I am enthralled with Richard Powers’ 2018 book “The Overstory”. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction so I’m not the only one who likes it a lot. I’m not finished with it yet, so can’t guarantee that it won’t let me down in some way before I’m done, but I don’t see how it could. The writing is gorgeous, the characters interesting, and the “overstory” itself is about trees.
I’ve always loved trees, but Powers has educated me immensely about them and their contribution to our life on earth. I’ve even been driven to look back through some of my photographs to see how frequently I focused on trees, and what miraculous things they are. Their variety, sizes, shapes, textures, and colors are only the visible evidence of their beauty; what they DO is nothing short of mind-bending. The recent news of the number of trees being lost in the Amazon and the devastating environmental effect of that loss to the world makes this book even more timely and important. And besides, it’s an imaginative, descriptive and thought-provoking wonder. It’s been a long time since I felt that way about a book.
I like to walk in the woods and think they are all lovely, but they are certainly not all the same. Sequoia National Park is a prize, created in 1890 as America’s second oldest national park, to protect the area from logging. Thank you Congress.
I thought I had seen sequoias before, but I hadn’t; I’d seen redwoods. Redwoods are found in their natural habitat along the Pacific Coast, while sequoias grow naturally only on the west side of California’s Sierra Nevada range, usually in elevations of 5000-7000 feet, per the National Park Service brochure. There are other differences as well, but to me the massive trunk of the sequoia, with its roots visibly branching out from its base, is their most obvious identifying feature. There are other tree species that are taller and live longer, but in total wood volume the giant sequoia is the world’s largest living tree. It is impossible to appreciate their size without standing next to them. They are amazingly impervious to most insects and fungi and their thick bark saves them from most fire damage. The main cause of their demise is a shallow root system, which makes them susceptible to toppling.
A walk in a sequoia grove is a conjuration of the supernatural and immersion in a magic spell.