Books » When the Trees Say Nothing

When the Trees Say Nothing

In this first collection of his nature writings, Thomas Merton is revealed as a man whose spirituality is deeply rooted in the natural world – an environmentalist ahead of his time.

Author(s): , , ,
Year: 2003

Buy OnlineShare

Millions know Thomas Merton as the author of The Seven Storey Mountain, the autobiography that became an international bestseller and a modern spiritual classic. Merton, a prolific spiritual writer and social activist, inspired a generation from the silence and solitude of a Trappist monastery. Decades after his death, he remains a modern spiritual master, a source of wisdom on peace, racial harmony, poverty, alienation, and the engagement of Eastern and Western spiritual traditions.

Now Merton is also revealed as a man whose spirituality is rooted in nature, an environmentalist ahead of his time. His writings on nature serve as a primer on eco-spirituality. He approaches ecology as a spiritual issue, one that exposes the degree of human alienation from the sacredness of the planet.

When The Trees Say Nothing gathers for the first time over 300 of Merton’s nature writings, grouping them thematically into sections on the seasons, elements, creatures and other topics. Edited by Merton scholar Kathleen Deignan, the collection is cohesive and accessible, drawing from both Merton’s public writings and his recently published private journals. The lyrical writings are enhanced with Deignan’s own informative Introduction, along with a Foreword by Thomas Berry, renowned spiritual mentor for the environmental movement.

Unique and powerful on its own, When the Trees Say Nothing is enhanced with the art of John B. Giuliani, known for his stunning iconography. Giuliani’s drawings harmonize exquisitely with Merton’s meditations on nature, making When the Trees Say Nothing a spiritual and aesthetic prize.

About the Author

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is widely acclaimed as one of the most influential spiritual masters of the 20th Century. A monk, poet, spiritual writer, and social activist, he is perhaps best known for his spiritual autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. While his writing demonstrated a love for the natural world, When the Trees Say Nothing brings his words on nature together in one place for the first time.


Eventually, only our sense of the sacred will save us. Merton’s gift, eloquently captured by Kathleen Deignan, is this sense of the sacred throughout the entire range of the natural world.

Thomas Berry, from the Foreword

A vivid image in my memory: Thomas Merton standing in a redwoods clearing. Here is where everything connects, he says softly. If you long to find this connecting point, read on. Merton would be thrilled with this book.

Brother David Steindl-Rast, OSB, Cofounder of

This splendid volume by Kathleen Deignan evokes the sense of the sacred. Wedded to Merton’s well-chosen texts on nature, Deignan joins forces with artist John Giuliani, resulting in a handsome book for all seasons.

Brother Patrick Hart, OCSO, Abbey of Gethsemani, General Editor, The Thomas Merton Journals

A lovely book! Kathleen Deignan’s selection and arrangement of passages from Merton’s writings on nature enhanced by John Giuliani’s evocative drawings not only provide wonderful insights into the monk’s sacramental vision of the world but inspire a deepened attentiveness to creation on our own part as well.

Patrick O’Connell, Editor, The Merton Seasonal and co-author, The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia

Write a Review