Do Trees Have Souls?

2016-03-25-1458876667-6374949-IMG_47492580x387.jpgPhoto by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Deciduous trees in winter, shorn of their leaves and their greeniness, seem so full of soul and will and intention -- despite their barren branches -- that I want to say, yes, trees are an expression of the divine.

My reductionist scientist friends would slap my hands and say, "You're anthropomorphizing those trees. That's because humans are hard-wired to see pattern and cause-and-effect in the things around them; it's a simple evolutionary survival thing. But a tree is just a tree, nothing more than a bunch of cellulose and chlorophyll."

Maybe so. But why, on a recent winter's day in the Midwest, did I feel hide-bound to don a pair of borrowed boots and tromp around in a stand of snowed-in trees? It was below-freezing out there, for heaven's sake.

But I couldn't help myself. I had to surround myself with that woodsy beauty. I had to get up close with those graceful leafless trees, showing off their true selves.

Is that a survival thing, too?

c 2016 Barbara Falconer Newhall. All rights reserved.

2016-03-25-1458870997-814070-IMG_48602580x387.jpgPhoto by Barbara Newhall

A version of this post first appeared on, where Barbara writes about the view from the second half of life -- and her rocky spiritual journey. Her prize-winning book is "Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith."