Reading Trees

“The oak tree seemed to be writing something using very few words”
-- Marie Howe from her poem "The World."


Trees offer us a redemptive beauty especially welcomed in unsettled times. They seem to be describing a kind of peace and happiness that is both distant and familiar. Yet trees are not only solace, they also call on us to act. They remind us that their health and our health are inexorably linked to the health of our planet.

As an artist I have chosen to engage the issue of our threatened planet by emphasizing the beauty, wonder and joy that can still be found in the natural world. I hope this approach may help kindle affection and draw upon our personal experiences of finding happiness and joy in nature. If we are to protect the natural world, we must learn to love it even more. The challenge is daunting. Gloomy statistics and vivid examples of destruction and loss, while necessary, do not seem sufficient for the task. I believe, as the writer Wendell Berry has declared in an essay by the same title, “it all turns on affection.” The British science writer Michael McCarthy puts it even more bluntly in his recent book The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy: The passionate happiness the natural world triggers in us may be the most serious business of all.”

Trees are what I have been thinking about a great deal lately. And reading about. And photographing. I watch them move. I touch them with my hands to better understand the crosshatched bark of a black walnut or the waxy fan-like leaves of a ginkgo. Touching trees always takes me back to a time as a child when climbing trees was exhilarating and liberating play. The cool smooth trunk beneath my hands felt like stone, yet strangely alive.

Gregory Spaid

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