Winner of the 2021 John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Natural History Writing
"This deeply nourishing book invites us to reclaim reciprocity with the living world." —Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass
Once, farmers and rural people knew how to prune hazel to foster abundance: both of edible nuts and of straight, strong, flexible rods for bridges, walls, and baskets. Townspeople felled their beeches to make charcoal to fuel ironworks. Shipwrights shaped oaks to make hulls. No place could prosper without its inhabitants knowing how to cut their trees so they would sprout again.
Pruning the trees didn’t destroy them. Rather, it created the healthiest, most sustainable and diverse woodlands that we have ever known. Arborist William Bryant Logan offers us both practical knowledge about how to live with trees to mutual benefit and hope that humans may again learn what the persistence and generosity of trees can teach. He recovers the lost tradition that sustained human life and culture for ten millennia.
In this educational and reassuring volume on ecology and sustainability, New York City arborist Logan (Air: The Restless Shaper of the World) sets out to explain processes of regeneration and ways in which trees feed off one another. He observes that though "a tree is in a forest... there is also a forest in each tree," in that "every new branch arises on its parent's stem in exactly the same way that its first parent arose from the dirt." When the trunk of almost any leafy tree or shrub breaks, burns, or is cut low, the author notes, it will inevitably sprout again. Logan, a San Francisco Bay area native, returns to a favorite childhood spot on the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park to reacquaint himself with the impressive trees there, and also visits UC Berkeley to examine those near the campus's clock tower and gather insight on pruning and maintenance. In subsequent chapters, Logan goes abroad, to, among other countries, Spain and Japan, the latter boasting a number of revered coppice oak forests. Logan's graceful survey will reassure nature-loving readers that, even in the face of devastating wildfires, nature can set itself again on the right course. With 15 b&w illus.