Walt Whitman, who, remembered he loved and respected above all others as that rare person who was “entirely herself; as simple as nature; true, honest; beautiful as a tree is tall, leafy, rich, full, free — is a tree.”
At the outset of what was to become the most challenging year of my life, and the most difficult for the totality of the world in our shared lifetime, I resolved to— a resolution blind to that unfathomable future, like all resolutions and all lots, tend to be, but one that made it infinitely more survivable. I was . Humans, after all, have a long history of and : Hesse saw in them , Thoreau reverenced them as , Dylan Thomas entrusted them with , ancient mythology , and science used them as .
Artist and author Corinna Luyken draws on this intimate connection between the sylvan and the human in( ) — a lyrical meditation on the root of creativity, strength, and harmony, with a spirit and sensibility kindred to her earlier .
Inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh’s timeless and transformative mindfulness teachings, which she first encountered long ago in the character-kiln of adolescence and which profoundly influenced her worldview as she matured, Luyken considers the book “a seedling off the tree” from the great Zen teacher’s classic— the fruition of her longtime desire to make something beautiful and tender that invites the young (and not only the young) to look more deeply into the nature of the world, into their heart and its magnificent interconnectedness to all of nature. After years of incubation, a spare poem came to her after many trials that landed far from her vision. Paintings grew out of the words. A book blossomed.
The tree in me
is seed and blossom,
bark and stump…
and part sun.
The singsong verses follow the protagonist — every child of ambiguous age, gender, and ethnicity — along a joyful journey of self-discovery, self-understanding, and self-appreciation through warm identification with various aspects of a tree: its irrepressible lushness, the effortless grace with which it bends without breaking, how it is constantly negotiating darkness and light, how it exists in exquisite interdependence with the rest of the living world.
There is a lovely visual nod to one of the most revelatory and paradigm-shifting scientific discoveries in our lifetime — theby which trees communicate with each other underground, a discovery that may be .
As the child looks up to face a young woman — who could be a mother or a sister or first love or the school janitor or the Vice President — the book ends with a subtle affirmation of William Blake’s timeless tree-tinted insistence that.
Because there is
and a sky,
and a sun
I can see
that there is also
Couplewith — a kindred illustrated meditation on learning to let ourselves be seen — then revisit D.H. Lawrence on and Mary Oliver’s short, shimmering poem