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IN BRIEF

Environment

September 05, 1993|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

THE ATTENTIVE HEART: Conversations With Trees by Stephanie Kaza, illustrations by Davis Te Selle . (Fawcett Columbine: $17.50; 247 pp.) "Tree huggers"-- it's an epithet in some parts of the country but it's what Stephanie Kaza does with a full heart. California oaks, sycamores, Douglas firs, aspens (quaking or no), bristlecone pines, water birch and pinon: Kaza is respectful, but basically she cannot keep her hands off them. Believe her. Believe she has reached a level of sensitivity, a connection to another living thing that cuts across barriers of form, language, shape and sap type. Who knows what the trees think. Do they say, one manzanita to another on Leslie Creek in northern California, "Uh-oh, here she comes," or do they say, "Kaza's coming today, how do I look?" Kaza's method, she tells us right off, is based in the Zen form of shikantaza , or sitting, being "present with the Other." But what keeps a reader going more than anything is the sheer exuberance, her waking in the morning with a need to see aspens, or maples, or an oak she remembers from a long time ago. And, of course, the longing and regret for something we are systematically destroying. Kaza crosses a line every once in while, wondering for example if chain saws can be conscious when operating at high speeds, but honing the "attentive heart," "the heart that lives in relationship with other beings," seems a hopeful exercise. (Illustrations on this page are from the book.)

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