Wendell Berry, “Planting Trees”


This week I checked out Wendell Berry’s The Country of Marriage and stumbled on a poem I hadn’t read before. Just a few days ago my kind neighbor Tommy gave me permission to harvest a few maple seedlings from his property and I spent an afternoon replanting them around the Warren with these same hopes for the blessing they might be to my children’s children. Once again, the sage words of the Mad Farmer gave me a clear picture of what it means for us to be keepers of his creation, standing amidst a breadth of old beauty that we didn’t ask for and don’t deserve. I’m tempted to draw out a metaphor, like I did in my song of the same title, but I think maybe it’s good (especially in light of the glorious autumn all around me in Nashville right now), to let the trees in the poem stand in their own bright significance as members of God’s creation.


In the mating of trees,
the pollen grain entering invisible
the domed room of the winds, survives
the ghost of the old forest
that was here when we came. The ground
invites it, and it will not be gone.
I become the familiar of that ghost
and its ally, carrying in a bucket
twenty trees smaller than weeds,
and I plant them along the way
of the departure of the ancient host.
I return to the ground its original music.
It will rise out of the horizon
of the grass, and over the heads
of weeds, and it will rise over
the horizon of men’s heads. As I age
in the world it will rise and spread,
and be for this place horizon
and orison, the voice of its winds.
I have made myself a dream to dream
of its rising, that has gentled my nights.
Let me desire and wish well the life
these trees may live when I
no longer rise in the mornings
to be pleased by the green of them
shining, and their shadows on the ground,
and the sound of the wind in them.

Check out Wendell Berry’s books currently in the Rabbit Room Store

Andrew Peterson is a singer-songwriter and author. Andrew has released more than ten records over the past twenty years, earning him a reputation for songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. As an author, Andrew’s books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga, released in collectible hardcover editions through Random House in 2020, and his creative memoir, Adorning the Dark, released in 2019 through B&H Publishing.


  1. LauraP

    Driving through the forested mountains of upstate New York, and that just brought quick tears to my eyes. A thing resounds when it rings true. Thanks for the post, AP.

  2. Jaclyn

    Breathtaking. I’ve been teaching kids how to say otoño, autumn, in my Spanish classes. This reminds me why we make up such words to capture the beautiful shiftings of life. Thank you, AP.

  3. Peter B

    Like a golden sky on a summer’s eve — wow, what a pull. Where and whenceforth, I cannot say, but it calls.

    It’s almost dizzying to peer with the inner eye into these vast depths of truth — through a fathomless longing that nevertheless gives a feeling of solidity and rightness. Does that make any sense?

  4. Caleb M

    I was driving along this morning and “Planting Trees” came on Pandora. What a great song. Inspired so many thoughts and emotions. Nice work.

  5. jarrod justice

    Hey Andrew,

    First saw you in a Texas barn when you opened for Caedmon’s.
    Last saw you in Knoxville at a Baptist Church.

    I’m a lead pastor and local artist in Knoxville. I turn 32 tomorrow, and have been writing songs and painting for years. It’s odd to write this on a “planting trees” comment feed, although your song by the same name is a prophetic utterance for my church.

    For some odd reason and odd time… I thought to myself… Andrew needs to read this poem I wrote tonight! It is for a series of “heavendown” paintings I just finished. Enjoy at your leisure.


    “heavendown” by jarrod justice

    earthup striving, straining, earning
    babeling towers of manmade show
    the rambling urban sprawl of who’s new
    steeling glory and clawing clouds
    ourphones veil the rain and stars

    heavendown receiving, tasting, soaking
    trickling cascades of Kingdom wine and window
    pouring love, drinking blood, His saints enjoying
    filled with song, meek ones resounding, resting
    we build the sky down, unveiling Holy

    -jarrod justice

  6. Brian Strickland

    Love, love, love Wendell Berry. I proposed with a stanza of “Country of Marriage” written out with the ring. Thank you for this. Quite beautiful.

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