“Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree.”

4167-frauen-auf-baeumen-lr-04Collector Jochen Raiss gathered hundreds of vintage photos of women lounging in trees and recently published them in a comprehensive coffee table book called Frauen auf Baumen (in English: “women in trees”). From what I’ve seen so far, the pictures are delightful—silly and strange and happy. Obviously, I want this book.

While we’re on the topic of trees, and German folks, I found this passage by writer Hermann Hesse in which he muses on what trees can teach us:

In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree… A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live. Trees have long thoughts, long—breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is.

Beautiful

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Bryan Nash Gill turns trees inside-out.

bswoodc11“If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” It’s a silly question, but I like to ask it. I think what people say is telling. I’ve noticed that some think they’re strong, solid trees (and often think in terms of furniture and the use of the wood), while my female friends are more likely to call themselves aspen, or birch, or even magnolias. I’ve always loved dogwood trees myself, but there is something wonderful about a tall, white pine. Or the vanilla-scented ponderosa pines. Trees tell stories, I think.

Judging by his work, Bryan Nash Gill probably has thought about my goofy, getting-to-know-you question. How could he not? His art works are so deeply inspired by trees, from his gallery installations and sculptures to his fantastic prints. He creates these images (like the one above) by covering a tree stump in ink, and placing the paper directly on the wood. It makes an imprint of the rings, of the entire history of a tree. It looks like a fingerprint, but it’s much better, for unlike our static prints, these uneven loops change and grow every year (that is, until someone cuts them down and looks inside).

While I like the tree prints best, he has a fantastic body of work. See more on his website.