Q&A with Marcie Chambers Cuff, Author and Blogger

April 1, 20142523035_9780399165856_large_This_Book_Was_a_Tree

Eco News Network recently caught up with Marcie Chambers Cuff, science teacher and author of THIS BOOK WAS A TREE: Ideas, Adventures, and Inspiration for Rediscovering the Natural World released today in paperback, Kindle, and Nook Editions by Perigee, a member of Penquin Group. The book issues a call for a new era of pioneers—strong-minded, clever individuals committed to examining the natural world. Chambers Cuff is also the creator of the popular blog Mossy , named one of the top 50 Mommy blogs by Babble.

Eco News Network: How did you decide to write, “This Book Was a Tree?”

MCC: Few things can yield more satisfaction than overseeing a handful of grade school kids in a school garden. Unearthing unsuspecting pillbugs, dissecting germinating seeds, sampling freshly picked tomatoes—kids are naturally curious. This is where I found myself for several years following a career as a high school biology teacher and the birth of my two girls. A school garden is like a vast sea of opportunity in the midst of a schoolyard. Place a kid in the midst of it, and he or she is ready to earnestly explore. But, I’ve found that for many kids, a school garden is their first taste of nature. Many have never before held a wiggling worm, planted a seed or followed a solitary bee from flower to flower. To me, this is disheartening.

How does a compass work? Do frogs freeze in winter? Why is rain not salty? How is a cork made? Or silk? Or chalk? Or pages in a book? Often it’s the things we see every day that get overlooked. What is the value of nature? In the end, the fate of biodiversity and ecosystems depends on human attitudes and behaviors. I wrote This Book Was a Tree to clear the trail for the crusade. The story is this: to build lasting connections with our environment, we must participate in real-world experiences that matter. We must determine the nature—the intrinsic value and realness—of everyday things—everything thought, felt, touched, and eaten. We must understand where things come from—how they are made, how they are used, how they impact the surrounding environment throughout a life cycle—and it starts with my book.

Eco News Network: If there is one point you want Eco News Network readers to know that is included in the book and why they should read it, what is it?

MCC: In a time of newfangled Star Trek-like technologies, we are drifting farther away from the real world. At the same time, we are meandering farther down a path of massive and irreversible global damage. If the Earth is so survive the foreseeable future, we need to reconnect with it. We need to slow down, reexamine our relationships with nature, and live lives that make sense—ones that contribute to lighter, more conscious ways of living.

Eco News Network: What is your favorite “timeless project” that you include in the book? Can you describe it in a little detail for Eco News Network readers?

MCC: Some people are born magicians, hatching artful diversions while we watch—the bullet catch, the cabinet escape, the elastic lady, seamless 5-ball cascade juggling. Seedbombs are magical like this. These handmade little fistfuls of compacted clay, compost and native perennial wildflower seeds are rolled up, dried, and covertly “bombed” grenade-style into orphaned inaccessible neighborhood spots. Over time, given adequate water and sunlight, the sprouts germinate. Eventually, in place of dirt, weeds and invasive species, native plants spring up and transform neglected land into green space.

Seedbombs are proof to me that sometimes gardening is more than just planting. Sometimes gardening is putting green where it’s not expected—it’s introducing something common to an unusual place or something uncommon in a usual place—it’s surprising people and making them re-evaluate their position in the natural world. Seedbombs are like that. They help you take back orphaned land and reclaim green space. Seedbombs help you quietly make a ruckus without anyone’s permission.

Eco News Network: On your blog Mossy, you provide a lot of experiential thoughts on children and raising them in a healthy way. What three tips would you offer to Eco News Network moms in this regard?

1. Get outside.
Move away from your comfort zone, escape from the virtual world, and explore wild places. Go outside every single day. Rain or shine. Wild pockets of nature thrive in spots that, at first glance, may seem unnatural. Roadside fields, abandoned lots, sidewalk cracks—no matter where you live, the outdoors are at your fingertips. No exotic setting, no special equipment required. All you need is a desire to open your door and spend some time on the other side. Wonderful things happen when you spend time outside. You sharpen your focus, stretch your imagination, learn new skills, and tune in to your surroundings. Get outside and play in the sun. It’s good for you.

2. Sit still.
In our complicated world of unprecedented turbulence, slowing down is a conscious choice. Living in the moment is something you should practice every day. Harness your concentration. Plop yourself right into the present and get absorbed in the moment. Let go of time—of schedules and constraints. Imagine yourself incapable of seeing your past or your future. Feel the moment of now. An extraordinary thing happens when you do this. You become familiar with the stillness at the center of all the buzz. It’s there, you know. It’s at the heart of everything.

3. Pay attention.
If you want to learn anything at all, you need to pay attention. Polish your powers of observation and to consider all the critters living with you—the moths haunting your attic, the mold creeping in your shower, the spiders lingering under your basement stairs. Eavesdrop. Give them your complete attention. The diversity around you will be quickly revealed. Even a seemingly unimpressive clump of grass will uncover a motley crew—dandelions, mosses, beetles, worms, centipedes, pill bugs—all are visible if you look closely enough. Train your mind to pay attention. Explore this rich and mostly unknown world—and hunt for signs, gather data, carefully document, and decipher nature’s clues. Embrace the mystery of the world’s communications. A muddy paw print, a downy feather, a gash in a rock, a teeny cylindrical hole, a piercing birdcall—each detail tells a story of an earth that’s much wilder than it looks. Every spot holds a million details. Look for them. Be amazed. Genius is everywhere.

Eco News Network: What’s next for Marcie Chambers Cuff?

MCC: Our current ecological crisis demands more than one person can deliver alone. I’ve always loved the idea of creating small communities of like-minded people. Right now I’m working on creating organized groups loosely based on This Book Was a Tree—sort of dynamic local book clubs that gather and plan regional hiking trips, tree-planting days, and garden-grown potluck dinners. I’ve often found that people who want to help often have nowhere to go to make a difference. I’d like to provide a meeting spot. I’d like to bring about environmental change on a larger scale—one beyond the scope of my backyard and local school garden. I’m working on it.

About Marcie Chambers Cuff
Marcie Chambers Cuff is the author of THIS BOOK WAS A TREE: Ideas, Adventures, and Inspiration for Rediscovering the Natural World and the creator of the popular blog Mossy (www.mossymossy.com), named one of the top 50 Mommy blogs by Babble. She lives in New York State.

Want to get a copy of THIS BOOK WAS A TREE (ISBN: 978-0399165856)? Visit www.penguingroup.com, contact your local bookstore, or check the usual suspects such as Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/This-Book-Was-Tree-Rediscovering-ebook/dp/B00DMCW1HS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1396286126&sr=8-1&keywords=This+book+was+a+tree
Or Barnesandnoble.com http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/this-book-was-a-tree-marcie-chambers-cuff/1115811895?ean=9780399165856