5 Things Recommended - 3/20/2019


“An intact Forest is a mighty act of peace” - Diana Beresford-Kroeger

Perhaps because I spent the last five days in the East Cost metropolises of Washington DC and New York City that I’m focusing this time on nature and particularly on trees.

1 - Everyone must watch Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s film, Call of the Forrest; the Forgotten Wisdom of Trees (https://youtu.be/0hZiLJ-P-jk). Unfortunately, the only way I could stream it while on the road was on YouTube so it lacked visual quality.  You can go to her website and order the film; http://calloftheforest.ca/, make donations and learn more about her cause. I’m planning on ordering a copy to show at a gathering in my studio. It’s a gentle film, no stunning visual effects. It’s message is delivered by Bersford herself in her Mother Earth Irish lilt.  Despite the science involved her message is simple; get out and plant trees. To quote from her website;

“Trees provide food, create medicine, and most importantly, provide life-giving oxygen. Without trees and their ability to capture carbon dioxide, our living breathable atmosphere would cease to exist on our planet. Trees are the most important living organisms on earth, chemically affecting our environment more than anything else, and playing a vital role that sustains all life. Trees are literally the lifeline of the planet and the key to reversing climate change.”

2 - Book: The Overstory by Richard Powers. It took me four months to read this doorstop of a book but not just because there’s a lot of it. Indeed, the writing is so beautiful that I ended up re-reading chunks of it out loud just to enjoy the poetic descriptions. It’s several disparate characters are gradually woven together into one tremendously moving and heroic tale. The science behind the story comes directly from Beresford’s research.

For a thorough review go to; https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/09/books/review/overstory-richard-powers.html

Also, check out Christopher Lydon’s Open Source site, http://radioopensource.org/the-secret-life-of-trees/ for interviews with both Powers and Beresford.

3 - Book: The Golden Spruce; A True Story of Myth, Madness,and Greed written by John Vaillant. This is an oldy; published in 2005 which, in the words of Michele Norris, “tells the story of a sacred tree, a logger-turned environmentalist and a shocking act of environmental protest in the woods of British Columbia”. The story is complex and completely captivating.

For a review go to:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/88335.TheGolden_Spruce. Or, listen to NPR’s program at: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4679760


4 - Visit your local Arboretum. I’m lucky to live only a couple of miles from theArnold Arboretum of Harvard University.  The site was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903) in 1872. His studio, now a National Park, is located in in my hometown of Brookline. Olmsted is better known as the designer of Central Park in New York City. He was able to envision a park in its mature state; an amazing achievement considering what he had to work with as revealed in “before” photographs.



To get a better sense of his visionary gift, read A Clearing in the Distance; Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century by Witold Rybczynski.

Beatrix Ferrand (1872-1959)who was one of the original founders and only female member of the American Society of Landscape architects, lent her keen sense of design to the Arnold Arboretum as well. Ferrand was well-connected and worked on many prestigious projects including The White House and Edith Wharton’s home, The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts

5 - Cutting down trees is not a new problem. Nor is our despair over it. Binsey Poplars is one of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s best-known lyrics. It was written in 1879 shortly after he revisited Godstow near Oxford, a small village north of Binsey, and found that the trees that had lined the river, Thames, had been cut down. Here’s the poem:

Binsey Poplars

Felled 1879

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,

Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,

All felled, felled, are all felled;

Of a fresh and following folded rank

Not spared, not one

That dandled a sandalled

Shadow that swam or sank

On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

O if we but knew what we do

When we delve or hew –

Hack and rack the growing green!

Since country is so tender

To touch, her being so slender,

That, like this sleek and seeing ball

But a prick will make no eye at all,

Where we, even where we mean

To mend her we end her,

When we hew or delve:

After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.

Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve

Strokes of havoc unselve

Bryan Voliton