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To Speak for the Trees: My Life's Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest

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Canadian botanist, biochemist and visionary Diana Beresford-Kroeger's startling insights into the hidden life of trees have already sparked a quiet revolution in how we understand our relationship to forests. Now, in a captivating account of how her life led her to these illuminating and crucial ideas, she shows us how forests can not only heal us but save the planet. W Canadian botanist, biochemist and visionary Diana Beresford-Kroeger's startling insights into the hidden life of trees have already sparked a quiet revolution in how we understand our relationship to forests. Now, in a captivating account of how her life led her to these illuminating and crucial ideas, she shows us how forests can not only heal us but save the planet. When Diana Beresford-Kroeger--whose father was a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and whose mother was an O'Donoghue, one of the stronghold families who carried on the ancient Celtic traditions--was orphaned as a child, she could have been sent to the Magdalene Laundries. Instead, the O'Donoghue elders, most of them scholars and freehold farmers in the Lisheens valley in County Cork, took her under their wing. Diana became the last ward under the Brehon Law. Over the course of three summers, she was taught the ways of the Celtic triad of mind, body and soul. This included the philosophy of healing, the laws of the trees, Brehon wisdom and the Ogham alphabet, all of it rooted in a vision of nature that saw trees and forests as fundamental to human survival and spirituality. Already a precociously gifted scholar, Diana found that her grounding in the ancient ways led her to fresh scientific concepts. Out of that huge and holistic vision have come the observations that put her at the forefront of her field: the discovery of mother trees at the heart of a forest; the fact that trees are a living library, have a chemical language and communicate in a quantum world; the major idea that trees heal living creatures through the aerosols they release and that they carry a great wealth of natural antibiotics and other healing substances; and, perhaps most significantly, that planting trees can actively regulate the atmosphere and the oceans, and even stabilize our climate. This book is not only the story of a remarkable scientist and her ideas, it harvests all of her powerful knowledge about why trees matter, and why trees are a viable, achievable solution to climate change. Diana eloquently shows us that if we can understand the intricate ways in which the health and welfare of every living creature is connected to the global forest, and strengthen those connections, we will still have time to mend the self-destructive ways that are leading to drastic fires, droughts and floods.


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Canadian botanist, biochemist and visionary Diana Beresford-Kroeger's startling insights into the hidden life of trees have already sparked a quiet revolution in how we understand our relationship to forests. Now, in a captivating account of how her life led her to these illuminating and crucial ideas, she shows us how forests can not only heal us but save the planet. W Canadian botanist, biochemist and visionary Diana Beresford-Kroeger's startling insights into the hidden life of trees have already sparked a quiet revolution in how we understand our relationship to forests. Now, in a captivating account of how her life led her to these illuminating and crucial ideas, she shows us how forests can not only heal us but save the planet. When Diana Beresford-Kroeger--whose father was a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and whose mother was an O'Donoghue, one of the stronghold families who carried on the ancient Celtic traditions--was orphaned as a child, she could have been sent to the Magdalene Laundries. Instead, the O'Donoghue elders, most of them scholars and freehold farmers in the Lisheens valley in County Cork, took her under their wing. Diana became the last ward under the Brehon Law. Over the course of three summers, she was taught the ways of the Celtic triad of mind, body and soul. This included the philosophy of healing, the laws of the trees, Brehon wisdom and the Ogham alphabet, all of it rooted in a vision of nature that saw trees and forests as fundamental to human survival and spirituality. Already a precociously gifted scholar, Diana found that her grounding in the ancient ways led her to fresh scientific concepts. Out of that huge and holistic vision have come the observations that put her at the forefront of her field: the discovery of mother trees at the heart of a forest; the fact that trees are a living library, have a chemical language and communicate in a quantum world; the major idea that trees heal living creatures through the aerosols they release and that they carry a great wealth of natural antibiotics and other healing substances; and, perhaps most significantly, that planting trees can actively regulate the atmosphere and the oceans, and even stabilize our climate. This book is not only the story of a remarkable scientist and her ideas, it harvests all of her powerful knowledge about why trees matter, and why trees are a viable, achievable solution to climate change. Diana eloquently shows us that if we can understand the intricate ways in which the health and welfare of every living creature is connected to the global forest, and strengthen those connections, we will still have time to mend the self-destructive ways that are leading to drastic fires, droughts and floods.

30 review for To Speak for the Trees: My Life's Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest

  1. 5 out of 5

    GoodlyWitch

    I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, To Speak for the Trees: My Life’s Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest by Diana Beresford-Kroeger. After finishing it, I wasn’t disappointed, but I was saddened by the references to the Druid’s lost medicinal formulas and uses of trees. The Penal Years under British rule and their occupation of Ireland destroyed much of Druid culture and knowledge. However, the author, who was schooled as a young girl in the remaining k I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, To Speak for the Trees: My Life’s Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest by Diana Beresford-Kroeger. After finishing it, I wasn’t disappointed, but I was saddened by the references to the Druid’s lost medicinal formulas and uses of trees. The Penal Years under British rule and their occupation of Ireland destroyed much of Druid culture and knowledge. However, the author, who was schooled as a young girl in the remaining knowledge of the Druid’s Brehon Laws in western Ireland, has combined what she was taught there with her study of trees as a 21st century botanist to create a compelling book of Celtic wisdom. The book includes discussions of forest bathing and a short but detailed chapter on each of the 20 trees of the Celtic Ogham alphabet. Anyone with an interest in Druids, Celts, and Ogham will find the book well-written and interesting. Furthermore, the author believes that if each person alive today were to plant a total of six trees over the course of six years, we could halt the progress of global warming long enough to find a solution to save our planet. She explains her reasoning, and I for one am determined to plant more than my share of trees. 5 stars.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    I want to hold this book to my chest and never let it go. I wish I had the words to explain the emotions I went through reading this book. Awe, inspiration, hope then hopelessness, hope again. It's a deep look into what our trees do for the world and the Celtic wisdom behind many scientific findings about trees. We have to save the trees. We have to. Diana makes this very clear but she does it with passion and perseverance. She doesn't think it's too late, and I believe her. I have never read an I want to hold this book to my chest and never let it go. I wish I had the words to explain the emotions I went through reading this book. Awe, inspiration, hope then hopelessness, hope again. It's a deep look into what our trees do for the world and the Celtic wisdom behind many scientific findings about trees. We have to save the trees. We have to. Diana makes this very clear but she does it with passion and perseverance. She doesn't think it's too late, and I believe her. I have never read anything by someone so attuned to nature, and I have to believe the things I read are true. In another life, I too studied Celtic wisdom of the trees, I'm sure of it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nadine

    Beautifully read part memoir part call for ensuring bio-diversity, part information on the importance and impact of trees. All in a fascinating look at how folklore and science meet and how darn hard it has been for women to make a mark on science and have that mark acknowledged and listened to. Definitely one of the best books I've read this year... Beautifully read part memoir part call for ensuring bio-diversity, part information on the importance and impact of trees. All in a fascinating look at how folklore and science meet and how darn hard it has been for women to make a mark on science and have that mark acknowledged and listened to. Definitely one of the best books I've read this year...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gwen Harris

    Life-changing, fascinating, stunning, moving - so many adjectives to describe the impact of this book. I knew of Diana Beresford-Kroeger and her riveting work through Call of the Forest documentary (link at her website) - she is in the same league as David Attenborough for the strength of message. This memoir brings her work to another level - her training in Celtic and Druidic knowledge and wisdom. How did mankind lose this? Where and when - exactly - did we go off the rails and blithely defor Life-changing, fascinating, stunning, moving - so many adjectives to describe the impact of this book. I knew of Diana Beresford-Kroeger and her riveting work through Call of the Forest documentary (link at her website) - she is in the same league as David Attenborough for the strength of message. This memoir brings her work to another level - her training in Celtic and Druidic knowledge and wisdom. How did mankind lose this? Where and when - exactly - did we go off the rails and blithely deforest the planet? She points us to some surviving "saplings" of medicinal knowledge among indigenous people in North America. Let's pay attention to that. Part One is autobiographical in which she tells of what she learned about trees and the global forest from the elders in Lisheens and in her studies at University College Cork. Pages are rich with passages as clearly written and walloping in impact as the following: "Plants contain the sucrose version of serotonin as a working molecule. It is a water-soluble compound in, say, a tree. Serotonin is a neuro-generator. By proving that the tryptophan-tryptamine pathways existed in trees, I proved that trees possess all the same chemicals we have in our brains. Trees have the neural ability to listen and think, and they have all the component parts necessary to have a mind or consciousness. That's what I proved: that forests can think and perhaps even dream. This knowledge was new to science. Such connections were not recognized or known a the time. [pg 124]" Part Two is the Celtic Alphabet of Trees - Ogham (Oh-ham) was totally new to me. Beresford-Kroeger describes and explains the trees and alphabet beautifully. However, it's too bad the publisher didn't add illustrations. We in Canada are very fortunate that this brilliant scientist and naturalist chose to settle in the Ottawa area with her husband. I would like this country to recognize her with an Order of Canada. In the meantime let us each plant a native tree.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    The first part of the book is part biography. We learn how Diana was orphaned and spent her summers in Ireland, where she was taught all about the Druids and the importance of trees. One thing I didn't know, was that the English had razed all the forests in Ireland. Diana went on to study bio-chemistry and ended up in Canada, where she and her husband bought a farm in Ontario on which they planted many trees that are threatened with extinction. The second part of the book is a kind of index, wher The first part of the book is part biography. We learn how Diana was orphaned and spent her summers in Ireland, where she was taught all about the Druids and the importance of trees. One thing I didn't know, was that the English had razed all the forests in Ireland. Diana went on to study bio-chemistry and ended up in Canada, where she and her husband bought a farm in Ontario on which they planted many trees that are threatened with extinction. The second part of the book is a kind of index, where many trees are listed along with their medicinal properties. What is really so fascinating about Diana, is that she able to explain the importance of trees in relation to indigenous teachings back up with her knowledge of bio-chemistry. TVO has a documentary on her that can be accessed on the net: https://www.tvo.org/video/documentari... It is well worth watching. I understand that PBS is coming out with a three part series on her. Her mission is to communicate the vital importance of trees. I highly recommend all of the above.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    What a legend. I loved learning about Diana Beresford-Kroeger's life, especially the part when she lived in Ireland and learned about the Brehon laws from her family and community. There is so much wisdom and truth in ancient cultures that we've naturally lost in these modern times, which is why I enjoy reading books like this so much. Nature is magic and sacred and Diana lends a voice to trees and plants that humans like to so often think are soulless because they appear silent (not true!). I a What a legend. I loved learning about Diana Beresford-Kroeger's life, especially the part when she lived in Ireland and learned about the Brehon laws from her family and community. There is so much wisdom and truth in ancient cultures that we've naturally lost in these modern times, which is why I enjoy reading books like this so much. Nature is magic and sacred and Diana lends a voice to trees and plants that humans like to so often think are soulless because they appear silent (not true!). I am more inspired to plant my own garden and to take part in Diana's Bioplan because we have so much to lose if we continue living this unsustainable lifestyle. I can't wait to read more of her books! And to learn even more!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    Everyone needs to read this book, or watch her film, "Call of the Forest." I learned so much about what we an do for trees and what they do for us. I feel so connected to the them - more than ever! She describes her amazing journey from extreme loss in childhood, to being taught by her Celtic family, then becoming a scientist who affirms all that her ancestors already knew. Please check out her work . Everyone needs to read this book, or watch her film, "Call of the Forest." I learned so much about what we an do for trees and what they do for us. I feel so connected to the them - more than ever! She describes her amazing journey from extreme loss in childhood, to being taught by her Celtic family, then becoming a scientist who affirms all that her ancestors already knew. Please check out her work .

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Wow! Memoir, botany, trees, Ogham alphabet. A neighbor handed me this book and it took months for me to pick it up. I finally did so when at a physically low point after surgery, a year of pandemic, and the insurrection at the Capitol in D.C. had left me with no energy for problem novels and who-dun-its. Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a force of nature. She began as the seemingly shy child of an English lord and an Irish woman of ancient Celtic nobility, a child not wanted by her mother, and not fou Wow! Memoir, botany, trees, Ogham alphabet. A neighbor handed me this book and it took months for me to pick it up. I finally did so when at a physically low point after surgery, a year of pandemic, and the insurrection at the Capitol in D.C. had left me with no energy for problem novels and who-dun-its. Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a force of nature. She began as the seemingly shy child of an English lord and an Irish woman of ancient Celtic nobility, a child not wanted by her mother, and not fought for by her father. By age 11, she was orphaned. As a female orphan in Ireland in the 1950s, she might have been sent to live in a place like the Magdalen Laundries, an orphanage run by the Catholic church where girls (orphans or unwed mothers) earned their keep by doing laundry until they reached the age of emancipation (wasn't that just so nice of the Catholic church?), except she was the daughter of a Lord, and the judge feared trouble if he sent her there. The solution was a bachelor uncle, who took her in but didn't provide much in the way of parental support. Her salvation came from relatives in the countryside, where she spent her summers. These country folk decided to give her the ancient Celtic knowledge, imparted by numerous relatives over a period of three summers. They were the first to make her feel valued and loved, and they saved her. She became strong and resilient, and went on to become a scholar. Her story is infused with Celtic lore, modern science, and the Ogham alphabet, the second oldest written language, after Sanskrit. A whole section of the book, at the end of the memoir, is devoted to explaining each letter of that alphabet. Each letter is tied to a tree or shrub--the forest was sacred to the Celts. She explains how each tree or shrub was used as medicine or food by the ancient Celts, and ties this in with modern botany. After finishing the book, I watched a couple of YouTube videos: one an interview with a Canadian reporter, and the other, a teach-in with Jane Fonda on her program called Fire Drill Fridays (Jane is still an activist, as we all know). Beresford-Kroeger is gentle, erudite, and a teacher with a lovely lilt in her voice. She is still optimistic about saving the planet. She is my new heroine.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Wild Waters

    I did not know that a book could be a feminist`s story, a tragedy, a scientist`s look back at their achievements, a call for action against climate change and a handing down of ancient and almost lost knowledge of an extinct culture. As a lover of nature and hiking, the forest has a special place in my heart. I am a tree-hugger and it was wonderful to finally get the scientific knowledge for understanding what I feel out in the woods. I wish more people would read this book and start protecting an I did not know that a book could be a feminist`s story, a tragedy, a scientist`s look back at their achievements, a call for action against climate change and a handing down of ancient and almost lost knowledge of an extinct culture. As a lover of nature and hiking, the forest has a special place in my heart. I am a tree-hugger and it was wonderful to finally get the scientific knowledge for understanding what I feel out in the woods. I wish more people would read this book and start protecting and appreciating trees more, so that we can make sure future generations of humans and plants have a chance to live with each other on this planet as we have done so long. We need the woods, for breathing, for giving us the original medicines to treat our aches, for our mental health and so much more. On top of all the author included the Celtic alphabet of trees and what it meant to the people. What a treasure of knowledge to give to the reader!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    This book is a hybrid. At first it is a recollection of Beresford-Kroeger's formative years, including the deaths of her parents and how she was brought up. In the second part, Beresford-Kroeger has become a formidable scientist and shares her observations on trees. There is also musings on the Ogham script, the Celtic alphabet of trees, at the back of the book. I enjoyed Beresford-Kroeger's thoughts and observations on trees the most. She is extremely knowledgeable and has carried out a project This book is a hybrid. At first it is a recollection of Beresford-Kroeger's formative years, including the deaths of her parents and how she was brought up. In the second part, Beresford-Kroeger has become a formidable scientist and shares her observations on trees. There is also musings on the Ogham script, the Celtic alphabet of trees, at the back of the book. I enjoyed Beresford-Kroeger's thoughts and observations on trees the most. She is extremely knowledgeable and has carried out a project to collect tree samples from around the world to ensure they do not go extinct. I am curious now about Beresford-Kroeger's other books on trees and her documentary. If you're curious about the Celts and/or interested in trees, check this book out!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Thea

    Absolutely loved this book. Made me cry a few times. Really wish I'd grown up with a cultural connection. I miss spending time with trees. Diana's passion really comes through. Now where can I go plant some trees?? Absolutely loved this book. Made me cry a few times. Really wish I'd grown up with a cultural connection. I miss spending time with trees. Diana's passion really comes through. Now where can I go plant some trees??

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rick Stoyles

    I must admit, I found Diana in a round-about way. One of my mother-in-law's novels has a forward penned by Diana, and the fact that she lives in my village. So I decided I must read some of her work. I choose her latest. An amazing insight to the Druids, their believes and their alphabet. Diana lives in my village, and I thought I'd give her latest novel a read. And I was not disappointed. Her love for the earth, and the things that grow out of it, shows us all what we really need to do, to save th I must admit, I found Diana in a round-about way. One of my mother-in-law's novels has a forward penned by Diana, and the fact that she lives in my village. So I decided I must read some of her work. I choose her latest. An amazing insight to the Druids, their believes and their alphabet. Diana lives in my village, and I thought I'd give her latest novel a read. And I was not disappointed. Her love for the earth, and the things that grow out of it, shows us all what we really need to do, to save this planet. I would think that her Druid ancestors would be pleased with her work, and spreading of the ancient knowledge.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Wow. It took me a few minutes to get into this book, but then I was completely enthralled. I found myself sneaking every possible minute to listen to it. I’ll definitely read this one again.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ceris

    This book made me cry and made me want to save the forests. Wow/10

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jay Latarche

    If you loved read Braiding Sweetgrass this is a wonderful companion.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I liked this book a lot, and I'm glad my reading group chose it. I enjoyed the writing, and especially liked the Ogham section at the end of the book. It has left me wanting to read more by Beresford-Kroeger, certainly, as well as about Druids and about trees and their interconnections with other plants and species. My only disappointment was that I felt like I was waiting quite a while at the beginning (the first half?) for the book to become about trees at all, which is perhaps more due to my I liked this book a lot, and I'm glad my reading group chose it. I enjoyed the writing, and especially liked the Ogham section at the end of the book. It has left me wanting to read more by Beresford-Kroeger, certainly, as well as about Druids and about trees and their interconnections with other plants and species. My only disappointment was that I felt like I was waiting quite a while at the beginning (the first half?) for the book to become about trees at all, which is perhaps more due to my expecting the book's focus to be different than anything about the book itself.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Desa Grivas

    First half of the book was were well written and informative dealing with the importance of trees in today's world of climate change. The second half was very interesting but it was like reading Wikipedia. Would have liked more about her views and actions on climate change. I will try another of her books for that. Diana Beresford-Kroeger was recently hosted an Ottawa Writer's Festival talk, she is an amazing speaker and advocate for the necessity of trees to slow down climate change? First half of the book was were well written and informative dealing with the importance of trees in today's world of climate change. The second half was very interesting but it was like reading Wikipedia. Would have liked more about her views and actions on climate change. I will try another of her books for that. Diana Beresford-Kroeger was recently hosted an Ottawa Writer's Festival talk, she is an amazing speaker and advocate for the necessity of trees to slow down climate change?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Leanne Downs

    I listened to the audio version of this book, after a came across Diana’s documentary ‘Call of the Forest’ which I loved. I throughly enjoyed and would recommend the audio version, read by Diana herself in her beautiful soft accent. I love that Diana has a holistic approach to inspiring in others a love for and protective attitude towards trees and nature in general. She combines science, culture and spirituality to help us understand the vital importance of trees to all life on Earth. I was sur I listened to the audio version of this book, after a came across Diana’s documentary ‘Call of the Forest’ which I loved. I throughly enjoyed and would recommend the audio version, read by Diana herself in her beautiful soft accent. I love that Diana has a holistic approach to inspiring in others a love for and protective attitude towards trees and nature in general. She combines science, culture and spirituality to help us understand the vital importance of trees to all life on Earth. I was surprised at the biographic nature of the first section of the book where Diana is extremely candid about her difficult childhood, but it strongly resonated with me. She is an inspirational lady who brings hope to those of us who are currently distraught at the changes happening to our planet. Her scientifically backed solution of ‘every person planting one tree per year for six years to halt climate change’ needs to be spread far and wide, and shouted loudly about to anyone who will listen.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Katelynn

    If you're looking for a beautifully written blend of botany, history, spirituality, and memoir, then this book is a perfect fit. Working from a Celtic druid frame of reference, Beresfor-Kroeger's stories touch on many themes: community healing, self-worth, feminine power and energy, ancestry, and environmental protection. I would align it thematically with works such as "Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall Kimmerer or tonally with "My Life with the Chimpanzees" by Jane Goodall. However, its Pt. 2 If you're looking for a beautifully written blend of botany, history, spirituality, and memoir, then this book is a perfect fit. Working from a Celtic druid frame of reference, Beresfor-Kroeger's stories touch on many themes: community healing, self-worth, feminine power and energy, ancestry, and environmental protection. I would align it thematically with works such as "Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall Kimmerer or tonally with "My Life with the Chimpanzees" by Jane Goodall. However, its Pt. 2 boasts a uniqueness with more of a thesaurus-like format (albeit more poetical) that I hadn't previously encountered outside of a a book's index.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Hill

    This was a fascinating book. Reading of Diana Beresford-Kroeger's Anglo-Irish lonely orphaned childhood was gripping, but the more I read of her accounts, the more I realized what a true genius she is. As a child she found she had a photographic memory for equations and near photographic memory for everything else. In her first reading of the opening chapters of her chemistry book in class, she was so enthralled with the material that she could recite what she read verbatim. Besides that she is This was a fascinating book. Reading of Diana Beresford-Kroeger's Anglo-Irish lonely orphaned childhood was gripping, but the more I read of her accounts, the more I realized what a true genius she is. As a child she found she had a photographic memory for equations and near photographic memory for everything else. In her first reading of the opening chapters of her chemistry book in class, she was so enthralled with the material that she could recite what she read verbatim. Besides that she is an excellent artist, has read extensively and widely, and has a vast knowledge of botany (which seems an endless subject). Her love of science, botany and medical biochemistry, and the remnants of the ancient Celtic culture handed down to her in the small Irish village of her ancestors, guided her life. She felt that she could be a bridge between the two worlds of ancient knowledge regarding plants and healing and the modern world of science. Alas, much of the ancient Celtic knowledge had been lost in the five hundred years of English occupation and suppression, and Diana was one of the last receptacles for the older generation to pass the ancient Brehon knowledge to. Unable to spread her wings in Ireland, she left for graduate studies and post graduate work in Canada. Later in her career, despite her scientific discoveries, she felt the academic world belittled her work as a woman and constricted her freedom, especially in its disregard for the sacred knowledge of ancient cultures, and left to do her own research, unbound by the limits and constraints of corporate academia. She and her husband created their own laboratory and acquired acres of land in Ontario for her observations, living roughly and building their own home in the process. Here she was able to study trees and forests, native plants and lore of indigenous peoples, for Ireland is mostly a treeless country, having been deforested by the English. Yet she found much similarity in the approach of indigenous Canadians and her Celtic ancestors. Not being of a scientific bent myself, I found her descriptions of her biomedical discoveries pared down to such an extent that I could absorb them. Despite the precarious state we find our world in as regards climate change, she offers hope, and strongly advocates for the saving of the forests we have and for the planting of trees. It is in her spiritual approach to nature, derived from the Celtic traditions imparted to her, from its micro to its macro levels that offers the most hope. The latter part of the book is a dictionary of sorts of the Ogham script, the first alphabet of Europe, based on the ancient trees of Ireland, including bits of lore and some of her observations and anecdotes. I very much enjoyed this book and only wish she had gone into more detail about her Celtic training. She's a new hero for me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Erin McCarthy Greene

    I loved, loved, loved Diana Beresford-Kroeger's "I Speak for the Trees," a dreamy little work of nonfiction. I purchased it for my husband for Christmas, as his affinity for trees knows no bounds. A review I'd read made Diana Beresford-Kroeger's life story and her nearly mystical experiences with nature (all of which led her to become a botanist of great depth) sound like something my husband would enjoy spending time reading. It was. He raved as he read, explaining the book's structure to me (o I loved, loved, loved Diana Beresford-Kroeger's "I Speak for the Trees," a dreamy little work of nonfiction. I purchased it for my husband for Christmas, as his affinity for trees knows no bounds. A review I'd read made Diana Beresford-Kroeger's life story and her nearly mystical experiences with nature (all of which led her to become a botanist of great depth) sound like something my husband would enjoy spending time reading. It was. He raved as he read, explaining the book's structure to me (one half is Beresford-Kroeger's story of being orphaned at a young age, her education in ancient Celtic beliefs at the hands of elderly relatives, and her growth as a professional scientist...followed by the second half of the book where she explains the ancient Celtic alphabet and the trees that symbolize each letter). My husband's genuine excitement ensured I'd pick it up as soon as he finished. Beresford-Kroeger is a straightforward storyteller. The stories of her parents' early deaths, her being sent away to live with Irish relatives, her "lessons" in the significance of the natural world around her, her education in science, and her pleas to do something NOW to mitigate climate change are delivered with minimum sentiment....basically, this is how things are and here is what each if us can do. She clearly moves through life with a scientific eye and reasoning....yet she also compellingly conveys how much we all would lose if we fail to respect the natural world and don't act to maintain its health. Her most profound yet super simple advice? Plant more trees. Plant them in your yard. Form a committee to plant them in your community. Urge leaders to push for reforestation where forests have been decimated. Trees, she argues, give us oxygen. Trees give us life. Beresford-Kroeger now lives near Toronto, Ont., Canada, very near where I live in NYS. If an opportunity ever arose to hear her speak, I would jump at the chance to hear her. Hopefully, the border will open again soon, and she will have scheduled relatively nearby, convenient speaking engagements. This is probably the longest review I have ever written, a pretty strong indication of how this book moved me. From the perspective of understanding how the natural world affects us all and what we need to do to nurture nature, this should be required reading for every citizen on the planet.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mary Camille Thomas

    I came across this book while browsing in the Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, and as soon as I saw the subtitle I knew I would buy it. A fan of forest bathing and descendent of Irish immigrants, I was curious to learn more about the author’s “journey from ancient Celtic wisdom to a healing vision of the forest.” Diana Beresford-Kroeger was an only child, born to an Irish mother and an Anglo-Irish aristocratic father who had a tumultuous marriage and died when she was only eight. She mostly grew up I came across this book while browsing in the Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, and as soon as I saw the subtitle I knew I would buy it. A fan of forest bathing and descendent of Irish immigrants, I was curious to learn more about the author’s “journey from ancient Celtic wisdom to a healing vision of the forest.” Diana Beresford-Kroeger was an only child, born to an Irish mother and an Anglo-Irish aristocratic father who had a tumultuous marriage and died when she was only eight. She mostly grew up with a bachelor uncle in Cork (never forgetting that if this arrangement didn’t work out, she could be sent to the Magdalene Laundries), and each summer she stayed with her great aunt Nellie and cousin Patrick at their farm in the valley of Lisheens. In a childhood of Dickensian neglect and loneliness, Lisheens stands out in the book as a magical place. Here, according to the ancient Brehon laws, “as an orphan I became everyone’s child. Even the poorest of the poor felt that it was their privilege to give me something.” In addition to food and love, the people of Lisheens shared their knowledge of the old Celtic ways. They taught her Gaelic, the medicinal uses of plants, and perhaps most important, practical tools for dealing with her grief and trauma. With this foundation of love and ancient wisdom, she went on to become a scientist and advocate for the earth. The memoir that forms the first two-thirds of the book, in particular the author’s childhood, is riveting. The last part is a reference work, a “Celtic alphabet of the trees.” As Beresford-Kroeger takes us through the Ogham script “in which every letter is named for a tree or an important companion plant,” she shares about each species the lore she learned as a child and the scientific information she discovered as an adult. Trees have much to offer us, not least a solution to our gravest crisis. The author has calculated that “if every person on Earth planted one tree per year for the next six years, we could stop climate change in its tracks.” I like to imagine that my Irish ancestors include Druids who infused into my DNA the wit to perceive the Divine in nature, and this book felt like a connection between me and them.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shane

    Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a brilliant storyteller. She is also an accomplished scientist and a passionate lover of trees. This mix of scientist-storyteller makes autobiography the perfect medium for her voice and her message of encouraging a love of trees in all people. Beginning with her youth in Co. Cork, Ireland, she tells her story of being orphaned, of learning the Irish traditions through her land and family, of becoming a botanist and focussing her research on medicinal benefits of trees Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a brilliant storyteller. She is also an accomplished scientist and a passionate lover of trees. This mix of scientist-storyteller makes autobiography the perfect medium for her voice and her message of encouraging a love of trees in all people. Beginning with her youth in Co. Cork, Ireland, she tells her story of being orphaned, of learning the Irish traditions through her land and family, of becoming a botanist and focussing her research on medicinal benefits of trees, and of her becoming first a respected academic and then a spokesperson for arboreal life in Canada. The lucidity of memory and the sharpness of humour throughout bring an easy joy while reading, and her optimism is contagious. Her passion and positivity is at times overwhelming, but never saccharine. Following the adage of "never let the truth get in the way of a good story", the chapters are filled with anecdotes both witty and personal, but clearly containing some small fibs. As a practitioner of many of the customs described as "dead" in the book, I found some of the broader brushstrokes were presented a little too much for a Canadian/US audience. Similarly, the liberties taken with translations of Irish a little jarring at times. But her reasons for the liberties are clear: this is a story and she wants the more important message of how she fell in love with trees to take focus. It does, and overall the autobiography is a joy. The final 100-odd pages are a documentation of the ancient Ogham alphabet, something of a footnote to the book (and if this alphabet is of interest I would recommend instead Niall Mac Coitir's exceptionally researched and equally mystical book on the same subject).

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Flynn

    This book is a bit of a wild ride, honestly. For one thing, the author's voice is hard to get used to. For a lot of the beginning of the book, I thought she must be some sort of nut job. Name dropping, massive claims of discoveries, and work/ideas stolen from her and later awarded prizes to other scientists... but there you read, the more you realize she really is quite genius and really has had to find her own path because she so consistently spoke her truth and never learned or cared to confor This book is a bit of a wild ride, honestly. For one thing, the author's voice is hard to get used to. For a lot of the beginning of the book, I thought she must be some sort of nut job. Name dropping, massive claims of discoveries, and work/ideas stolen from her and later awarded prizes to other scientists... but there you read, the more you realize she really is quite genius and really has had to find her own path because she so consistently spoke her truth and never learned or cared to conform to accepted practices. Of course, I'm not saying everyone should be like this, but there is no denying that it has given this author a unique life of discovery and therefore a unique message. In the end, I found it to be a great teacher and re-inforcer of ideas about the natural world. Her teachings on the Celtic and Druid traditions were very illuminating, especially for someone who lives in the midst of Canadian Indigenous Territory. The fundamental similarities in responsiveness between the ancient Celtic culture and the Indigenous) to the natural world are comforting in their consistency, while unsettling for how they highlight how far modern North American non-indigenous culture has strayed from any truth in relating to the natural world. The last bit of the book is a fun and fascinating look at how each letter of the ancient Ogam alphabet is derived from trees native to the (now destroyed) ancient forests that once covered Ireland. This book was recommended to me and I probably would not have read it otherwise, but I'm glad I did!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Loved this book - an autobiography - so well done! This reading got me to pull up a map of Ireland and locate Lisheens and even during reading to locate online the Brian Boru oak in Ireland. I became more interested in the Brehon Laws (new to me) and the Ogham Celtic language. More than an autobiography, this book as with all Diana Beresford-Kroeger books, teaches about the medicinal value of trees, how trees find their best place on the earth and how "mother trees" operate within a forest. The Og Loved this book - an autobiography - so well done! This reading got me to pull up a map of Ireland and locate Lisheens and even during reading to locate online the Brian Boru oak in Ireland. I became more interested in the Brehon Laws (new to me) and the Ogham Celtic language. More than an autobiography, this book as with all Diana Beresford-Kroeger books, teaches about the medicinal value of trees, how trees find their best place on the earth and how "mother trees" operate within a forest. The Ogham alphabet (20) of trees at the end of the book is incredible. Short chapters about 20 mostly trees, but including some bushes as well, that are sacred to Druidic culture. A wonderful and easy alphabet to learn - one I am working on learning now. The book is full of wisdom and tells a story of hope arising from the trauma of Diana as a child's life experience. The value of mentorship by a community to instill its collective wisdom in a child and the responsibility to carry that forward. Diana Beresford-Kroeger is gifted with an exceptionally brilliant mind, the eye of an artist, and sensitivity to the culture she was born into and raised in as well as in Aboriginal culture and wisdom. Loved this read. I feel better in so many ways for having read this book!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael Kerr

    Orphaned at an early age, and further traumatized by the threat of being sent to the Magdalene Laundries, half Irish, half Anglo Dianna Beresford-Kroeger was sent into the care of a disconnected uncle--who seemed to forget that children need to be fed. Salvation came in the form of summers with her mother's Irish family, where she became the last to be trained in the ancient Celtic/Druidic wisdom of the Brehon laws. These focus on the connections between the natural world, forests, trees, and hu Orphaned at an early age, and further traumatized by the threat of being sent to the Magdalene Laundries, half Irish, half Anglo Dianna Beresford-Kroeger was sent into the care of a disconnected uncle--who seemed to forget that children need to be fed. Salvation came in the form of summers with her mother's Irish family, where she became the last to be trained in the ancient Celtic/Druidic wisdom of the Brehon laws. These focus on the connections between the natural world, forests, trees, and human spirituality, health, and survival. Building on this foundation, Ms Beresford-Kroeger became a botanist, and got her PhD, moving to Canada in the process. Once ensconced in Ontario, she developed a connection and deep appreciation for Indigenous North Americans who preserved this wild continent for millennia, following practices strikingly similar to those of the Celts. Her research identifies the vital role trees and forests play in sequestering carbon and reversing the catastrophe of climate change. Beresford-Kroeger concludes that if each of us were to plant six trees over the next six years, we'd be able to stabilize the frightening changes we see around us--and I for one am planning to do exactly that. This is an inspiring and captivating read, well worth your time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Hill

    "I want to remind you that the forest is far more than a source of timber, " writes Diana Beresford-Kroeger. "It is our collective medicine cabinet. It is our lungs...It is our sacred home. It is our salvation." (p. 3) I've read three books now by Diana Beresford-Kroeger and this memoir is my favourite. Her writing is intimate and magical like a spirit guide yet deep and knowledgeable stemming from her scientific knowledge. Her love for trees is evident on every page. The first part focuses on he "I want to remind you that the forest is far more than a source of timber, " writes Diana Beresford-Kroeger. "It is our collective medicine cabinet. It is our lungs...It is our sacred home. It is our salvation." (p. 3) I've read three books now by Diana Beresford-Kroeger and this memoir is my favourite. Her writing is intimate and magical like a spirit guide yet deep and knowledgeable stemming from her scientific knowledge. Her love for trees is evident on every page. The first part focuses on her life from her traumatic childhood to her healing and motivational present. The second part is a gift to her readers: The Celtic Alphabet of Trees. I found both sections fascinating. Below are my favourite quotes from this book: "If every person on Earth planted one tree per year for the next six years, we would stop climate change in its tracks." (p. 159) "The beneficial effects of a twenty-minute pine forest walk will remain in the immune system's memory for almost thirty-days." (p. 195) The wisdom shared in this book will stay with me for longer than that.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul Edkins

    I first became aware of Diana by chance. I put her forest documentary on Amazon prime on the tv to have the view and sound of the forest in the background. However, the sheer beauty of the the filming and the intelligence and integrity of this incredible woman soon made me forget what I was doing and became the primary focus of my attention. Anyone that has suffered any trauma or loneliness as a child will soon resonate with this book. She had a tough time but as in the story Matilda, she had jus I first became aware of Diana by chance. I put her forest documentary on Amazon prime on the tv to have the view and sound of the forest in the background. However, the sheer beauty of the the filming and the intelligence and integrity of this incredible woman soon made me forget what I was doing and became the primary focus of my attention. Anyone that has suffered any trauma or loneliness as a child will soon resonate with this book. She had a tough time but as in the story Matilda, she had just enough people looking out for her and plenty of self belief and strength. How we need people like her to inspire and indeed save the world. If you like tree’s and forests you will like this book. Many are unaware of the penal law and Ireland is another country that has been a victim of English exploitation and harsh treatment. This is mentioned quite a few times and rightly so. The book itself (hardback) is well bound and the paper appears roughly cut and recycled. It is a pleasure to hold and read. An ancient Celtic alphabet described in part 2 in honour of trees and plants.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ann Samford

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The author tells her life story as on orphan growing in the intersection between her English and Celtic Heritage. She became the last ward under Brehan Law and was given all the knowledge and plant lore of the previous generations and told to preserve it. She is brilliant with a photographic memory. Ultimately she abandoned Canadian research institutions after earning several advanced degrees and a successful teaching/research career to study trees on her own. with her husband she owns a large t The author tells her life story as on orphan growing in the intersection between her English and Celtic Heritage. She became the last ward under Brehan Law and was given all the knowledge and plant lore of the previous generations and told to preserve it. She is brilliant with a photographic memory. Ultimately she abandoned Canadian research institutions after earning several advanced degrees and a successful teaching/research career to study trees on her own. with her husband she owns a large tract of land in Canada and they are growing and preserving trees. The book is a little disjointed.At the end she goes through the trees of the Celtic alphabet and explains their import to the Celts and how “modern” science has discovered the chemistry behind the lore! She also talks about the chemistry of forest bathing in evergreen forests. I’m inspired to learn more about trees and consider planting some here. I need to find someone who knows trees and natives etc to help.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Hanley

    I have just now discovered Diana Beresford Kroeger and wonder why she isn't getting the press time that Sir David Attenborough does. She is a wonderful, brilliant person who has dedicated her life to learning about and sharing her knowledge of botany in a way that is readable, understandable and inspiring. I loved this book! Loved hearing her story, learning more about trees and ways I can contribute to planet-saving conservation. I loved how she shared both the scientific and Celtic wisdom view I have just now discovered Diana Beresford Kroeger and wonder why she isn't getting the press time that Sir David Attenborough does. She is a wonderful, brilliant person who has dedicated her life to learning about and sharing her knowledge of botany in a way that is readable, understandable and inspiring. I loved this book! Loved hearing her story, learning more about trees and ways I can contribute to planet-saving conservation. I loved how she shared both the scientific and Celtic wisdom views and it was lovely to have hear her speak of the druidic tradition with respect and gratitude. I watched teh documentary she referenced, Call of the Forest, and it was also really powerful and important. Every man, woman and child should read her work and watch her documentary. I would really love to see her and David Attenborough team up on a project.

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