[Original published as Josh’s introduction to ROOTED: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction]
As a professional and competitive tree-climber, my relationship to all things arboreal has been more intimate than most. I’ve known trees as scaffolding for removal, gymnasiums for fitness, courses for heated competition. I have saved trees with cables and killed them with powerful chainsaws. Hung swings from their highest branches and injected chemical cocktails into their roots, praying for new growth.
Yet the more I move through life with these unusual badges of labor and love, the more I realize how much I share with those who have never turned trees into paychecks. In fact, our human relationship to trees is not only foundational to our collective experience (read: each new breath), but remarkably rich narrative soil. Turns out I’m not that special. I’ve never met a person who didn’t have an interesting story thematically tangled in a tree.
This is the spirit behind Rooted: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction, and one that I hope will carry a reader through its unique, multi-faceted pages. Although trees show up in each essay, they are often merely the portals for deeper human dramas, the shadowy branches framing tales of love and life, death and discovery, longing, and learning.
See how many of us start with trees to articulate our spiritual selves.
See how many of us connect personal grief and illness with tree loss.
See the variety of tree species that have become integral to our lives—apple, birch, elm—and see Joyce Kilmer, Prometheus, figs and growth rings make multiple appearances, in multiple continents, in disparate stories that strangely skein into the same patchwork quilt.
In this way, It’s been more than a pleasure to collect these essays from both emerging and established writers and discover the wonderful overlaps we share with each other and our woody earth-kin. And it’s exactly these connections that are so valuable these days.
Despite millennia of lessons to the contrary, we still find ways to sever ourselves from each other, at times with great animosity, vitriol, and violence—the erosion of relationship in favor of camps, compartments, our own worlds within worlds.
How lovely, then, to celebrate the simple shared roots, the connections, the story grafts that make of us a single human species, sharing the same oxygen, tethered to the same earth. May we all breathe together, and breathe deep.
– September 2016, Marquette, MI
Look for ROOTED: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction at bookstores nationwide. Or buy directly here: ROOTED: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction – paperback $16
Josh MacIvor-Andersen is the author of the memoir On Heights & Hunger, an award-winning writer, teacher, and competitive tree climber. He lives in Marquette, Michigan with his family.