Monday, May 29, 2017

A lifetime among trees

Gene Logsdon, author of A Sanctuary of Trees, has spent most of his long lifetime among trees. As a boy, trees were his playground, as the cover photograph illustrates. Later they became his classroom, where to this day he continues to learn their lessons. He has eaten food produced by his own trees, used trees to make everything from fence posts to furniture for his wood home among the trees and heated his Ohio home with wood from those trees since 1979. Mostly trees are his sanctuary, where he feels most at home and most at peace.

As a young man he flirted with the idea of becoming a priest, until he realized the main appeal of the seminary he attended was that it was set in a wooded area. When later he became a staff writer for Farm Journal, he and his wife were required to live in Philadelphia. Yet they managed to find a house on a wooded lot adjacent to other wooded lots. Later he returned to Ohio to the very woods he knew as a boy, and he has since made his living as a professional writer.

Although he loves trees, Logsdon doesn't see the cutting of trees as the evil that many others do. Trees have a way of coming back. He calls them "big weeds" at one point. They grow whether you want them or not. Even with all the trees being cut down for firewood and to clear land for development, he says, the number of trees in the United States is actually on the rise. He speaks of "urban forests," those acres of trees found in most cities, towns and subdivisions in America.

Logsdon's book is part memoir and part meditation, but it is mostly a handy guide for identifying trees, growing trees and using trees for all their many benefits. He advocates returning to a wood-based culture, and he tells how to go about doing just that. How much wooded acreage do you need to heat your home with wood, yet not deplete your woodland? How do you build a fire in a fireplace? How can you turn your trees into money? Logsdon answers these questions, and many more you would have never thought to ask.

"When I look at a tree, I find it difficult to think of it as a plant," he writes. "It looks like pure magic to me." Like trees, Logsdon's book has a bit of magic in it.

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