Let’s get started! If you are ready to comment or chat about what you’ve been loving or learning from this book, hop aboard dear ones!
Welcome to our very first Homesong book club discussion hang out! If you haven’t grabbed a glass of wine or cup of tea, go get it girl. I am going to start by telling you up front, I do not know exactly how this is going to flow, but I am optimistic and am going with it!
First and foremost, I want this space to be a positive and respectful one that lifts this of readers community up as we offer our insights, understandings, inquiries, and observations. Please remember to be kind and gracious to those sharing – opening up is a vulnerable and beautiful thing! Because we are not in person and instead are sharing through our writing, it is important that we all extend grace to one another and give each other the benefit of the doubt. I am so excited to dive in and see where this takes us! And just so we are all on the same page, here are some basic guidelines for this discussion:
- If you want to share your overall experience thus far and your reaction to your journaling, please do! I would love to hear how these first weeks of reading have been going for you. No judgement here. Life is moving at different paces for all of us and no matter what season you find yourself in, you have a seat at this table.
- If you want to reference a specific question below, make sure to include the number at the beginning of your comment. Example: “(Question 6) Spring is my favorite month and all the freshness and new growth makes me feel so alive. I love that the change of the seasons gives me permission to sort of start over. It’s a refreshing way to live through the changes nature gives us.
- If you want to comment on someone’s insight or answer a question they pose, do so as a reply and try to refer to them by name. This will help us keep things a bit more organized here.
- If you want to share your journal reflections for more than one question, you can do so in the same comment. You do not need to write multiple comments if you have more than one thing to share.
JOURNAL QUESTIONS FROM WEEK 1 & 2:
- Chapter 1 delves into the complexities of root systems of which we cannot see, specifically how forests are like “superorganisms with interconnections much like ant colonies.” How does this information change or impact your view of trees, and therefore, the natural world as a whole? In what ways does knowing that trees are mindful of one another’s growing space help encourage or support your reverence for the natural world?
- When talking about the supportive nature of tree communities the author states, “This is because a tree can only be as strong as the forest that surrounds it.” The truth behind this statement and the metaphor it carries is profound, don’t you think? What people or groups of people are the “forest” in your life, and how does their support specifically make you stronger? If you find yourself in a season where support is lacking, what steps can you take to water this area of your life? How has your idea or perception of “support,” and whatever that means to you, changed over the years as you’ve grown out of and entered new phases of life? Do you find that your culture is a supportive one like the community of trees, or one that values quite the opposite? How does this make you feel?
- Chapter 5 teaches us about the slim odds of trees producing one adult offspring to take its place. Have you ever considered the notion that trees reproduce? Have you ever thought of them as parents? After reading this chapter, how does knowing that “one out of 1.8 billion beechnuts will develop into a full-grown tree” change your outlook on their lives or their presence in our world?
- Chapter 6 takes us into the slow lane of tree life. Let’s think about what we’ve learned and apply it to children and raising them. In what specific ways, if any, do you think “slow” is a better pace when raising children? How do you think slow practices both support and hinder development or growth in raising children, or perhaps even, within our own lives as adults? Do you think our culture, or the culture within your household, nurtures a slow pace or one that rushes to keep up? Why is this? Feel free to journal about the topic of slowing down vs. fast-paced encouragement, and how the symbol of a slow-aging tree can give us a new lens through which we can view our lives and where we personally fall on this continuum.
- At this point you’ve learned more about trees than you may have cared to know. So, why does it matter? I am constantly finding myself returning to my own why as a mother and blogger and how this ebbs and flows over the months or years. What nuggets of wisdom, quotes, or scientific facts from these chapters are you planning on taking with you? Consider things you find yourself returning to as you go about your day? Explore the “so what factor” of all you’ve read thus far, and create short and convincing statement to share with others who are interested in picking up this book.
- Chapter 10 references early spring and how if one was to put their ear to the trunk of a large tree, he or she would hear the sound of rushing water. I dare you to try this, and double points if you do so in public! Ha. Good times. On another note, in what ways does the turn of the season from winter to spring ignite a similar rush of excitement inside of you?
- Wohlleben states on page 65, “Some trees acquire their wrinkles at a younger age than their contemporaries…similar to the human condition.” Our Western culture has a interesting perspective about wrinkles. What do you personally think about them and the aging process in general? What does it mean to age gracefully in your opinion?
- Chapter 15 share that “there are more life forms in a handful of forest soil than there are people on the planet.” When I read this I had to put my book down and just soak this amazing concept in. Have you ever dug your bare hands into soil? How does feeling the earth in its raw state make you feel? Why, especially in the age of immediacy + technology do you think it is important to connect with the earth in this way?
- Let’s ruminate on climate change since it has been brought up a bit in these chapters. What is your current take on this controversial (to some) subject? From what we’ve read, how do forests play an important role in climate change?
- Chapter 17 discusses trees and their habitats. How, like large forests, have you created your ideal habitat? What does this look or feel like? Why do you think you value such things?
With Care, Amanda
Amanda - (Question 2) I am going to start things off for us! I am not usually drawn to scientific books, but because this one is based in nature – something I really enjoy learning about – I have been blown away by the first half of this book. I keep coming back to the quote, “A tree is only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.” This is such a beautiful metaphor for motherhood and life in general, and I wish our culture celebrated this in more tangible ways. It takes a village and I feel like many of us know that but still feel like we are on these little islands, isolated in a sense, making our way through parenthood without help and support we should all have. Sure, there is social media but that is not enough. This book has helped me feel more secure in reaching out to both ask for and give help in my role as a mother and friend. Community is so important and a solid surrounding of supportive friends, key. What do you guys think? x Amanda
Sophie - Hi Amanda!
We should all support each other more, especially through parenthood which is as amazing as it is difficult. I think that a few decades back, people were more supportive, there was a bigger sense of community. Today, we are raised to be independant. Maybe that is why we feel we have to do things by ourselves? But your like your quote says, we can not be strong if we are alone. It is up to us to help others and to find ways to be supportive to those who need it (everyone in some way).
(Sorry for the bad English, I am French…)
Rachael Hollinger - (Question 5.) There is a passage on page 27 that has by far been the most impactful to me thus far! He is talking about beeches that undergo extremes in the weather, and he says “after extreme droughts bring many trees to the brink of death, they all bloom together the following year… the abundance of fruit reflects what happened the previous year, and has nothing to do with what will happen in the future.”
My family, and I have had the hardest year. Lots of loss, lots of disappointment,and seemingly no end in sight. I felt, along with the beech trees, that I too have been brought to the brink of myself. But what a lovely picture of not only community, but hope! The next year, despite all that had happened, they still bloomed together, bearing much fruit. Not only that, but this was a reflection of what has happened to the trees the previous year, not an indicator of what will happen to them in the future. This reminds me to live in the present, and not in fear!
admin - Rachael, this is such a beautiful perspective to hold onto. I underlined this line from that page, “If a seed lands on soft, damp soil, it has no choice but to sprout as soon as it is warmed by the sun in the spring.” I think that connects to what you’re saying as well. A message of hope indeed! x Amanda
Rachael Hollinger - Amanda, oh I love that too! underlining 😉
Nells - Rachel, I love how you are able to find the positive in the same passage that I sadly feel I found the negative. When reading Chapter five the part that really resonated with me was the part that discussed Trees (beeches and oaks) using all their energy to makes acrons and nuts and everything else “takes second place” and it weakens them to sickness and bugs. Feels a lot like I feel raising my small children. I have 3 children under five and I am putting my all into them which leaves little time or space for me and I am feeling very depleted. On that note Amanada thank you so much for this book club. It gets so lonely as a stay at home mom and it made this book so much more meaningful and powerful knowing there was a forest of others reading it at the same time.
Jessica Hooks - Nells, I LOVE this: “knowing there was a forest of others reading it at the same time” Seems very fitting for our first book of book club!
Anjay - Very true and empowering words, Amanda. Though, to be completely honest, I find it so difficult to ask for help, and to lean on others. I am a ‘do-it yourself’ kind of girl. I’m learning though, through motherhood, that it’s okay to need a hand, and that it’s okay not to be perfect. My work as a stay at home mom has been the most humbling experience, and I find my kids thrive when raising them is a collective effort.
Emily Elle - Amanda- In regards to not usually being drawn to science books, I (who am always drawn to anything science) was thinking about a specific way of teaching children. As a nanny, I have thought a lot about the education of children and the best ways to apply certain principles to our daily activities. One of my favorites is the Charlotte Mason idea of “living books,” which teach dry topics like science and history in the form of rich, “living” stories. Like Jesus knew when he taught using parables, our minds are able to form these memories and understandings so much better! I love the way this book uses both scientific and frankly poetic writing styles to wholesomely understand the hidden life of trees. xx
Amanda - Oh, and as I was reading I was reminded of a quote from a book we will dig into later on in the year, Simplicity Parenting, “In its complexity and sensuality, nature invites exploration, direct contact, and experience. But it also inspires a sense of awe, a glimpse of what is still “un-Googleable” . . . life’s mystery and magnitude.” How lovely is that!? I love that our book selections are going to have so much overlap. 🙂 x Amanda
Katelin Majeski - (Question 4)
Hi all! Yay!
The slow lane trees take on growing and raising their offspringreally appealed to me. I feel that our American culture emphasizes speed and hurry when it comes to raising children. We often push them to grow and learn things at the pace we desire, instead of the natural rhythm of their own learning drive. The slow nature of trees brings a sense of calm- and I’d imagine that same sense of calm might come about when we take a little less pressure off of ourselves and our children to make them grow more quickly. Rather, I think we can learn a good deal from the slow steady nature of trees, and relish in the beauty of our little one’s childhoods a bit more! 🙂
admin - Katelin, oh my YES. Lovely thoughts. So this is one of the main reasons why Andrew and I decided to learn more about Waldorf rhythms and not pursue local public schooling. I was a teacher in a public school and while I loved many aspects of it, I felt that push to dump so much on my poor students- it was very stressful! The book Simplicity Parenting will touch on this a lot. Have you read it?? x Amanda
Katelin Majeski - Amanda,
My little one is 14 months old but I’ve already been eagerly looking into Waldorf as well as Charlotte Mason! I have not read simplicity parenting but am really looking forward to it! (Also forgive my typos earlier, I was nursing and typing!) 😂
Rachael Hollinger - Katelin, I noted something similar to this thought in my journal. I just loved how the mama trees didn’t seem to be in any hurry to help their offspring grow up. Our world, and the world of trees can at times be a brutal place. Let them be little for as long as they can be! This also encouraged me to learn WITH my child, at her pace.
Ashton - Katelin, these are such wise thoughts. I often wonder if as parents we keep perpetuating this issue of speed and hurrying to learn things for the child’s benefit or our own as parents? I definitely need to step back and access different areas where I have or am doing this to my daughters.
Anjay - I totally agree with you Katelin. I think slowing down and learning with our children is one of the most important things we can do as parents. Though, to be completely honest, it does require a lot of patience. My almost two year old son watches his older sister who’s three and a half, and has to do EVERYTHING himself, from getting his toast ready in the morning, to putting on his shoes, climbing into his car seat, and even buckling it! Leaving the house for a simple outing can take an hour, no word of a lie. Sometimes we need to be places… and sometimes I need to remind myself, are those places really that important?
Sara Charlesworth - (Question 7)
Hi! Well, I’ve loved so much about this book and how much I can relate it to everyday life. Something about relating a trees wrinkles to human wrinkles really stood out to me. And how just like humans, some trees wrinkle earlier than others. I love the idea of aging gracefully like trees do. I know our western culture likes to empthasize youth, but I happen to find a sort of beauty in aging and the wrinkles our faces show, almost like each individual life’s story upon ones face. There is a beauty in it, and I sometimes wish that was apreiciated more.
Thanks for putting this on ….. it’s been so much fun!
Andrea H - I agree. I had similar thoughts while reading the aging chapter. Everyone wrinkles at their own pace, just like each tree species, and individual tree withiin a species. I find it odd that we marvel at the strength of an old, cracked tree with it’s deep groves, enjoying its beauty more than a young sapling. Yet, the minute we begin to age, society no longer finds beauty in a person aging gracefully, especially among women. We feel we must dye our hair at the first sign of grey; search for the most effective anti wrinkle creme, botox or plastic surgeon. why is aging in nature so revered, but not among humans?
Sophie - (Question 4) What I mainly liked about the book so far is the many lessons we can take from trees and forests. One aspect I find inspiring is that trees live a slow life which seems to lead them to become stronger, wiser and older. If we tried to slow down, could we become stronger and wiser as well? Question 4 is about slowing it down with children. The slower the steadier. Children do not think as fast as adults. Typically, when you ask a child to do something, it will always take more time than you would want to. I tend to believe that it is because a child needs more time to proceed the information given and to transform it into an action (and to actually accept to stop playing to put his shoes on). Slowing down also allows us to really live in the moment and to be more mindful. But for me, it is also important to not build a “slow bubble” around my children. They also have to learn that our world goes fast and they have to be able to live in this fast world. It is a question of balance.
Meagan - Hi everyone! What is really grabbing me about this book is how very little researchers/”scientists” know about trees still to this date. There was a chapter talking about sap and he mentioned that the ability trees have to suck water all the way through the roots to the leaves is still a complete MYSTERY. As Amanda said above everything seems “google-able” these days but there is so much more to discover and learn in this big, wide world. It is so inspiring to know in my heart that my children still have so many things to explore and learn and discover that we know nothing about. It’s easy to forget this in our day and age when there is such a huge access to information. Meagan.
admin - Meagan, this past week some of the parents at the Waldorf toddler program I am a part of talked a great deal about sitting with information for a bit before Googling it or looking it up on our devices and what that does for our brains. I feel like I am so reliant on my phone to tell me everything right away, but refraining and feeling the discomfort of learning and not knowing is really important! You are so right. There is so much more to discover and learn outside the current of rushed information! x A
Adrianna - I am loving all of these comments! This book is amazing and totally changed my point of view when my husband and I took our girls on a walk through the mountains yesterday. In chapter 2 when it’s talking about the language of trees he talks about how in modern agriculture the plants are all very “quiet”. And then he says, “Perhaps farmers can learn from the forests and breed a little more wildness back into their grain and potatoes so that they’ll be more talkative in the future.” I just think we could all use a little more “wild” in our lives in one way or another.
Andrea - Adrianna, that line jumped out at me too! I definitely think that a little wildness is good for the soul. I also find it amazing how perfectly and cohesively a forest ecosystem seems to function without human interference.
Ashton - (Question 7)
This particular question really struck a nerve with me in this particular season that I am in. Post-partum body after a couple c-sections (one with a very noticeable scar), turning 30 in January, and all the gray hair coming in!
Man, as a woman, the aging process seems to be such a resented process. Wrinkles and gray hair and scars. I have even pondered the idea of how we view our skin when carrying a child versus after the child is born. Almost as if the wrinkles that are left behind are not as beautiful.
There are a couple verses in Proverbs that essentially say gray hair is a sign of wisdom. And I would like to think that wrinkles go along with that as well. I am trying to be mindful that aging is something that is a natural process. Wrinkles and scars are beautiful marks of battles fought and wisdom gained. It means miles have been walked on this earth through many an experience—life, birthed. I hope we are a generation of women that work to change the perception of aging in our culture as the death to everything “good and beautiful” and instead view it as miles walked in exactly those things.
admin - Ashton, I just have to say I found my very first gray yesterday morning as I was blow-drying my hair (!) and told Andrew last night that I want to be one of those grandmothers years form now who embraces long gray hair. I love the confidence and beauty in showing our age and the lessons this teaches the little ones who are watching. The same goes for loving our post-baby bodies and the resentment we women tend to hold for the way we look after bringing life into this world. I think there should be more 4th TRIMESTER care with lessons on loving, helping, and healing our bodies after we have babies. I could talk about this all night. I love your thoughts here, such good food for thought mama! x Amanda
Adrianna - I 100% agree. I too want to be one of those old ladies that completely embraces the gray hair and wrinkles. Chapter 11 talks about trees aging gracefully 🙂
Nells - I think ageing is one of the most beautiful things. I love “crows feet” and other lines of faces that show a person has spent a lifetime smiling. I also feel as a artist that peoples coloring changes as we age… so when a person dyes their hair to look younger it always seems off to me and mismatched. Perhaps because they often try for the hair color of their youth… I’m unsure. I just know there is nothing more beautiful to me then an aging women (and I have many grey hairs that I love). That said I really had to come to terms with the changes that occur postpartum that was a shock to me.
Olivia - Ashton, This chapter really stood out to me as well. Before I began reading this book, I journaled about the kinds of trees I am most drawn to – ancient, gnarled, twisty trees with thick branches you can climb and spend time with your feet dangling beneath you. I feel like these trees have such a soul, and that they exude life well-lived and wisdom and majesty.
While reading chapter 11, I thought, isn’t it the same with people? Life and wisdom and majesty is likewise found in a person’s aged exterior (and with things, too – I love when you can visibly tell that an object has been well-loved). I think that’s why I’m so drawn to people who have embraced their old age as a beautiful and necessary part of life. I hope to one day follow in their footsteps.
And I think I need to start spending more time with old trees and old people.
Claire Arkin - Love this! Each wrinkle telling a story, each laugh line well earned. You can tell so much by looking at others hands. I always loved looking at my Grandfathers hands, wrinkled, weathered, almost like old leather. Imagine the stories those hands could tell.
Kristin Elliott - Hi! I have to say that I never gave trees much thought. This book has really broadened my horizons to nature! Thanks for this book suggestion. I am definitely going to take this seriously and take nature more serious also. That quote that you quoted Amanda was right on! What a great way to continue reading this book, keeping that quote in mind.
Hayley - Hi all!
I was a bit hesitant starting out in this book (I’m usually a fiction reader.) but I’m just amazed at what I’ve learned so far. I feel like there is a whole world out there that I wasn’t aware of! Im in awe of all of the intricate ways trees work with and respond to the world around them. Leaves me realizing that I’d do well to spend more time as a student of nature! Im so thankful for this push outside of my normal reading comfort zone!
Anjay - (Question 5)
Trees, to me, have always provided a sense of awe. There’s a mystical presence about them. There’s something so humbling, and grounding about walking through a forest, about being in the presence of a mature tree. There’s a wisdom, a profoundness, an inspiring and over exhilarating essence to a tree. After having read only half of Wohlleben’s book, the feelings I have long held for trees, my admiration and respect for these fascinating creatures (and they are indeed creatures), have been further substantiated, and by science and research nonetheless! Trees love, and learn; they feel and grow; they celebrate community, and nurture one another. I think too often, we, as a society, forget the life-giving essence these magnificent beings have to offer. We live too quickly, where they take time to live.
Though his book is scientific in nature, Wholleben’s passion, appreciation and adoration for trees carries the reader through and provides a sense of relief. He writes with humour, and his use of scientific jargon is laced with metaphor and depth. One of my favourite passages is in chapter 14 “Tree or Not Tree”, where he writes about the importance of the root system of a 9,550-year-old tree. He explains that the tree had much younger ‘shoots,’ but that “it is the root that looked after the survival of [the] organism… It is in the roots that centuries of experience are stored…” (81). I found this to be so beautiful. It isn’t what is above ground that constitutes a trees age, but rather what is unseen, what is underground. The root system provides stability and strength; it provides guidance to the system that grows above ground. The shoots were “part of a larger whole.” The idea of being guided and protected by a higher, or in this case, lower power, and the idea of a collective soul are imbedded in his prose here. After having read this, I had to ask myself: What grounds you? Where do you find your roots?
admin - Anjay, I loved thinking about and imagining the root systems of the trees in our yard and garden and how complex they all must be. I think you’ve hit on a beautifully deep metaphor for life here – the difference between the complexity of our inner vs. outer lives. I think when we view humanity in this way and see one another as part of a whole, each of us being complex beings, we open the door for so much more compassion. I think compassion, serving others, and growing in my faith is what grounds me. x Amanda
Meagan - Yes! It’s so easy to forget the complexity of each person – the ability to tap into this root system (in human terms) is the path to empathy! ❤
Andrea - The idea that “it is in the roots that centuries of experience are stored” made me think of my familiar roots and all the knowledge, wisdom and experience that parents, grandparents, friends, family and others can pass on to us if we are willing an open to receive it.
Brianna Blacklock - On imagining the root systems in our yards & other things.. Previous to this book, I would take walks with my two-year-old and my eyesight would remain around eye level. I’d venture down to his height, and further yet to whatever was being pointed out on the ground, but I’d always come right back up to eye level ( I suppose this is somewhat necessary for walking in a straight line). The point I’m trying to get at here, is that there is so much more. Reading this book has reminded me of how I once was, eager to see and learn, and has encouraged me to look around in order to better appreciate and understand what is taking place around me. I find myself looking up into the branches of the trees lining our sidewalks. I try to determine which trees are true friends with one another, the ones Wohlleben mentions are sometimes so entwined below the ground that they often die together (pg 5). I think about that line over and over and what that means for us as people. I imagine what is below my feet, the roots and the details of their relationships, the level of communication they share with one another without any one else having a clue. A tangle of roots working together, looking after one another, keeping each other grounded in health and in spirit. Sharing life together. I walk and wonder how so many of us got so far from nature and each other, despite the beauty being right here in our yards and our homes. The trees seem to know more about one another than we do of ourselves. Our trees are constantly reaching out, and yet I don’t know enough about my neighbors to call a single one of them by their first name.
“Every tree..is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible” (pg 4). A lovely thought. How can we maintain this same mentality for our trees, and extend it further yet to the value we place on humankind?
Cassidy - Hey everyone!
I don’t necessarily think this answers any of the response questions above but it definitely struck a chord somewhere in my heart: “trees maintain an inner balance. They budget their strength carefully, and they must be economical with their energy so they can meet all their needs.” Pg 25. Then it goes on to talk about growth and that the energy needs to be budgeted to carry the increasing weight, to keep some in reserves to defend themselves, and to eventually blossom. I had my first baby 6 months ago and have been a little frustrated with this new chapter of my life just because I feel like I haven’t gotten out of the new mom foginess yet. Those two sentences sum up how I’ve been feeling the past half year. I’m having to be careful with my time and energy because it takes so much out of me to care for her (I’m a SAHM so I’m with her 24/7). I don’t necessarily like budgeting my energy but I thought it was a beautiful picture of the why behind doing it. Growth is a beautiful thing which takes time and energy but I’m sure when I look back on this time I will cherish being able to spend so much 1-on-1 time to her.
Carolyn - I am really enjoying this book! My overall reaction that has come to me slowly as I work my way through the chapters is that even though this book is about trees it seems to put the human experience at the center. Which isn’t entirely wrong, but instead of thinking “oh wow, trees are kind of like us!” maybe it should be “oh wow, we aren’t too different from trees (or any living thing). The section I resonate most with so far is about slow living. “Slow growth when the tree is young is a prerequisite if a tree is to love to a ripe old age” – reminds me of the Steiner quote about children setting down their roots, which my parents had hanging on the wall of my childhood home. (I intended to reply to specific questions but that wasn’t in the cards tonight! Next time!) Thanks for the thoughtful facilitation, Amanda!
Carolyn - Correction: it was a Thoreau quote, not Steiner. “I am struck by the fact that the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think that the same is true of human beings. We do not wish to see children precocious, making great strides in their early years like sprouts, producing a soft and perishable timber, but better if they expand slowly at first, as if contending with difficulties, and so are solidified and perfected. Such trees continue to expand with nearly equal rapidity to extreme old age.” It nicely illustrates the same point being made in this book, I think.
Brianna Blacklock - Carolyn, I love this, thank you.
Jessy - Cassidy, I can really relate to that! I’m a stay at home mama to twin toddlers and I LOVE being home with them, but it has definitely been a challenge to find and guard our rythym as a family. Our culture is so focused on the hustle and it can put so many unrealistic expectations on us, especially when we are in the new mom fog! We can run ourselves ragged if we aren’t mindful of what we are letting into our hearts and minds.
Learning that our rythym for our family may not be what others are doing, and that’s ok! I’m learning that it’s ok to be different and just follow my instincts as a mama and let our life reflect a peace and calm that come from God. I also underlined the same passage about trees being economical with their energy- such wisdom we can glean from nature!
Jennifer - I loved Sophie’s comment on question number 4 about slowing down with our children. As I’ve been writing the follow up curriculum to The Peaceful Preschool I’ve felt a few moments of conflict over taking kindergarten students through the year at a more playful pace, and yet as we begin to place building practical skills and quality relationships on as important a level as reading and writing, I believe we will ultimately see students who are more integrated as spirit, soul, and body. Whole and healthy families will then be equipped to bring a lot more peace and joy into our world.
Claire Arkin - Jennifer,
I am struck by your words about what you are hoping for your students. You are right on. It so reminds me of The Reggio Emilia Philosophy out of Italy. Have you heard of it? The learning for the students is based on play, and the curriculum is much more focused on building empathy skills, and recognizing emotions and how to handle them. If only we all could learn these skills at such young ages. If local, there is a beautiful school called Bambini Creativi all should check out. So important to slow down with our littles!
sarah - hi all! it’s so cool reading all of your comments and thoughts on this book, a lot of them overlap with my own and i love seeing how inspired we all are by the same words despite being far apart! this book club discussion is kind of a monday morning thing for me because of the time difference (i’m in germany) but that’s what nap time is for, eh? 😉
there were two things that jumped out to me so far from this book: the first was what amanda wrote in the beginning about needing a forest to surround us. i’ve been living in europe for five years since marrying my husband (he’s german) and i haven’t quite found my “forest” yet. i love living here, but sometimes the cultural differences can be hard to overcome and now that we have a baby i see that it really is crucial to find other “trees” to lean on.
the second thing was the part in chapter 8 where the author talks about how trees can’t always be growing up, so they gather their resources to strengthen what’s there in the current season of their lives. that really spoke to me because i feel like i’m always in a hurry to grow “up” to the next step and not strengthen my life where i’m at. it’s tempting to focus on the coming season, especially when the one i’m in isn’t very pleasant, but the tree metaphor keeps coming back as a reminder “wherever you are, be all there.” xoxo
Tara - I found the intimate connection between the author and his subject surprising and touching – I had no idea how beautifully mysterious and complicated trees could be! In our community, we talk a lot about how everything matters – big, small, sacred, secular – I love how this book spends time fleshing this out with a nice blend of science and metaphor.
Others mentioned this quote as well and I keep going back to it:
“However, when we step into farm fields, the vegetation becomes very quiet. Thanks to selective breeding, our cultivated plants have, for the most part, lost the ability to communicate above or below ground-you could say they are deaf and dumb-and therefore they are easy prey for insect pests. That is one reason why modern agriculture uses so many pesticides. Perhaps farmers can learn from the forests and breed a little more wildness back into their grain and potatoes so that they’ll be more talkative in the future.”
It is simultaneously sad and hopeful – the realization that we have forever altered the landscape while providing an opportunity to reimagine a better future for it. Micheal Pollan’s book Second Nature talks about this tension when he says, “We are at once the problem and the only possible solution to the problem.”
What a wonderful opportunity.
Naomi - I’ve heard it said that one of the most powerful things you can say to someone is, “Me too.” I feel like these trees are saying that to us, and like our book club “Me too.” comments, are encouraging and strengthening each other. 🙂 The slow-living and the way they budget their strength to see them through tough times, as well as the camaraderie of some of these trees really resonated with me. We can be in such a rush that we neglect the important things. Something that I really loved in Chapter 7 was how snow, such a soft and delicate looking thing, can, over time, bend the trunk of a tree (drunken forest), leaving a lasting impact. I felt this spoke to the not-so-extroverts of the world, encouraging them that their soft, steady pitter-patter in life is powerful and will leave a lasting impact on those around them. I may have looked a little too deep into that one 😉 but this book seems to do that to you, don’t you think?! 😉 x
Kelsey - (Question 3 and 5)
Reading your question (on tree parents and the seed sprouting ratio and also on what the most important things are to me from this book) and the passages in this chapter, all I ever do now is think about the trees among us and how I wish I could catch all of these little seedlings, that won’t make it, and plant them myself! It is quite an unfortunate realization (one that I had never thought of before) to think about all of the infrastructure that goes on, especially in my little city of Boise, Idaho where things are happening fast around here, and the unfortunate slow paced rate and sprouting that is happening for our trees. This race is a highly unfortunate one and although I firmly believe that Nature will always heal itself, it is quite difficult to heal oneself when somebody else is sitting on top of you. This makes me think: What can we do here? The one thing that I have been taking away from this book has not only been what I am learning about nature but what I (and us all) can do to ACTUALLY take measures in helping out our fellow green friends. No, I can’t go build a forest (especially in one day), and I can’t simply go and make lawful decisions that can have impacts all at once. But I have been trying to make a list of all of the things that I can do at home and even what I should be doing as far as getting in touch with my local representatives to make changes that are positive for our environment (especially due to the lack of action happening on our federal level).
Kelsey - Other than you lovelies who, I’m sure, take pride in your sweet little gardens, what are you doing/what do you think you (we) should be doing to enhance our efforts in helping out our green friends and our big green and blue friend (Earth emoji)? Any composters? Any special tips and tricks we should know about?!
admin - Kelsey, we compost! I have a little bin by our sink and we fill it up just about every day. I take it in the backyard after I clean up the kitchen at night and use a spin composter that we then use to help our garden along 🙂 I cannot believe how much waste it saves! My tip would be to keep the brown to green ratio 1:1 – other than that I’d love to hear some tips myself. Great question girl! x Amanda
Kelsey - (Question 6)
In response to this question (on the changes inside of us from Winter to Spring), I am a Spring “fan girl” (I think is what it’s called). The turn and tide of the season is by far one of my favorite feelings where I get to shut my eyes from the hustle and bustle of school and work and actually feel something rejuvenating. It’s not that kind of feeling when you start a new season of Game of Thrones or when you purchase a new sweater, it is the kind of feeling you get when physically, emotionally – you feel that sense of “Ahhw.” The sun is out and a slight breeze comes over your cheeks and a nice rain comes and goes and the beautiful TREES are doing there thing (Yay for these lovelies!) This is the time of year where I am out as much as I possibly can be (before it gets far too hot in the Summer to bare) and I want to ride my back and walk through the park and I just want to write. You’d think with all of the down time in the Winter I would be down to the nub of my pencil and running out of ink in my black pens, but it is this Spring season where my mind just unfolds mental notes of all of things things that I want to write (almost like these extensive blog comments happening right now, sorry!).
admin - Kelsey, I loved reading this. Those are what I call my “goosebump moments”. Our family just returned from a long trail walk and we found a large flowering tree and just sat under it together, feeling its energy and almost hearing the water rush up its core. It was amazing and almost healing in a way. Although I do have to say that I am really excited for Game of Thrones to start 😉 x Amanda
Kelsey - Love it. Love it so much. How would you say that you practice patients with your little ones to get them to understand appreciating nature and just “being” with nature? This is what I am working on with my 3 year old niece. Also, tips on teaching your little ones patience in general would be lovely to know. And yes, Game of Thrones.. I just can’t wait any longer.
Kelsey - (Question 4)
(This is my law post, I promise!) In regards to raising children and the best ways in which we can educate and enlighten them, well, I couldn’t quite say – as I have none of my own. I will say this. I am only 21 years of age yes, and I have only acquired 2 years (so far) of higher education. The credit that I will give myself is that I have studied extensively on the matters of psychology and child development – which has entailed many hours spent working with children. On my own time, I also have two young nieces who I take absolute pride in, in educating them and spending time helping them develop their motor, sensory, memory, etc., etc. skills. Now, I absolutely love my sister (23). She was the wild child of our 5 wo-man group of sisters growing up. My niece is now 3 and is showing signs of rebellion and slight absent mindedness (much like my sister). She is only 3 yes, but unfortunately I wouldn’t say that my sister shows signs of the strongest intellect, especially intellect that can be bestowed upon my niece. My sister has and is continuing to make many poor decisions. She is currently filing for divorce from her husband (of 3 years) and I know things are going to continue to make matter worse for my niece. It breaks my heart to think that my niece isn’t receiving all of the benefits and education that she could be if my sister made a stronger effort in, not only helping my niece strongly develop, but also in educating herself in the importance of the knowledge that a young one truly needs. Although this experience has been rough (on the whole family), it has really formed the way I see child development and education and how I will raise my own children one day.
Kelsey - Follow up question to this: Any daily routines with your little ones to educate them about life, compassion, nature, etc.? Books you suggest (Not affiliated with religion please)? How do you promote your little ones from staying out of trouble and obeying rules? How do we promote passion? I am also an avid “You are working so hard!” vs. “You are so great at this!” kind of person. Any of you who have words/phrases of promotion that communicate to your kids with that you would like to share?
admin - Kelsey, have you looked into Waldorf philosophies by chance? They are rooted in reverence and compassion for life and base their methods on the seasons and how they unfold. It’s a very beautiful and empathetic way to learn. I’d recommend the book Heaven on Earth – It’s not religious but explains the Waldorf rhythms very well! x Amanda
Kelsey - Oo, no – I’ve heard though! Yes I will now, thank you Amanda!
Stephanie - I’m a little late to the discussion, but first wanted to say, thank you Amanda for organizing this. I’ve really enjoyed carving out “me” time to read and journal again. It’s so lovely to pick up a book I might not normally have been drawn to. (Question 5 from week 1) One of the nuggets of wisdom I will take with me so far is the amazing facts about undisturbed forests versus planted forests. It makes me realize that nature really does know best! There is a delicate system, a delicate balance, a wisdom if you will. We have shown our Mother Earth a lack of respect in many ways. Ironically in the midst of reading this book, I was also reading The Lorax to my daughter! Greed does drive so many decisions and factors today. Everything from GMO crops, pollution in our waters, the evils of factory farming animals, and our poor bee population to name a few. I think if humans were a bit more compassionate, we could make better decisions and treat our trees, our planet, and all our creatures with more respect.
Lauren - Thank you so much for the recommendation, I am enjoying this book more than I would have ever imagined I would.
While I totally agree that it would be amazing to raise my daughter in this slow manner, what’s real for me is that my husband and I both have to work full time just to support our very minimal lives. We are educated with good jobs. We did not jump into having a family being unprepared. We simply cannot afford our home or down-size our lives any more than we have already done to make it so one of us could work less. More time working means less time at home where all the creativity, love, adventure, learning, and play needs to happen. I find it difficult to prioritize reading over pretend play or art over music or nature over swimming lessons. All of these things are vastly important to me and if I want to go “slow”, we have to make cuts, its just math. So I cram things in and feel guilty or I cut things out and feel guilty. And I am sure my daughter, though only 3 years old, observes this struggle. I do not want to model a resentment for my job, which pays for us to eat and for which I am grateful.
Homesong Book Club: The Hidden Life of Trees Discussion Part II » Homesong - […] To visit The Hidden Life of Trees Discussion Part I Click Here […]
Lauren - I think I am a little late too! I’ve just discovered your beautiful blog and it has been so fun to get to know your little family. The part that spoke to me the most was how the trees bend when the snow moves slowly down the mountain. It slowly pushes them back every year when they are trying so hard to stay upright. We had an ultrasound this week to check on my pregnancy and the doctor, once again, told us that the little heart on the screen had stopped beating, making it our fourth miscarriage. July will be our two year anniversary of hoping for a baby to come and every year I feel like I’m being pushed back down the mountain when I am trying so hard to keep upright and positive. I feel like I have no control of the coming snow just like those trees. Grief and hard times change you.