Dan Weil
PIQue Coaching and Strategy

I’ve Been Thinking About Trees… Again

I’ve been thinking a lot about trees…again, lately.

As we all know, they are the lungs of our planet. They are an integral part of the water cycle — affecting weather patterns, filtering air, and more.

So why are we so disconnected from them?

Click to read Walt Whitman’s 11 Things Trees Teach Us About Life.

Below is a reminder and Walt Whitman’s poem that speaks about their wisdom, their impact and their skill in “presencing.”

This is a charming, touching story about an imaginative boy whose best friend is an oak tree named Bertolt. The boy admits to being an outlier among his peers, but insists that while he is alone, he is never lonely. Being independent suits him, and he considers his difference to be his advantage.

This book is about the imagination and the wonderful ways in which we nurture ourselves in the process of becoming who we are, and because Bertolt dies in a winter’s storm, it is also a book about finitude and loss, sorrow and acceptance.



O the pleasure with trees—the orchard—the forest!
Wonderful how the trees rise and stand up, with strong trunks, with branches and leaves!
The slender tapering trees, great columnar trees,
The nodding, slumbering, and liquid trees, clustering trees, young and old,
Trees in fulness of tender foliage, branching and leafing,
The stalwart limbs of trees emerging,
Uttering joyous leaves of dark green.

The growths of pine and cedar and hemlock and live-oak and locust and chestnut and hickory and lime tree and cottonwood,
The scented bay tree, the yellow pine, the magnificent elm tree, the laurel tree with large white flowers,
The lemon and orange, the cypress, the graceful palmetto.

The pines and cypresses growing out of the white sand that spreads far and flat,
Solemn shadowy cedars and ghostly pines so still,
Clinging cedars, with tall shapes dingily seen;
I love the cedar, anyhow—its naked ruggedness, its just palpable odor, (so different from the perfumer’s best,) its silence, its equable acceptance of winter’s cold and summer’s heat, of rain or drouth.

Forests of majestic pines, primitive, druidical, solitary and savage,
Pine trees and fir trees torn by northern blasts,
Forests coated with transparent ice,
And icicles hanging from the boughs and crackling in the wind.

The moist fresh stillness of the woods,
Far-born, far-dying, living long.
The old woods charged with mistletoe and trailing moss,
The red cedar festoon’d with tylandria,
The waving drapery on the old, warty, venerable live-oak trailing long and low,
Noiselessly waved by the wind, its look, rude, unbending, lusty,
Parasites with color’d flowers and berries enveloping huge trees.

The yet naked trees, with clear interstices, giving prospects hidden in summer,
The forms of the trees, leafless, silent, in trunk and myriad angles of branches, under the stars and sky,
The leaves are thick under the bare trees, and give a strong and delicious perfume.

A wide avenue of noble trees, planted by hands long mouldering in the grave, nourished from the decay of the bodies of men, but quite many of them evidently capable of throwing out their annual blossoms and fruit yet.
Apple orchards, the rosy blush of budding apple trees, the trees all cover’d with blossoms—
The apple buds cluster together on the apple branches, and the fruit afterward.
Rich apple-blossomed earth!
The smell of apples, aromas from crushed sage plant, mint, birch-bark.

Eloquent hemlocks, some old and hoary—secretive, shaggy, weather-beaten and let-alone,
Plenty of locusts and fine maples, and the balm of Gilead,
Shade overhead, thick underfoot with leaves—a just palpable wild and delicate aroma—
It seems to me I never saw more vitality of trees.

Stately tulip tree with yellow cup-shaped flowers, the Apollo of the woods—tall and graceful, yet robust and sinewy,
Inimitable in hang of foliage and throwing out of limb,
As if the beauteous, vital, leafy creature could walk, if it only would.

The shadows of the boughs dapple in the sunshine around me,
The play of shine and shade on the trees, as the supple boughs wag now in their brightest tenderest green,
Lights and shades and rare effects on tree-foliage and grass,
The mystic play of shadows twining and twisting as if they were alive.

The clear beams are now thrown in many new places, on the quilted, seam’d, bronze-drab, lower tree trunks, flooding their young and old columnar ruggedness with strong light, unfolding to my sense new amazing features of silent, shaggy charm, the solid bark, the expression of harmless impassiveness, with many a bulge and gnarl unreck’d before.
In the revealings of such light, such exceptional hour, such mood, one does not wonder at the old story fables, (indeed, why fables?) of people falling into love-sickness with trees, seiz’d ecstatic with the mystic realism of the resistless silent strength in them.

The unimpeachableness of the sentiment of trees,
How strong, vital, enduring! how dumbly eloquent!
What suggestions of imperturbability and being, as against the human trait of mere seeming,
(O seeming! seeming! seeming!)
So innocent and harmless, yet so savage. It is, yet says nothing;
How it rebukes by its tough and equable serenity in all weathers, this gusty-temper’d little whiffet, man, that runs indoors at a mite of rain or snow.

The solid forests give fluid utterances,
They do as well as most speaking, writing, poetry, sermons—or rather they do a great deal better.
They tumble forth, they rise and form,
A murmuring, fateful, giant voice,
A chorus of century-lasting, unseen dryads, from their haunts of a thousand years,
Voices ecstatic, ancient, and rustling—
What tales those old trees could tell!
(I should say indeed that those old dryad-reminiscences are quite as true as any, and profounder than most reminiscences we get.)

Long I roam’d the woods,
With the singular wild pleasure of being alone in the woods,
I know all the big trees and have come to a sociable silent understanding with most of them in the sunlit air.
I hold on boughs of slender trees caressingly there in the sun and shade—pulling and pushing, exercising my whole body—wrestle with their innocent stalwartness—and know the virtue thereof passes from them into me;
After I wrestle with the tree awhile—a beautiful object, every branch, every leaf perfect—I can feel its young sap and sinew and virtue welling up out of the ground and rising through me, like mercury to heat—tingling through me from crown to toe, like health’s wine.

I fling out my fancies toward them,
Maybe we interchange—maybe the trees are more aware of it all than I ever thought.
Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees and always drop fruit as I pass.

I had a sort of dream-trance the other day, in which I saw my favorite trees step out and promenade up, down, and around, very curiously—with a whisper from one, leaning down as it pass’d me, murmuring out of its myriad leaves, We do all this on the present occasion, exceptionally, just for you.

Surely there is something more in each of the trees, some living soul.
In my soul I plainly heard the wood-spirit join the refrain,
As some old tree thrill’d with its soul:
Know I bear the soul befitting me, I too have consciousness, identity,
And all the rocks and mountains have, and all the earth.

– Walt Whitman