Archive for the ‘Book Chapters’ Category

Conversations with Trees By Stephanie Kaza

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

My Note: Now that trees are “re-leafed” and sport their own shades of green, I thought June would be a perfect time for this review.

Conversations with Trees: An Intimate Ecology by Stephanie Kaza

 Stephanie Kaza has written a most unusual, captivating book about her personal, intimate relationship with trees. Formerly called The Attentive Heart: Conversations with Trees, the author has put her heart and soul into her conversations with these wonderful living gifts from Mother Nature.

Her conversational stories take us to many places she has lived, worked, or visited, and with these conversations we revisit these spots with her. She describes the trees and what they mean to her, much as you. Would describe a good friend who you haven’t visited in a long time, but still enjoy his or her company.

Since this is such as unusual book, I have taken the liberty of quoting from different parts of the book so you can grasp the “flavor” of her conversations and how trees become living, breathing entities to Kaza. Here are a few of Kaza’s forest gems, quoted exactly in italics:

I spent time in silence, close to trees, doing my best to be simply present with the tree as Other, aware of my thoughts, moods, projections….I did not go with an agenda or story in mind…..p. 5

As their minds open (students and others – es), they see that the environment is everything. It is not just where we live; it is the very reason we are alive. p. 7

By sharing this process (of conversing with trees – es) with others I hope to encourage and support people in engaging in their own conversations with trees. p. 10

Sometimes you have to look at a tree from the ground. On your back. Nothing between you and the sky except the arms of the tree. Just lying on the earth, looking up. p. 19

The sycamore, like most trees, create these first leaves from the last of the winter food stores, knowing that conditions for growth improve with the lengthening of days. Thus, leaf production is an act of faith based on right timing. p. 21

Outside, the winter creek dances through the rocks, refreshing the small hollow below Skyline Ridge. p. 23

Today I heard the calling of the redwoods again. p. 39

These few quotes tell us how close the author feels to trees as well as all of nature. And accompanying her words are wonderful illustrations by Davis Te Selle. In fact, the artist wrote the readers a note explaining that the illustrations are reproductions of hand-printed lithographs. He explains how illustrating this book has given him a way to integrate his somewhat anachronistic graphic tastes with his current environmental concerns. (Almost a direct quote.) And these illustrations are a perfect addition to the text and complement Kaza’s feelings and concerns about trees.

I enjoyed reading this book with illustrations of several of the trees that Kaza writes about. It’s somewhat of a memoir, since her choices of trees are often linked to a memory. It’s also a book that celebrates trees and at the same time, tell us of her environmental concerns. As a Buddhist, Stephanie Kaza seems already predisposed to write this most unusual book, since  Buddhism involves nature. Here is a bit from the BBC about this link with nature:

“For most Buddhists, the guiding principles are to live simply in order to respect all life forms as well as the balance and peace in nature. … This means Buddhists have to make themselves aware of the damage they do to the environment so that they can then act to change it.”

Because I now consider myself an environmentalist, I found this book enlightening, tender, and inspiring. The illustrations also captured my heart, because they are rendered so beautifully.

 Conversations with Trees is a wonderful personal statement by someone deeply concerned with the environment, as is the illustrator. I recommend it highly! It is published by Shambhala Publications in Boston, MA.








JUSTICE, JUSTICE SHALT THOU PURSUE by Ruth Bader Ginsburg & Amanda Tyler

Saturday, June 5th, 2021


A Life’s Work Fighting for a More Perfect Union

by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Amanda Tyler


If you want to know where Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) gets her straight-shooter mentality concerning court cases, you can read her three chosen cases in the new book Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue. If you want to know who inspired her to be the best she could be as a lawyer and human being, you can read about her role models (ex. Justice Brandeis) in this same book, Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue.

Finally, if you want to look at RBG’s life in photos, you can browse through Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue for beautiful color plates and clear black and white photos of RBG, her husband Marty, her children, and the many other photos demonstrating that Justice Ginsburg was a human being who lived with passion and pursued justice until her last breath on September 18, 2020. (The number 18 is a special number in Judaism because it is the numerical counterpart to the word for LIFE in Hebrew [chai, pronounced Khai).

RBG died on Rosh Hoshana, the Jewish New Year, and as quoted in USA Today, here is why her death date is so memorable. NPR reporter Nina Totenberg explained this Jewish tradition on Twitter: “A Jewish teaching says those who die just before the Jewish new year are the ones God has held back until the last moment because they were needed most & were the most righteous.”

Helping RBG put so much effort into this last written piece by Justice Ginsburg is one of her clerks (1999-2000), Amanda L. Tyler. She is a Professor of Law at University of California, Berkeley School of Law, where she teaches and writes about the Supreme Court, federal courts, constitutional law, and civil procedure. (Her writing is excellent in this book.) Tyler’s voice is heard throughout the book, but none more poignantly than her Afterword in October 2002, soon after RBG’s death from cancer. As Tyler writes: “It is impossible to put into words how devastating her loss is for those of us who were lucky enough to know her….Justice Ginsburg was a national treasure—someone who through her life and work made ours a better, more just society.”

Tyler notes that on the wall in RBG’s chambers is the passage from Deuteronomy: “Justice, Justice thou shalt pursue,” which became the title of the book:.” As Tyler notes: “This calling drove Justice Ginsburg in all she did.” On my own writing “chamber” above my computer is a photo of RBG in her robe and favorite white collar around her neck with this quote by her:

“Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

She has inspired me to become a more compassionate, concerned human being and I will treasure this book with her life’s work explained in a way that is “contagious.”  She is truly an American hero, avid feminist, conscientious lawyer and loving daughter, wife, mother, and mentor — a legend in her own time. I believe her passion was derived in large part from her own personal and professional issues in finding a job after college (shared first place in her Columbia University class with another student) because she was:

  1. A woman when few women were lawyers.
  2. A Jew in a world that is still anti-Semitic.
  3. A mother, when having a child and being a (new) lawyer was considered an impossible combination.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave her very best years in the pursuit of justice for others, and inspired many to be the best of who they are, no matter their color, creed, or social-economic status. This book is a great addition to anyone’s reading list, to every private and public library, and to every high school and college, not only for lawyers-to-be, but for all students who pursue a career and a life to make this country a more perfect union.

JUSTICE, JUSTICE THOU SHALL PURSUE is published by University of California Press in Oakland, California and costs $26.95. It is a Naomi Schneider book. The authors note that they “share the compassion, commitment, and creativity of Executive Director Naomi Schneider.” And Naomi sent me this comment about her part in the book: “I’m so honored to be associated with a book co-authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Her lifelong battle to secure more equitable gender rights provides a model of indefatigable activism and commitment to social justice that inspires us all.”

To read more about this book:
P.S. I learned yesterday that today is World Environmental Day,which I will address in a future posting. For now, here is an excerpt from the Internet and a link: (

World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5 every year to remind people about the importance of nature. It is celebrated across the globe to tell people that nature should not be taken for granted and must be respected for its values.

With the coronavirus outbreak and people being confined indoors, the environment and mother earth seem to have benefitted slightly. In the absence of human activities amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown, nature is getting time to clean itself and reclaim its space.

And tomorrow is D-Day, the 6th of June which commemorates one of the biggest battles that won WWII. Last week TCM was showing war movies and I watch one with JAmes Garner called 36 Hours, all about D-Day. Good story and interesting to leanr more about this auspicious event.