When seventeen-year-old Jade Reynolds witnesses a violent clash between a protesting tree sitter and a local logger, she is forced to flee the California town she grew up in. Jade runs as far as she can from the battles that plague her home and from the mysteries of the redwood forest, but the ancient redwoods are embedded in her psyche—she feels their call even in the dark and forgotten back alleys of Portland, Oregon where she’s hiding out. She soon becomes entangled with a lovable misfit and a band of radical slackers, environmentalists, and anarchists, and finds herself living 100 feet high in the canopy of a redwood grove, trying to decide whose side she’s on: the logging community she’s known her entire life or the environmentalists who are risking their lives for the future of the forest. When choosing sides only makes matters worse, Jade turns to the ancient trees themselves—and the thread-thin web that connects us all.
RESEARCH: I knew little to nothing about trees when I set out to write Tree Dreams, so I immersed myself in the arboreal world in every possible way—I registered for Portland Park & Rec’s class on Urban Forestry 101 and became a Neighborhood Tree Steward; learned to climb with the Pacific Treeclimbing Institute and slept in a 600-year-old Doug fir; tagged along with Ascending the Giants, a team of young arborists who climb and measure the biggest tree of each species for the National Big Tree Registry; conducted hours of interviews with foresters, loggers and state and federal employees who manage watersheds and forestland; shadowed conservation forester Peter Hayes as he managed his 800-acre property, Hyla Woods; and, I approached and was vetted by forest defenders before joining their tree sit for a week (the only one in the country at the time) where we lived 100-feet high to protect a redwood grove.
DISCOVERIES: While I’d expected to learn the Latin names of species and gain insight into the contentious clash between environmentalists and loggers, my forest adventures unearthed much more. Discoveries in forestry research revealed that the natural world is constantly communicating in ways we’ve never dreamed off–for example, Mother trees send chemical signals through their root system to hundreds of others trees for the benefit of the grove. And, within the rings of trees and the checkerboard patterns of land delineated for federal, state and private use was a hidden narrative about our relationship to ourselves, to each other and to nature. Key questions lay at the heart of the narrative: Do we have dominion over the natural world? Is our enjoyment of nature a right or a privilege? What is sacred?
And then of course there were the dreams of trees that began to work their way into my sleep. I thought that I was writing a novel, but I found that the novel was actually writing me, inviting me to explore the question: what does interconnection actually mean?