Sunday, October 7, 2007
The Wild Trees
I once spent an awestruck afternoon in Muir Woods, but that was on the ground looking up and up and up. Richard Preston's book The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring tells of people who hunt for giant trees, then climb them, study them, sleep in them (in specially made hammocks), get married in them, and hang from ropes looped over branches hundreds of feet from the ground. You want them not to fall (some do) so you can learn more about what it's like to go where they go--where no humans have gone before. There are a few too many names in the book, and the narrative moves around in time a bit much, but it's a fascinating tale of exploration and discovery; these men (and one woman) are vertical Marco Polos. Preston himself is an expert tree climber who has passed on that gene of desire to his own children; they take exotic climbing trips as a family. He tells us more than I wanted to know about the personal lives of the people in the book, but the science is deeply interesting, and when he describes the trees themselves--their height and mass and majesty, the gardens that grow in them, how impossibly old they are--he approaches poetry.
Richard Preston's Web site includes interviews, a photo gallery, and excerpts from the book read by the author