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Pickle Me This

January 14, 2012

Rambling among the trees

“The purpose of this bulletin is to make it easier for people to become personally acquainted with our trees. It is believed that the securing of the interest of the people of the province in trees will be an aid toward an understanding of the importance to us of our forests, and thus pave the way for support of forestry principles.” –J.H. White, Toronto 1925

Which is from the preface to The Forest Trees of Ontario (1957 edition) which I found last winter in a cardboard box on Major Street and took home even though it smells like a basement. I love this book, though I confess I don’t know a papaw from a sassafras.

“When I’m in Toronto, I always drop in at the Monkey’s Paw Bookstore. Stephen Fowler, the owner, has an incredible eye. (I recently came back with a book of transcribed seance sessions, a history of women in uniform, a treatise on baking, and a book of party games for adults.) He had this book called the Native Trees of Canada displayed on a table. I flipped through it, and I immediately knew I needed to buy it. It was a government volume: unmediated and strictly informational. It was filled with very sterile, black and white pictures of leaves, placed on a grid for scale. While looking at them, I had vivid memories of picking at maple seeds on my front lawn, of wet leaves stuck to my shoes, of fallen leaves blowing through the screen door. I knew I wanted to paint them. “– Leanne Shapton, “The Native Trees of Canada”, Paris Review Blog, November 2010

Leanne’s Shapton’s book of paintings is Native Trees of Canada and it’s beautiful. And if there are two of us out there appreciating these old government-issued volumes, there are bound to be more. Which gives me faith in the world, actually, in readers and books, and the trees whose lives were given so that we can read pages. (Even old ones that smell like basements.)

Also, I have also discovered that the maple in our backyard is a black maple.

(See also my Tree Books list at Canadian Bookshelf, whose compilation brought Shapton’s book to my attention in the first place.)

“It is hoped that the bulletin will combine instruction with recreation for all who care to go rambling among the trees.” –J.H. White

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