Seven Pillars House of Wisdom > Galleries > In Celebration of Trees

In Celebration of Trees

J. Ruth Gendler

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  1. Early Tree, ink on paper, 1982

    I have been thinking about and looking at trees for a long time, fascinated by their roots and branches, their patience, wisdom, and stillness.

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  2. Tree, monotype on arches black, 2014

    In our world, with its ever increasing emphasis on speed and measurement, it is hard to trust the rhythms of creativity and soul. Yet I know from my bones the gifts of sustained and patient attention, the value of being willing to stay with images for a long time, and the reciprocity of creative endeavors. We can hear the world speaking to us in so many languages when we slow down.

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  3. Traveler, monotype, 2012

    When I find myself worrying too much, I often think of the image of a path in the forest, and say to worried self, Trust the truth of your path. Half-remembered lines from poems also come, “the road is made by walking.”

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  4. Stillness, collograph, 2011

    I find solace not only in the great magnificent forest but also in the small tender details of our nearby plants.

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  5. Listener, monotype, 2012

    Consider the connection between our small bodies and this magnificent planet. How have you cherished and honored your body? Who told you the names of the trees? Who told you the names of your bones? Have you ever heard the stars? Does their fire run through your blood?

    —From Notes on the Need for Beauty

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  6. The Botanist’s Dream, collograph on arches black cover stock, 2010

    What is the body made of? The ancient elements. The same minerals we find in clay, in sand and mud, the stuff of earth. We share limbs, arms, and trunks with the trees. The dendrites of nerve cells and the bronchioles of the lungs are both named for their resemblance to the branches of trees that extend in finer and finer lines from the central trunk axis.

    —From Notes on the Need for Beauty

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  7. Story Ladder 3, monotype, 2012, 2016

    Can you sense that your own spine is like a tree trunk, a ladder connecting ground and sky, heaven and earth? At times we look like moving trees, reaching arms from our trunks to the moon and the stars, gathering nourishment from our energetic roots in the ground under our feet.

    —From Notes on the Need for Beauty

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  8. Woman in the Forest, ink and watercolor, 2012

    Many years ago a drawing instructor asked us to draw a daisy from memory. We drew flowers with even petals and perfect centers. After we finished our drawings, he handed each of us a daisy to draw. I still remember the contrast between our tidy and symmetrical first drawings and the second ones made when we really looked at daisies as we drew them. When I was preparing to lead a workshop in the Santa Cruz mountains, I thought of the daisy exercise, and appreciated how simply it underlined the importance of observation. I also recognized that although I'm drawn to the tender observation of nature, I love many other kinds of art. I wanted to open up our creative response to include who we are as well as where we are. I invited the participants first to make a drawing of “an inner tree”—the trees that live in our hearts. Then to step outside the workshop room and find a tree in the forest that speaks to you, and introduce your inner tree to this new tree.

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  9. Tree Being, Monotype, 2012

    People in our group sang to their trees, danced to their trees, prayed and meditated, wrote and drew. At a certain point, we visited each others’ trees and looked at drawings of trees propped up on tree trunks and heard poems about trees next to the trees that inspired them. Among magnificent redwoods, I was moved as participants chose all kinds of trees, trees that had fallen down, trees with broken branches, tall trees, young trees, and trees that seemed easy to “overlook.” Each person, each tree, offered a different understanding of what it means to live between earth and sky, to root and stretch, to witness and wait.

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  10. Forest, monotype on Arches black, 2015

    In one of my favorite dreams I am back in the forest.
    There are mirrors on the trees and in the ferns.
    I can’t tell how big the forest is. We are singing.
    And the forest is singing. I can’t tell where this music comes from.

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  11. Forest Path, monotype, 2015

    At breakfast I ask you about trees,
    “What is about trees that we both love so much?”
    You tell me about the harmony
    among branches sharing air and sky
    cooperation, yes, and competition too.

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  12. April Landscape, California Gold country, monotype, 2013

    Trees standing alone,
    trees standing together,
    a parade, a council,
    a hermit on the hillside.

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  13. Blooming, unknown

    Trees of imagination and memory.

    Trees of childhood,
    trees that we told our secrets to,
    street trees at 10 am, talking among
    themselves after the neighborhood empties out.
    Guardians, teachers, friends,
    trees with clumps of winter cloud in their leaves,
    later their branches will embrace the moon.

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  14. Forest Path 4, monotype, 2015

    I try to make the colors of tree bark
    on my palette, what does grey
    say to brown, brown say to violet?

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  15. Summer Forest, monotype, 2015

    Is it harder to write or paint trees?
    Branches of thought, texture of bark.

    All this work
    an invitation

    to spend more time with trees.

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  16. Alphabet in the Trees, monotype, 2015

    Drawing reminds us we think outside of language.
    Even writing is a kind of drawing.
    The lines of the letters, the looping cursive l’s, geometric capitals, T and K and W
               are all around us.
    Find an alphabet in the trees, find the letters in your bones.

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  17. Inner and Outer Nature (Stillness/Equinox series), collograph, 2011

    Look in and draw your imagination of a plant or an animal. Redbud or lilac, bamboo or willow, a community of trees, at the edge of an old road at dawn.

    Look out and describe yourself as a landscape. Become tree fern and waterfall, find the cave where the bear hibernates, the path out of the cave, the moist air. Stand still and listen. Know yourself among friends in the forest.

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

  18. Sitka Spruce 2, Drawing, 2012

    Creative response becomes an act of regard, respect, reciprocity, reverence. Perhaps making art is more important than ever because it offers another way to slow down. Perhaps our art is only evidence, occasionally beautiful evidence, of a willingness not only to look but to see with our eyes and hands and hearts, to listen and hear with an ear to the earth.

    © J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

J. Ruth Gendler

I am drawn to the way trees hold light and air and qualities that seem invisible, their generosity, wisdom, and silent, soulful eloquence. Making art about trees—which I have done all my life but am doing with much greater focus now—inspires me to look more deeply at the world around me and also the world inside, to draw closer to nature, and find new ways to root and take nourishment from light.

Printmaking is a wonderful practice to investigate and celebrate my love of trees. Making one-of-a -kind monotypes, I can take an image through many variations, inking the drawing on the plate differently each time I print, printing on black or ivory or grey paper to suggest midnight or dawn or a grey winter afternoon. Printmaking also is a wonderful way to experience the reciprocity and surprise that is always part of artistic and spiritual endeavors. What I work on works on me, and I never quite know when I bring the plate to the press bed how the print will turn out. When I emerge from the studio, the light in the trees is always especially beautiful.

© J. Ruth Gendler. All rights reserved.

J. Ruth Gendler makes art that celebrates inner and outer nature, invites viewers to listen to silence, and honors the soul. Her drawings, monotypes and paintings have recently been exhibited at Google, the Commonwealth Club, Oakopolis Gallery, the Dream Institute, and the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts. Ruth has been involved with the intersection of writing and art, and interdisciplinary collaboration, for much of her life. She is the author of three awarded books which include her art work: The Book of Qualities, Notes on the Need for Beauty, and the anthology, Changing Light. Her art work has been on the covers of several books in the United States and Asia. A long time poet-in-the-schools, Ruth has taught writing and art to adults and children for thirty years. Ruth will be showing some of the tree monotypes featured in this gallery at the Oakopolis in April and May 2016. For more information visit

Read more about J. Ruth Gendler

Comments (1)
  • I love trees too!  My dad taught me to hug trees: he’d put his arms around them, put his cheek on the bark and listen and smell.  He said that redwoods talk more slowly than other trees…

    — Shahana on February 13, 2016

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