One of the first things writer Ariel Gordon did during Monday’s meeting of the Winnipeg Free Press Book Club was confess that her popular book Treed contained a major error. Ariel had written that Winnipeg has more than 8 million trees when in actual fact only 3.3 million trees populate the city. The mistake wasn’t Ariel’s fault because just after her book came out a new method for counting urban trees was implemented and it was discovered the former estimate of 8 million trees in Winnipeg was way off the mark.
I was glad to learn Ariel had made a mistake because after reading her book I was determined to follow her suggestion to develop friendships with individual trees in Winnipeg. Ariel wrote that if you divided the number of trees in the city by the number of citizens we’d each have eleven trees to call our own. I admit that number seemed somewhat daunting to me. How could I maintain friendships with eleven trees? Using the new figures however I only need to get to know four Winnipeg trees in an intimate way. I figure I can handle that!
How to make friends with trees is only one of many interesting things you learn while reading Treed by Ariel Gordon. In fact I wondered after I had finished the book why she called it Treed because she writes about so many other fascinating things. Mushrooms are another passion of Ariel’s and in her book you can read about her adventure harvesting mushrooms at the former home of the famous Winnipeg suffragette Nellie McClung.
Ariel is the kind of person who takes note of every living thing that shares her space. In one chapter of her book she is staying in a house in Langruth Manitoba and she writes about how she notices the exoskeletons of three orange ladybugs on the carpet, the buzzing flies on the walls, the swooping blackbirds and trembling aspens outside her window, the lowing of the neighbour’s cows and the golden raptor hovering over their stubble field. I think one of the most important things I learned from Ariel’s book was to take more deliberate notice of the living things all around me.
Treed does contain many chapters that relate to Winnipeg trees. Ariel writes about the delights of the Assiniboine Forest, the history of Winnipeg’s famous Wolseley Elm, the fate of the trees in Central Park, weaving baskets from bark collected from dogwood trees on the banks of the Red River, the 11,000 Christmas trees the city recycles each year, the fact our city’s hydro poles come from trees and both how Winnipeg’s urban forest impacts climate change and how climate change impacts the urban forest.
In my very favourite passage in the book Ariel compares her relationship with her husband Mike to the seasonal cycle of a crabapple tree that stood on the yard of her childhood home.
If I had to criticize Ariel’s book it would be that she tantalizes the reader with bits of other stories that leave you yearning for more. Could you please write another book Ariel about your naturalist great grandfather who died in Antarctica studying whales and seals? I’d love to see you publish the poem you promised to a family who had lost men from two generations to war. Could you bring us up to date with a current news story about your frightening discovery of lead poisoning in St. Boniface?
As you can tell I really enjoyed Ariel’s book Treed and now that I realize she made a mistake with the Winnipeg tree count and I only need to befriend four Winnipeg trees I fully plan to do that. I’ll let you know how it goes.