Quiet Wisdom: An Ode to Trees
Updated: Feb 4
As a boy I knew there was more to trees than just limbs to be climbed and heights to be reached. There was something mysterious and magical about them. They were living creatures of infinite sizes and shapes and each of them had a story to tell. And these trees told their stories slowly, quietly, and poetically.
Some trees were the things of nightmares, daring me to come near. But most trees were enchanting and approachable. And although they were silent, except for when the wind whistled through their branches and leaves, I felt an unusual connection with them, as if these trees were trying to teach me something. Even the scary ones.
As I grew up, I discovered trees have inspired generations of the world’s most passionate writers as well. Hermann Hesse believed trees are our greatest spiritual teachers. Walt Whitman cherished them as “paragons of authenticity,” with their quiet but imposing presence. To Henry David Thoreau, trees were “cathedrals that consecrate our lives.” And William Blake famously said, “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way.”
“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers," said Hesse. "I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree.”
“I never saw a discontented tree," said John Muir. "They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!”
To the child, trees are fun to climb. To the creatives, artists, and poets, trees are an inspiration - something to inhale, enjoy, and share with others.
It's easy to take for granted the incredible elegance of a lone tree, or the magnificence of a grand forest.
Let's not forget how much trees contribute to our atmosphere, produce the oxygen we breathe, clean our water, and sustain the cycles of life.
These benevolent witnesses of history and time deserve at least that much from us. Let's not let their mystery, their magic, their purpose, or their beauty slip by us. Just notice and the wisdom will follow.
Hello! I’m Michael Kennedy, Olympic Valley, CA resident. I’m a teacher, freelance writer, and photographer. Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed it, please share with others. I value your attention, it means a lot to me and it helps others see the story. If you're interested in any photos in this post, or in my gallery: click here, let me know what size you want, and I'll send a quote. My email: firstname.lastname@example.org