Slowing Down To Notice the Trees

In From the Field, Tree Poetry by Forest Keeper4 Comments


Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

This old classic from Robert Frost makes me think of a time gone by when the pace of life was a bit slower and people had time to notice things along the way.

I recently heard an interpretation of this poem that I thought was worth sharing. John R. Stilgoe, Orchard Professor in the History of Landscape, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA recently  gave a lecture titled, “Suburban Force: What Really Brought Americans to the Suburbs” In it he states, ” that poem is about a man getting out of a buggy to relieve himself, and the horse doesn’t understand why they have stopped gives his harness bells a shake to ask if there is some mistake…”

Ahh, the typical suburban home! Plants in our time have been reduced to mere ornaments that require a large investment of resources and seem to give back to us relatively little.

Interesting thought, yes, but the point that he goes on to make is that when you travel by wagon or sleigh you went slow enough to take a look at the plants.

It was easy in that day to notice something out of the ordinary or of interest and tell the horse whoa, and then walk up to the plant. These days we look at the plants along the way from behind a windshield that is whizzing along at  speeds that don’t really allow us to notice. Then when we’ve arrived at wherever we may be in a hurry to get to , we usually only look at the plants in our life through yet another window.

Most of us know what plants look good together,where they like to grow, and we might even know the Latin names of a few. But there is a whole realm of knowledge that needs to be reclaimed. In loosing our actual physical connection to the trees and plants in our environment many of us aren’t aware of what these plants are good for.

The trees that we live among have so much to offer us.

Trees and plants have many practical uses and life, in all cultures, used to be structured around the cycles of seasons and these plants.  In our modern life, however, trees and plants have taken up the role of adornments and decorations to be appreciated from behind the window of office, home, commuter rail, speeding vehicle.

Let’s get out there among the trees and gardens and  find out what resources and gifts have been growing all along, waiting for us to rediscover them.

Nature already provides everything that we need to live. We’ve just forgotten where to look.

Trees and garden plants used to be a way of life, not just a landscape design.

Slow down, take a few minutes to notice the trees around you…You might be surprised by what you find.


  1. Quite thoughtful. And so true. I liked the caption under the suburban house picture about how trees are now mere ornaments on our property that no one wants to tend and they look so awful. True, true.

  2. Rightly said! This past year, we have just started sampling the walnuts from the black walnut trees that decided to take up residence in our back yard several years ago. Mulberries from the mulberry trees. And hackberries from the hackberry trees scattered around the neighborhood.

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