This unique and exquisitely illustrated book is an anthem of love to our native British trees, with a detailed focus on thirteen of them: Alder, Beech, Birch, Blackthorn, Crab Apple, Elder, Hazel, Holly, Hawthorn, Oak, Rowan, Willow and Yew. Here Glennie has distilled a whole lifetime of her passionate study of trees into thirteen concise and well-ordered chapters, making the book small enough to be a portable companion for us as we go out into the woods. Yet this book is so much more than just another tree manual, for she is writing about the way trees connect with each other, and with all of life on Earth: “Trees are beautifully present, complex beings, deeply interconnected with the natural world around them, and the flow of the year’s seasonal cycles. They are totally intrinsic to present life on Earth. They store and utilise vast amounts of carbon from our atmosphere, and are the co-creators of our weather systems and climate. These great water-lovers draw up water from below the ground, and fill our air with the circulating waters of life, bringing many beneficial nutrients and minerals to the surface from deep within the Earth. They generate the oxygen-rich air that all of us air-breathing creatures need to breathe. We breathe with them and because of them. Their out-breath is our in-breath. They literally give us life.”
While this book is an urgent call to us all to save our beautiful, yet much threatened Earth, it never preaches and indeed gives lots of examples of positive actions people are undertaking which help to heal both the Earth and our fractured relationship with it.
PM readers of all persuasions will find abundant treasure within these pages; those involved in planting and looking after trees and woodlands will love Glennie’s drawings which can make identification even in winter so much easier, and will relish practical aspects such as where each tree prefers to grow and how long it tends to live. Those of us involved in woodland management and crafts will enjoy her descriptions of the qualities of the wood, and its uses. Parents and Forest Schoolers will love passing on to youngsters her telling of the lore and legends of each tree. Foragers and healers will find her sections on recipes for the kitchen and medicine cabinet to be of interest, such as making teas and tinctures from parts of the tree for healing. Growers will feel encouraged to grow new trees from the seeds so freely produced; the book tells us how and when the seeds should be sown. Those who celebrate the turning of the seasons through following the eight Celtic festivals will enjoy the connections Glennie makes between each tree and a particular time of year, for example collecting fresh Hazel nuts (skill-nuts) at Lammas and using them to contemplate lessons we have learnt so far.
Those interested in divination will enjoy the links between the qualities of each tree and the Druidic Ogham, and ways we can draw on them to enhance our spiritual journey. Like the seers and shamans both ancient and modern, Glennie has sought to learn from the spirits of the trees, and has taken some of the key signature qualities of each tree species and interpreted them. For example, as she writes about the Alder: “Alders are ‘pioneer’ trees and transformation is at the heart of their signature. They will move into ground that is too wet for most other trees to grow in, transforming the environment and making it possible for other trees and plants to follow.”
Each chapter finishes with a brief and fascinating personal story about her own experience of each tree, for example how her experience of leading a workshop in a living willow dome helped her insight into the importance of staying rooted as we change the world. These stories written in an easy conversational style have something we can all relate to; they will surely help each of us to put energy into developing our relationships with these wise beings, the trees, and to walk with them ourselves.
Watch: How trees talk to each other