Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Two Ways of Knowing a Tree

There are, then, two ways of knowing a tree. One is the way of human feeling and sympathy, through which a tree becomes a part of one's self, as the sunshine does. It is identified with every hallowed experience. The influence of its benignant branches throws a savor into the commonest nooks and comers of our lives. Another way to know the tree is the botanical or analytical way. This method sternly scrutinizes every detail. This is essential to truth, but not to feeling. It is so likely to restrict and dwarf the vision and the sympathies as to make the tree but a laboratory filled with curiously fashioned mechanisms. Some persons are slaves to facts. There are botanists, no doubt, who know all the kinds of trees, but who have never seen the greenness and verdure and sublimeness of the woods. Yet, despite the narrow vision which may come from the analytical study of plants, there is no inherent reason why the person who traces the veins in the leaf, counts the seeds in the pod, and unravels the structure in the wood, may not also see the tree of which all these charming details are but the various parts. L.H. Bailey, introduction to "Familiar Trees and their Leaves"

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