Permanent Publications (2019)
Reviewed by Piers Warren
Glennie Kindred has written a dozen books on various aspects of natural lore and Earth traditions, this latest focussing on her love of trees. Walking with Trees covers thirteen of our British native tree genera (native Birches for example are represented by two species in the genus: Silver birch and Downy Birch). Each chapter is illustrated with Glennie’s own beautiful drawings.
It is soon clear that this book is packed with information about the selected trees, and not only is fascinating when read cover to cover, but will make a unique reference guide for years to come. Its breadth is quite unlike any other book about trees and is deeply personal and spiritual as well as being crammed with facts.
For each tree covered, there is an introduction describing where the tree can be found, which animals are associated with them, how they spread and some detail on the flowers and foliage and their uses. This is followed by a ‘signature picture’, which describes their core characteristics and what makes them different from other trees. The author then explores the myths, legends and folklore, much of which has been handed down through many generations over hundreds of years.
Then we have a practical section for each tree, which includes uses in the kitchen – which parts are edible or medicinal and how to use them, with the occasional recipe – and crafts, with a description of the wood’s qualities and what it has been traditionally used for. A guide to growing includes information on the tree’s seeds, how to grow them in the garden or wood, and how they can be grown more creatively – weaving living stems together to grow a living fence or structure, for example.
The second part of each chapter explores how we can use each tree to heal both ourselves and the Earth. Starting with a description of the tree’s signature qualities and how we can deepen our journey and relationship with them. There are practical suggestions about how make a tree essence and a touchwood, wand or Ogham stave from the wood. We are then shown the Ogham symbol for that particular tree from the ancient Celtic Tree Ogham system, used for consulting the wisdom of the trees and accessing their guidance.
Glennie then gives us guidance for how each tree relates to, or can be used in, celebrations marking the wheel of the year: a seasonal framework of eight Earth festivals. Finally she provides her own personal story of memories or special encounters she has had with each tree. These are moving and memorable and add a deeper spiritual dimension to each chapter.
At the back of the book is a very useful appendix full of practical and detailed information about how to perform many of the activities mentioned throughout such as growing trees from seeds or cuttings, creating a set of Ogham staves from small pieces of wood, making tinctures, elixirs, oils, ointments, essences and liqueurs, and finishing off with a section on working with wood including how to cut and season it and make walking sticks, amulets, charms and so on.
Overall this book leaves you with a strong desire to go out into the woods and find each of these trees, spend time with it, immerse yourself in its wisdom and particular qualities. This is not a book to be rushed, it is a reminder to slow down and absorb detail. It is easy to imagine spending hours or days with each of these trees, whilst rereading the relevant chapters, meditating and forming new and deeper relationships with these special beings in our natural world.