"For almost as long as I can remember, trees have been a significant presence in my life. I have studied them as a naturalist, slept out under their arching boughs, made tea from their needles, and preached about them from pulpits," writes author Stephanie Kaza.
In this gracefully written work, the author, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Vermont, has gathered together 27 poetic and persuasive essays about her conversations with trees. Through the Zen practice of shikantaza just sitting Kaza cultivates an I-Thou relationship with oaks, maples, and Douglas firs. She also taps Buddhist resources of pilgrimage, mindfulness practice, and spiritual inquiry as paths to a greater respect and understanding of trees. She nurtures the attentive heart "the heart that feels the presence of others and the call to respond, the heart that lives in relationship with other beings."
Kaza carries on a conversation with a sycamore while looking up at it from the ground, flat on her back. She can't resist touching the bark of an alder tree and wondering how it perceives the changing rhythms of the day. A dream draws Kaza to a pollinating maple in the spring and her response is one of rapture to its beauty. A group of children join the author in a visit to a redwood grove. She introduces the trees as "old friends of the family."
Whether standing in the hollow of a redwood, climbing a blue oak, or participating in an Arbor Day planting festival, Kaza finds fresh ways of talking to trees. Her conversations move gracefully from storytelling to calls for action against the needless destruction of forests. Kaza's imagination is so rich and her respect for nature is so deep that The Attentive Heart turns out to be one of the best spiritual resources of the year. You will never look at a tree in quite the same way after reading this meditative masterpiece.