Industrial civilizations have broken the connection between people and the living world, leaving us orphans in the waste land. The poorest child in pre-industrial England could delight in the way a blue tit bounced on a branch. Once the Enclosures came, the girl was shunted to the treeless cities or left wandering roads among private domains, dispossessed. I believe that a landscape architect’s vocation is to help restore an intimacy with the world that we did not make and that we do not own. As Visiting Professor in Pratt’s Master of Landscape Architecture program – where I have taught since its inception – my job is to help students get to know trees and life-giving soils .
I have spent the last three decades as a writer, teacher and arborist in New York City. My books Dirt, Oak, Air, and Sprout Lands, are about the connection between people and the world around us. Dirt became Dirt the Movie, which went to the Sundance Film Festival and is still available around the world. Oak was featured on CBS Sunday Morning. Air provoked a feature in the New York Daily News about the invisible travelers in the air at different sites in New York. Sprout Lands won the 2021 John Burroughs Medal for distinguished nature writing.
I have taught at New York Botanical Garden for more than two decades, both in the School of Professional Horticulture and the continuing education divisions. I have taught pruning to at least 1000 students, as well as tree identification and tree safety management. I have also been a visiting professor at Sarah Lawrence College, where I taught nature writing.
Urban Arborists, the company I founded, has for three decades sought to enact the reconnection between people and land in New York City. We care for important urban parks, including Madison Square Park and Battery Park, which have transformed during out tenure. We selected, installed and continue to train the urban forest plaza of pollards and aerial hedges in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We have created succession plans for important urban woodlands like Woodlawn Cemetery, Kykuit, the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum and Union Square Park. We work particularly in situations where new means make it possible to have wider and fuller woodlands in the cities. Clients include the High Line, the Google Building terraces, The Spiral and other urban eyries.
MA Stanford University, 1978
BA, Summa cum laude, Columbia University, 1975