Posts Tagged ‘Earth Day’

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.








The Rainbow Connection, Arbor Day and Earth Day Every Day

Friday, April 30th, 2021

April 30th is National Arbor Day. However, individual states make their own dates according to the best time to plant a tree. For example, in Conversation with Trees by Stephanie Kaza, the author writes about Arbor Day in California taking place in February or March, before the dry season, to give the seedlings the best chance of survival. I think the 30th is good here in PA, but you can check your local paper or Google, for example, When is Arbor Day in Missiouri? and will learn it is the first Friday in April. I like the fact that National Arbor Day is in April, the same month as Earth Day celebrations, since trees are such a vital
part of Mother Nature with their ecological profile that provide beauty and life to the planet.

BUT, you can donate money to the National Arbor Day Foundation any time and plant a tree to honor someone. Two of my friends did just that for my birthday or just as a gift. Here’s what you receive if you join the Arbor Day Foundation:

FREE With Your Membership (

  • 10 free trees to plant in your yard or in a forest in your honor
  • Tree and shrub discounts in the Online Tree Nursery
  • A subscription to Arbor Day, our colorful bimonthly newsletter
  • The Tree Book, a useful guide to planting and caring for your trees

I plan to check this out to see if I wish to join or just make a donation to honor my niece Dori and her husband Chuck, whose home in the woods in California was not destroyed, but the land around her home was destroyed and many trees burned. Below is an essay I created from Dori’s note to family and friends and her courage in the face of so much lost. I call it The Rainbow Effect.

“The Rainbow Effect: “The Bear Fire in California

During COVID, life goes on, and for those in California where fires raged, life has been a real challenge. The fires in California are far from me, except my sister’s daughter lives in the “Bear Fire Zone” and my older daughter is not far away from where the fires raged. My letter from my niece Dori made me realize that her experience on her land has affected me 3,000 miles away, personally and ecologically.  Here is her recent note to family and friends:

Dori & Chuck’s land before the Bear Fire

We want to thank everyone for their love and support during the Bear Fire. We have a new normal, which is challenging, but we are making steady progress. The burned pastures have turned green since the rains, which helps our emotional state dramatically. The forest itself is toast and every day there are less trees as crews move through removing standing dead trees.

Some of our friends have moved trailers into their properties to start to rebuild. Others may not rebuild. It’s a traumatic loss for everyone. We are waiting for the shop debris to be cleared soon and then we can start to rebuild the shop. We just purchased a new metal building to replace the wooden one. We are excited to not see the rubble and start fresh.

We have a great support network and everyone is looking forward to a brighter new year.

From Dream Creek Ranch, we wish everyone a happy, healthy and peaceful new year.

Much love,

Dori & Chuck

The same view of the land after the Bear Fire.


Dori sent me Before & After photos. Seeing the actual photos made me realize how scary their situation was and is. Miraculously, their house was the only one in their neighborhood not damaged by the fire. The photos and captions are from her property and I have interspersed them between the questions and answers. Many of her neighbors have left for good. Too much damage and perhaps too much trauma.

Q: When did you vacate your house because of the Bear Fire?

A: September 8th at 3pm we got an immediate evacuation order. Normally you get a warning but it went straight to an order. They blocked off the only way up to allow for egress. But that left people in town unable to get back home to evacuate their stuff and animals. I worked on getting the llamas and goats evacuated for hours but they weren’t letting animal rescues up.

And the power was turned off the day before because of wind. Our generator wouldn’t restart so we were without power or internet. We waited as long as we could. At 12:15 am we had to let the animals out of the barn so they wouldn’t get trapped inside. By that point we could hear propane tanks etc., blowing up in the distance and texts were telling us that Berry Creek was completely on fire.

Q: Where did you stay? How long?

A: We made it to our friends house about 40 minutes away at 2:30 am. When we arrived they had also just got an evacuation warning. But we stayed because they were far enough out. We also sheltered there 22 months before for ten days during the Camp Fire. (When?)
Q. Was yours the only house left that wasn’t burned in your “neighborhood?

There were 1700 structures lost. We were one of about 50 that survived. Our house and barn survived. That was a combination of a miracle and lots of clearance that Chuck has been actively working on for the past two years.

Q. How many neighbors who lost their homes left for good and how many stayed?

A: Hard to say. A lot of properties haven’t been cleared yet. Some people came back before that and are living in tents or trailers with generators. Others are in town. Others have already left for other places to live. Among our friends it’s 50/50 on who plans to rebuild. It’s a terrible loss of community. 16 people died that night.

Q: Why do you stay?

A: This is our place on earth. Even with forest devastation, it feels like home. Our ranch has always been a gathering place. And now it’s the only familiar spot on the mountain. Our friends who have lost everything come and sit in this magical place and are able to have a few moments of relaxation and normality. By all accounts our place should not be here. Every day is a blessing that we still have our home. Our safe place.

Additional comment from Dori in another email:

One thing I forgot when you asked about how many people lost houses and how many people returning. We fenced off the bottom pasture for our friend Dennis and his four dogs and his new trailer. It was almost impossible to find housing with animals, much less four big dogs. And pretty soon our only neighbors (because of the fire?), Rex and Ruthie, will be moving a trailer onto our property while they rebuild. It takes a village.

Dori is an artist and when sent me the double rainbow photo with this comment, four months after the fire, I knew she would be okay. Here is what she penned after I asked her why they stayed on their land.

I was sitting in my studio months after the fire, trying to kick my creative mojo in gear. It was like a physical weight weighing me down emotionally and physically. I looked out the window and there was a double rainbow. A sign from the universe that it was going to be ok.  And to paint all the colors!


Dori’s Double Rainbow photo

Seeing the photos and reading her words made me realize that the fires may not have destroyed our home, but because someone I know and love was in the middle of the all this destruction, I want to acknowledge her (and her husband) for their courage and optimism. The younger generation of women like Dori tells me that we can survive anything, even COVID and fires, with attitudes like Dori’s.

P.S. I made this post ready earlier on Wed., and in the evening i saw a one hour documentary with Greta Thunberg, the one teenage young woman who has garnered so much press about climate change. I watched the California fires, like Dori’s, the trees dying from beetles that usually die in winter, but with increased temps don ot die but eat the trees, and so much more.The documentary brought climate change to my doorstep!