A snippet of a Hermann Hesse quote about trees sent us hunting for the whole passage. Our hearts sank when we found that its original publication was out of print and fiercely expensive. Until we stumbled on Trees: An Anthology of Writings and Paintings, a little gem of a book: thirty of Hesse’s watercolors with his essays and poetry about trees, that were for him, a symbol of transcendence and rebirth. It starts with the piece that first sparked my search (Here are excerpts):

For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree.

Hermann Hesse from Trees: An Anthology of Writings and Paintings

When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured.

Hermann Hesse from Trees: An Anthology of Writings and Paintings

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

…Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.

We find that Hesse’s writing about trees has expanded our view of them and the effect they have on us.

Trees: An Anthology of Writings and Paintings by Hermann Hesse, at Amazon

Read the entire essay here, or in the book. We’re thinking it would make a perfect little gift.

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One thought on “‘Trees are Sanctuaries’: Hermann Hesse’s Writing and Watercolors

  1. I can’t thank you enough, Sally. I had the same experience when I first looked for the Hesse book. Wanted a copy badly but it was either out or reach or out of print. Ordered this edition immediately. Also, just posted today’s TIL to the Tree Club on Facebook. And will post soon to my own page.

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