Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Really Tall Trees

The October 2009 issue of National Geographic features "The Tallest Trees: Redwoods" and describes how invaluable these remarkable and beautiful trees can be to our economy and our culture. I lived in Oregon for five years and had the chance to see them close at hand. Perhaps you have seen them too, craning your neck trying to spy the tops!

Did you know that New England used to have huge trees like the redwoods? I first learned about this element of our regional history when I read Diana Appelbaum's Giants in the Land. Elegant, tall white pine trees grew in the New England woods for thousands of years, until the eighteenth century when the British needed the trees for their navy's ships. These enormous pine trees became masts that were "40 inches wide at the base, 120 feet tall, and absolutely straight." The story of their harvesting and transportation back to England is an astonishing one. Michael McCurdy's scratch-board illustrations are dramatic and memorable. Today we are left to consider if we can "Step into the woods" and see if the "giants are growing" again in New England.

Making a connection between a current article in a magazine or news story and a favorite book from my past is always a treat. Take a look at the October issue of National Geographic and visit the library to see Giants in the Land. You'll be pleased to learn that New England's ancient pines shared with the redwoods the distinction of being remarkably tall, beautiful, useful trees.