Author: Joan Klostermann-Ketels. Forres
Publisher: Scotland: Findhorn Press
ISBN: 978-1-84409-191-1

Click Here To Purchase PersonaliTrees: Let the Human Spirit Awaken in the Presence of Trees

This photographic essay is both enchanting and intriguing, while simultaneously leaving one asking for more. In her afterword, Klostermann-Ketels describes how this book came to be:

In August of 2009, a violent hail and wind storm decimated parts of the beautiful greenbelt area around Pine Lake in Iowa where many of these pictures were taken. The trees and the messages they conveyed about their lifetimes (and ours) were lost forever, or would have been if they had not been captured in photographs. The sadness was overwhelming as I had come to consider these spirits my friends.

PersonaliTrees is, therefore, a record of loss, but also of joy, of past experiences as well as the potential for new growth. It was Jung who suggested that trees, when seen in dreams and imaginings, were friendly creatures, willing to assist the human psyche to reconnect with itself. One need only think of the Ents in Tolkien’s mystical masterpiece The Lord of the Rings to know in whom one can place one’s trust. However, to project one’s own feelings onto natural objects might not be the best way to go.

As it is at the moment, PersonaliTrees needs more body, in that the work cries out for more text. Though each photograph of a tree is beautifully mastered, to accompany each with a specific emotion, along with a quotation that is meant to pertain to such a feeling, does not always gel. No doubt each reader will be able to identify the picture and quotation to which he or she can most closely relate, but this work could have offered far greater insight into, and encouraged much deeper appreciation of, the trees that Klostermann-Ketels depicts.

The emotions range from the positive, such as “happy”, “joyous” and “elated”, to the negative, including “weary”, “frightened” and “irresponsible”. Though some of the trees seem to express such emotions in the way in which their branches have grown, or in the way in which their trunks have developed, others do not. (But then, perhaps, my imagination is not as active as is that of the author – to my loss, I’m sure.) I would also have liked to know how Klostermann-Ketels decided on how to arrange the different emotions throughout the text. At the moment there appears to be no logical order involved, with, for example, “anchored” being followed by “speechless”. Perhaps the author intended our ramble through her text to be as serendipitous as a walk through the woods…

The quotations themselves do not always seem to be applicable to the photographs which they accompany, though they are clearly meant as some form of “caption”. Only a few relate to trees at all, which I found to be a pity. What I would have loved to have seen is a description of how Klostermann-Ketels saw the trees that she photographed reflecting the emotions to which she links them.

Currently, PersonaliTrees is a relaxing and exploratory text, which could easily be transformed into a work for youngsters, encouraging their creative recapturing of the spirit of the trees. It currently holds potential, in a slightly reworked form, as a source of inspiration for adult movement and self-expression classes as well. In brief, the dynamism is present, but the direction has still to be found.

 Click Here To Purchase PersonaliTrees: Let the Human Spirit Awaken in the Presence of Trees