Tuesday, September 13, 2016


I've been reading Barkskins by Annie Proulx for our book club. Barkskins is about the deforestation of the world beginning in the 17th century and ending in 2013. How ironic that the naval orange tree in our front yard has been dying rapidly right in front of my eyes as I read about the great forests being cleared from our globe. Every time I look up from the book, the tree looks worse. Yesterday, Richard had the gardener slice off all the branches and the root/stump people will take out the rest.

Barkskins is a vast saga and involves hundreds of characters whose multi-generational family stories wind in and out of the tale of the trees. There are two strongly opposing points of views of the world which set the initial stage for the story: the Indians who believed people should live in harmony with the forests and the Christian settlers who believed there was a biblical mandate to clear the land. A tome, the book is 713 pages long, most of which is entertaining. It bogs down in spots, depending on your interests. 

Annie has incorporated many of her personal passions in the book: genealogy, forests, survival, women's rights. She and I share a French-Canadian ancestry and I looked through my genealogy documents to see if I could find a Proulx in my family. No such luck, but I did note that Zacharie Cloutier, one of the first of my family to immigrate to Canada from Saint-Jon-Baptiste de Mortagne in Perche, France, signed his name with a mark shaped like an axe. This fact is interesting if you read the book, as axe-making was crucial to the first French-Canadians who were clearing the land. The quality of the axe played a huge part in how fast and efficiently one could fell a tree. Stretching my imagination a bit, I could see my own relatives, rope makers and axe men, woven into the story. 

A gaping hole remains where the pretty tree, laden with oranges used to preside over our front courtyard. It's left a horrible empty space in our view and the new tree, soon to be planted, will take years to fill it.

Out of curiousity, I wondered how much is a tree estimated to be worth in hard cash, never mind aesthetics. From Nowak et al:  "Compensatory Value of Urban Trees in the United States" I found these figures derived from a complex formula...

In Atlanta, GA: $394
In Baltimore, MD: $1,187

Here's another interesting chart which reveals the per capita forest area in hectares per person, around the world. A hectare is roughly 2.5 acres.  

"So read it, absorb it's urgent message—and try not to think about all the trees that probably went into those 713 pages." Quote from the New York Times book review by Annalisa Quinn. I'm not losing sleep from guilt as I read the book on my iPhone, iPad and Mac, easily moving from one to the other as Kindle cleverly and efficiently takes note of exactly where I leave off on each device. No trees used. 


  1. She is one of my very favorite authors.

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