Walt Whitman saw trees — “so innocent and harmless, yet so savage” — as a wellspring of wisdom on being rather than seeming. “When we have learned how to listen to trees,” Hermann Hesse exulted in his love letter to our arboreal companions, “then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy.”
Two generations earlier, another poet laureate of nature and the human spirit made trees a centerpiece of his emotional universe. For Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817–May 6, 1862), they were creative and spiritual companions, sane-making and essential. His love of them comes alive in Thoreau and the Language of Trees (public library) — a selection of the great Transcendentalist poet and philosopher’s meditations on trees, drawn from his two-million-word journal by writer and photographer Richard Higgins, whose beautiful black-and-white photographs complement Thoreau’s arboreal writings.