The Attentive Heart: Conversations with Trees

By Reidel, Carl | American Forests, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

The Attentive Heart: Conversations with Trees


Reidel, Carl, American Forests


by Stephanie Kaza, illustrations by Davis Te Selle. Shambhala Books, 300 Massachusetts Ave., Boston MA 02115 (1996). 270 pp., 27 illustrations, paper. ISBN 1-57062-251-5, $17.

This is not an easy book to describe in a brief review. It is best experienced, I discovered, in an unhurried reading in the shade of a favorite tree on a quiet day when you're able to set aside any preconceptions the tide may suggest.You might be surprised at how it changes your relationships with the trees in your life, recalling youthful experiences and raising expectations for the future.

This is a gentle book in which the author celebrates her unexpected encounters with trees, the joy of living with them, grieving over their loss, and choosing to act on their behalf. This is not a book about trees; it is the intimate story of one person's "explorations in human-tree conversations." Sometimes awkward, sometimes passionate and even fearful, these rendezvous with trees are always heartfelt and genuine. In telling these stories, Kaza reminds us of the sacred roots and deeper meanings of the forests of our lives, as well as the day-today pleasures.

An exquisite set of illustrations, reproductions of hand-printed lithographs of sketches by Davis Te Selle, grace each of the 27 chapters.

WILDERNESS AND THE CHANGING AMERICAN WEST

by Gundars Rudzitis. Wiley & Sons, Inc., 605 Third Ave., New York, IVY 10158 (1997). 235 pp., paper. ISBN 0-47113396-5, $34.95.

This is one of those rare books which speaks clearly to the general reader as well as to policy experts because the author, a professor of geography, has the courage to take a reasoned, but unambiguous stand on a controversial issue. "I have followed my interpretation of the 'facts' to where I think they should lead me, knowing that others may disagree with my conclusions and recommendations. That is how it should be," he states. That kind of courage-in the tradition of writer Mike Frome-is made all the more exciting by Rudzitis' lively and interesting prose, which moves easily between theory and everyday reality.

In a relatively brief book, he uses remarkable skill and insight to capture the historical context of wilderness protection and the current debates over public policy. He explores the meanings and relationships of "Wilderness" and "The West," the roots of tensions between public land-management agencies and traditions of the Old West, and the tough policy choices we face in the future.

Chapters on the role Native Americans play and economics' place in the debates over wilderness policy are both thoughtful and provocative. His insights into the dynamics of regional development are as applicable to places like Vermont and Virginia as they are to the New West.

He explores how a sense of place is crucial to sound economic development and for redefining wilderness policy. For me, this was a reminder that geographers have long been ahead of us foresters and other natural resource professionals in understanding the complex dynamics of regional development .Thus the need for comprehensive public land-management strategies.

In the final chapter, Future Directions for Wilderness, Rudzitis sets forth proposals for major wilderness policy reform and calls for the creation of a new wilderness management agency. …

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