, we say. We did this with our hands. We didn't make millions, and we didn't cure AIDS. But at least a thousand new trees are breathing." For that, she can be proud and it makes for a good story.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Pure descriptive poetry interspersed with compact facts & tales of work In the woods. The author praises work that is worthwhile and laments that it is ultimately unfortunate. A true portrayal.
Walk a mile in my shoes
I saw you on the crew boat or someone who could have been, you try to find a space to sit amongst the loggers and they grudgingly give way, after all this is their turf, and we have to crowd together to make room for those darn tree planters. But we are all on the same page once we get off the dock and jump into our crummys and head out to our jobs. What is the weather going to bring today, will everyone make it back in one piece?
This book is so well written and it spoke to me on so many levels.
As a Women, as a Forestry Worker, as someone who has watched this industry try evolve into a better corporate player, that is listening to the environmentalists and First Nations.
Well done, you hit all the right notes
Extremely well written. The author has great way with description and a fabulous vocabulary. Great read!