I’ve been raving about Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard to friends for a while now so wanted to share some thoughts on this occasional review section of the OUTSIDER blog.
Some elements of this book are difficult to read, especially explicit detailing of scientific experiments made in commercial forests through the spraying of toxic glyphosate herbicides designed to kill off all other plants who might be ‘stealing’ nutrients from trees marked for harvest.
Simard writes, “I stared at my feet because both of us crying would hurt too much. These plants were my allies, not my enemies. I raced over the reasons for doing this to justify them in my mind. I wanted to learn to do an experiment. I wanted to be a forest detective. This was for the greater good, for ultimately saving the seedlings. I would have proof that this [herbicide spraying] was a stupid practice and be able to tell the government to investigate other avenues for helping seedlings to grow.”
This is a book about trees, but also one woman’s absolute determination to change the traditional paradigm of scientific understanding on the connectedness within forests.
I found this entire story utterly inspirational, even in the face of established scientists and government agencies (all men) mansplaining her supposed errors, she continued speaking and gathering information from outside the patriarchal, colonialist narrative, “The Coast Salish people think trees have a personhood too. They teach that the forest is made of many nations living side by side in peace, each contributing to this earth … [they] say that the trees also teach about their symbiotic nature.”
This is a beautiful herstory of tenacity of spirit and a deep connection to the trees, but also about being a wife and mother and balancing that with the passion for her work, and coping with life-threatening illness. I felt deeply emotional when reading, perhaps also because learning of Suzanne made me resolve to be more outspoken about my connection with trees – there’s a comfort in knowing so many of us are out there, sharing the unique and powerful ways in which trees speak to us.
Photo is with 300yr old sycamore 🌳