This blog gives voice to the trees that surround us, spooky in their silence, and delves into history as a living, breathing thing. It explores the culture of arboriculture and of conservation. It takes what I see as I go about my day and gives it some context in what I hope is an entertaining way. I post every day (or just about) and always use plenty of photography.
If I could dedicate a blog to a place, it would have to be The Cabin, where I launched my three most recent books and developed a fascination with the outdoors that led to me becoming an arborist. It was an 18th-century log structure on six wilderness acres. The logs had been patched many times, the kitchen was in the basement and the outhouse (a two-seater) was crumbling, but the Cabin was the perfect perch from which to fly to times gone by. It was here that I wrote my two historical suspense novels, The Orphanmaster and Savage Girl. both set eons ago in Manhattan, and Love, Fiercely, which focused on the eccentric who compiled what is still the finest (and lengthiest) tome ever written about New York.
In this tiny cabin in the woods, 50 miles due north of New York City, some feverish activity took place. We called ourselves the slipper people, my husband and I – Gil being a writer, too — because all day long we hunched over our computers churning out the next best seller. We never had to get out of our slippers.
It seems sudden now but it must have come upon me gradually. The reality that there was a whole green world out there. We had six acres of woods, a towering magnolia that flushed pink in spring, box turtles that preferred a certain sandy spot alongside our driveway to lay their eggs. Still, becoming an arborist–and spending my days in workbooks rather than slippers!–was a different direction than I ever imagined when I started as a writer.
Earlier in my life, my experience of trees was confined to the mundane, on the one hand, or the spectacular. Trees were the giants that streamed along almost every highway in America. I couldn’t tell you the names of any species aside from oak or maple, and my knowledge of those two was limited–one turned brown in autumn and one blazed with color.
Now I went to work for a tree company that operated in the five boroughs of New York, embracing a new life that would include delicate lindens, craggy honeylocusts, soaring oaks. I saw the soil beneath these trees’ roots, and the gnarled, venerable roots themselves. I admired the pruners who performed aerial feats above my head, and re-visualized New York as an Eden of branching, breathing species. Then, as I made my way around off the job, outside New York City, I took a new hands-on look at grand old trees, street trees, leaves and seeds and stems. The surreal beauty of a honey locust.
What interests me is not only the biology of a grand old copper beech, but its culture–all the people that slipped under those sinuous hanging branches over time to carve their initials in its bark.