“Woman Who Speaks Tree” is a great read

Woman Who Speaks Tree MOFGA photoYes, Linda Tatelbaum loves trees. But the subtitle of her wonderful book, Woman Who Speaks Tree, “Confessions of a Tree Hugger,” tells you even more about her life.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Linda’s life could be described as a contradiction: she’s a college professor and a back-to-the-land hippie who, with her husband Kal, lives in midcoast Maine where they built their home in 1977 with solar heat and great gardens.

“I still answer to the name of hippie,” she writes in the preface, “though I’ve also spent a career in college teaching while living this hard-earned organic life on the homestead we built in Maine.”

Trees do play a big role in her life, and even drew her to Maine. “This is the story of how trees saved me. How they guided me along the route to finding my root. And how I try to save them in return,” she writes.

I especially enjoyed her attempt to save an old beech tree on the Colby College campus. You’ll have to read the book to see how that battle ended. But I’ll bet you can guess!

This book is really an autobiography, an engaging tale of Linda’s life. In 1977 Linda and Kal “arrived in Burketville, Maine, a hamlet within the small town of Appleton, and parked a faded pink trailer on the edge of the wild. We hacked out a garden from witchgrass, milkweed, bramble, rock. We built a south-facing house to absorb the sun’s heat, and cut wood for the cookstove by hand.”

Intending to own 20 acres, they ended up with 75 acres of cut-over woods, and lived as back-to-the-land hippies. She tells a lot of great stories, from their grueling and unsuccessful effort to find and purchase an inexpensive farm in West Virginia, to her very touching story of caring for her Mom and Dad as they approached the end of their lives.

Throughout the book, there are funny stories, from dealing with a portable toilet to introducing her college students to her farm, gardens, and woods.

The last sentence in the book’s preface is an important message “May the environmental crisis we face, and the call for human ingenuity, teach us to respect nature for the lessons it offers on how to live.”

Well said, Linda. Well said.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.