As prescribed by Paulina Constancia

LiTREEture 5: Horan & The Trees that Inspired America’s Literary Greats

Preview the book

Welcome to Day 5 of LiTREEture here on DDoA! Today I bring you author Richard Horan’s obssession with trees, but not just any tree- the trees that inspired America’s literary greats.

It’s interesting how Mr. Horan describes his book as one man’s serendipitous journey to find the trees that inspired famous american writers…to me finding him and his book “SEEDS” was also serendipitous because in essence he and I are searching for the same thing- A CONNECTION between a great tree and a great mind.
Richard Horan talks about the inspiration behind his book SEEDS on Huffington Post:
On a family vacation from Wisconsin to Dauphin Island, Alabama, we stopped at Lincoln’s home in Springfield, IL to take a tour. In the front parlor, there was a photograph of Honest Abe hanging on the wall. He was standing out in front of his house next to a young basswood tree. I asked the docent if the tree in the photograph was the same as the old basswood standing out in front of the house. He responded that he believed it was, so I went outside to investigate. Under the tree I found scads of basswood seeds all over the ground. I started picking them up and jamming them into my pocket. That was the germination of the project. 

The next three stops–
Mark Twain‘s home in Hannibal, MO
Elvis‘s Graceland, and 
Faulkner‘s Rowan Oak in Oxford, MS
provided more seeds from trees that were connected to great Americans. It was while I was standing in line at Graceland to pay my respects to Elvis at his grave that I had this powerful idea to go around the country gathering seeds from the trees of all my heroes, mostly writers, but also lots of boxers, musicians, and historical figures and locations. I would gather the seeds and grow them into an inspirational little grove of my own. That was the original idea, until a friend of mine suggested I write a book instead. That book, “Seeds,” is the story of my serendipitous journey to find the trees that inspired famous American writers, from Faulkner to Kerouac, Welty to Wharton.
Here are some pictures of these wondrous trees:
“This photograph shows the burial site of Willa Cather. Next to her grave is her long-time partner’s grave, Edith Lewis. There is an old stonewall and a maple tree in the background. There are many documented accounts of Willa Cather and Edith Lewis coming to this very spot, sitting on the stonewall under the shade of the trees and reading and editing sections of “My Antonia.” Ms. Cather requested this burial site in her will.” Info & Photo by Richard Horan on Huff Post
“My buddy Wallace, who grew up in Alabama around pecan trees, said this is the biggest pecan tree he’s ever seen. It soars high above the Montgomery, Alabama home where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived and wrote “Tender is the Night,” one of the greatest works of literature by an American author. The year was 1933-34. Zelda lived there as well, before she had to be institutionalized.” Info & Photo by Richard Horan on Huff Post
This amazing Weeping beech tree stands on the property in Worcester, Massachusetts where Esther Forbes, author of the great Newberry Prize winning book, “Johnnie Tremain,” grew up. Ms. Forbes’ grandfather, W.T. Merrifield, planted the tree some time around the middle of the nineteenth century. W.T. Merrifield knew his trees, and during his lifetime was the president of the Worcester Horticultural Society. The tree is a botanical specimen and was likely grafted to the bole of an ash tree because beeches are notoriously difficult to grow from seed. Ms. Forbes moved to the property in 1898…The huge mansion Ms. Forbes’ family lived in was torn down in 2002. What remains on the property today, just off the campus of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, is a botanical marvel. Soaring Tulip poplars, Carolina silver bells, oaks, lilacs, and hundred-year-old Japanese maples abound. Ms. Forbes was surrounded by arboreal splendor during her writing years.Info & Photo by Richard Horan on Huff Post
Listen to Horan’s interview on Boston’s NPR- On Point Radio
“an obsession, and a forest of literary trees.” – Tom Ashbrook, On Point Radio
Watch this TV interview of Horan
“Seeds reads like a talk between John Muir and Bill BrysonHoran takes an unlikely premise and takes a journey that’s poignant, insightful and unexpectedly humorous. More than a book about seeds—it’s about literary heroes, forensic forestry and self-discovery.”  
Spike Carlsen, author of A Splintered History of Wood

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This entry was posted on October 11, 2013 by in Communicate, Create, Imagine and tagged , , .
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