Rich Higgins has recently published a work of art that explores Thoreau’s deep connections to the trees mentioned in Walden, the beloved classic. Higgins' book is packed with interpretations of the merriment, companionship, and influence of our nation's canopy on Thoreau's unprecedented lifestyle. More information about the 2017 book, Thoreau and the Language of Trees can be found here. The transcendentalist Henry Thoreau will turn 200 this year, this New York Times article celebrates modern works that explore the naturalist themes that saturate Walden.
‘The Man Who Planted Trees,’ and More
By DOMINIQUE BROWNING
Several years ago, I visited a friend at her home in the South of France, which was surrounded by an olive grove. She had just come through a grueling battle with breast cancer, and the peaceful countryside was a consolation. As we set out for a walk, she encouraged me to wrap my arms around a gnarled olive trunk: “Go ahead, I do it all the time.” I hadn’t sized up this elegant woman as a tree hugger, and even though I’m one by profession I’d never actually done it. Well, not that anyone could see. . . . I sidled up awkwardly. “Do you feel it?” my friend asked. “Do you feel that . . . energy?” I did. Read Full Article
Illustration by Julia Rothman
We don’t have the reverence for trees that we once had. In “The Golden Bough,” Sir James Frazer describes “the ferocious penalty” in ancient German law that was exacted from anyone who dared even to remove a strip of bark: “The culprit’s navel was to be cut out and nailed to the part of the tree which he had peeled, and he was to be driven round and round the tree till all his guts were wound about its trunk.” A tad extreme, perhaps, to modern ears. Still, something is profoundly amiss in these days of wanton clear-cutting. Luckily, there are those who feel compelled to remind us of the tree’s noble status, inspiring a wealth of homages to these great beings — and I use the word “beings” advisedly.
So does Jim Robbins, who argues that “trees and forests are the highest functioning members of ecological society.” His absorbing, eloquent and loving book, THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet (Spiegel & Grau, $25), chronicles the adventures of a veritable Noah of the tree world, David Milarch, a Michigan nurseryman who, following a near-death experience, began a quest to locate and save genetic material from some of the oldest and healthiest specimens. Thus the Champion Tree Project was born, with a goal of cloning the champion of each of 826 species of trees in the United States. Not since 1997, when Julia Butterfly Hill climbed a 1,500-year-old redwood and lived in it for two years to spare it from loggers, has one person done more to save trees.
A recent fascinating New York Times article, Tending the Body’s Microbial Garden, discusses the ecosystem of microbial wildlife that each human contains within themselves. Trees are not so different. Joan Maloof in Teaching the Trees, Lessons from the Forest, shares the micro ecosystems surrounding each tree. For example how seven types of leaf hoppers live specifically on Sycamore Trees or the Beech Trees that provide habitat for many species: the red-backed salamanders, beech-drops, tway blade orchids, fungus gnats, and many fungal species. She further shares how the ecosystems of the trees of an old growth forest depend upon each other in a complex web of interrelationships. The book is illustrated using drawings of 18th century naturalist, John Abbot. The book gives many personal anecdotes on life and teaching biology at a small college. This book is one of my favorites, it is informative, well written, and inspiring.
I just finished reading Ann Linnea's Keepers of the Trees,, A Guide to Re-Greening North America. In sharing the true stories of a Tree Doctor, Big Tree Hunter, Tree Planter, Tree Carver, Tree Pruner and herself, she conveys the human connection with Trees and our reciprocal relationship. In reading these stories she also conveys important scientific information about trees. Her lyrical prose, fantastic graphics, and wonderful story telling ability about each of these special tree people make this book a great summer read.