by Charlotte Gill – $19.95
“Eating Dirt” is a beautiful, absorbing and knowledgeable book written by a dedicated tree planter. Gill’s language conveys the life of tree planters with both word images and facts:
“Very early morning in February on Vancouver Island, the sun comes up weakly in a sky dark and swollen with rain. We fall out of our beds driven by a mutual urgency and dress in our clothes still crusted with the grime of yesterday. Promptly at seven we climb into an old Ford pickup truck to be driven to our assigned area of the day. And begin planting our seedlings to start the reforesting of our ruthlessly clear-cut land. Today only one-third of the world’s original forests remain.”
“Most of us are young, here to make money, a lot of it in a hurry. Twenty-five cents for every seedling planted. From February until October every day we plant seedlings, leaving camp at dawn and returning at dusk to eat our food and fall into our cots, still wearing wet muddy clothes. Too tired to wash or change. Some of us, most of us, stay. When the new group arrives, it doesn’t take long to size up who will stay the term.”
“Planting trees isn’t hard work but the complications are very hard: rain, wind, snow pellets, clouds of furious biting insects, venomous plants like stinging nettles, hornets, leeches and ticks, bears, hornets and sunburn.”
Gill’s writing is very descriptive about the landscape, vegetation and sky. Her language is so eloquent that the reader is transported to the land, breathing in the smell of woods, moss, and old and new vegetation.
Throughout the book, Gill also describes her tree planting tribe, from the single mom to the two oldsters, men in their fifties. She also reveals the tensions in their relationships with each other and with their bosses.
Gill’s passion for tree planting is almost palpable. One particular paragraph clearly describes what she sees as the gift of a job others might find horrible:
“Some people think planting trees is as boring and crazy making as stuffing envelopes or climbing a Stairmaster. I love my job for exactly the opposite reason, because it is so full of things. There are so many living creatures to touch and smell and look at in the field that it is often a little intoxicating. A setting so full of all-enveloping sensations that it just sweeps you and spirits you away, like Vegas does to gamblers or Mount Everest does to climbers. It has a way of filling up a life with verbs that push into one another, with no idle space in between. So that you just can’t believe all the things you saw or all the living beings that brushed past your skin.”
P’lovers next book is “And I Shall find some Peace There”, Margaret Roach – $16.50.