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  • Writer's picturecharitykahn

Song Story: Keep a Green Tree in Your Heart

In honor of Arbor Day, today’s song is the first song on our EARTH album, “Keep a Green Tree in Your Heart”.

The inspiration for this song came originally from a project I worked on a few years ago with author Andrea Alban and artist Lisa Bossi. I had already put one of their children’s books to music (“January’s Child“), and we were at it again. Their new book was called “The Happiness Tree”, a gorgeous picture-book celebration of one of Earth’s most precious resources — Trees! The book embraces the beauty of trees and brings them to life with attributes like peace, generosity, love, and happiness. It also includes a detailed index of state trees.

The Chinese proverb that prefaces the book, “Keep a green tree in your heart, and perhaps a singing bird will come,” became the seed for the chorus of the song. I wanted to describe the life cycle of a tree, so the verses grew into a poem that tells the story of a tree from tiny seed in the ground, to growing sprout, to loving home for forest creatures, to wise old tree that falls back down to the earth to replenish the soil and start everything all over again.

And the chorus of the song is a reminder that when we stay connected to nature (“keep a green tree in your heart”), wisdom and joy and other awesome things (the metaphor of the “singing bird”) will come! For nature is our greatest teacher…everything we need to know is inherent in her rhythms, cycles, balance and innate wisdom, of which we are an inextricable “part”. There it is again — interbeing!

For the instrumentation, we used lots of woodsy strings — mountain dulcimer, mandolin, a 12-string guitar — and some tambourines and shakers. It has a very wooden, organic feel — just like a tree! I hope you will find yourself singing along…and perhaps feel inspired to go outside and hug a tree some time very soon, prepared to LISTEN to what that tree might have to tell you. And when you’re still and quiet and patient and open and present — the singing bird WILL come.


  1. Participate in a tree-planting day with your local Friends of the Urban Forest or other similar organization.

  2. Go on a “Tree Walk”…wander your neighborhood in search of trees to look at, smell, touch, listen to. Greet each tree like a friend, offering your attention and presence just as you would to a person or animal.

  3. Make up a story about a day in the life of a tree, or a year in the life of a tree.

  4. Make tree art: Draw or paint a picture of trees, sculpt a tree from clay, or use fallen branches, leaves and bark from the trees in your yard or neighborhood to create a tree collage.

  5. Spend time just sitting near a tree, watching your breath move in and out, watching the leaves and branches blow in the wind, even imagining yourself as still and quiet as a tree. What would it feel like to be a tree?

To learn more about the music and message of Charity and the JAMband, visit And listen to the whole EARTH album below!

Love, Charity

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