Spotlight is on nature in book about oak tree


By Marissa Wells

Contributing Writer

“Tree” by Melina Sempill Watts, tells the story of 229 years in the life of a California live oak tree.

Using magical realism, readers are taken on a journey that includes grass, birds, other trees, animals and humans that interact with them.

This is Watt’s first book and it is written from the point of view of the tree.

“Tree” was inspired by her appreciation for nature following an experience she had laying on the grass while a student at UC San Diego.

“I felt the grass emote at me, first one blade, then three, then six and then it just grew on and on into an enormous inaudible conversation coming at me from the whole field of grass,” Watts said. “It was like a giant orchestra bursting into melody for an audience of one, a stunning quantity and quality of love just being radiated at me.”

Watts felt it was important to produce a book that shed light on the importance of caring for entire ecosystems and the native plants that make up that biological community.

“I work in conservation and one of the things you learn is that ecologists can take a field that has just been obliterated by human misuse and start caring for the soil, and planting locally sourced native plants, and with some initial water, a few years of rain and care, you can begin to restore an ecosystem,” Watts said.

Watts also has an appreciation of California’s history and wanted to explore that in her book.

“I wanted to give readers the experience of moving through time in this place I cherish,” Watts said. “I’m using ecological history as a lens for the story, meaning that the book explores how different cultural values force ecosystem transition over time.”

“Tree” is intended for adult readers and it will no doubt shift how they see nature.

In “Tree,” topics such as developing relationships, handling loss, coming to terms with grief, connections to biodiversity and more are addressed.

In addition to being an author, Watts is a conservation consultant. She lives in Chico. For more information about the author and her work, visit

“Tree” is available for $18 (paperback) and $9.99 (Kindle) on, and at Diesel, a book store in Brentwood.