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William Guion
Return to Heartwood, A Search for the Heart of Live Oak Country

Adult; Art & Photography; (Market)

What began as a long-term photographic study of a single subject grew into a calling, a four-decade-long pilgrimage deep into the heart of Louisiana’s live oak country to find and document the state's oldest oaks, many growing before European settlement of this region. In Return to Heartwood – A Search for the Heart of Live Oak Country, author and photographer William Guion shares his experiences in search of ancient and historic Southern live oak trees. In the process, he came to know the old oaks as sentient beings that are an essential part of the history, culture, and ecology of the Southern landscape—and the heart and soul of Southern life. Through these haunting “oak portraits” and personal essays, you are transported deep into the heart of Louisiana’s misty and mysterious bayou country. Here you will wander into moss-draped corridors of ancient oak alleys, through fog-shrouded oak groves, and into dazzling mornings and ghostly twilights to commune with these iconic elder trees of the deep South. This book is a chronicle of Guion’s forty-year journey through live oak country in search of the oldest remaining live oaks in Louisiana. It is part autobiography, part history, and part appeal to preserve the remaining old oaks before they and their stories are lost forever.
Dean Sluyter, author of The Dharma Bum's Guide to Western Literature

"William Blake saw infinity in a grain of sand. Walt Whitman saw it in leaves of grass. William Guion sees it in oaks — and makes us see it. Through his decades of photographing these trees with an artist's camera and a lover's eye, he has penetrated to the sublime heart of their mystery and laid it bare for the rest of us."

Ken Wells, Novelist, author of Swamped, Gumbo Life, and Meely LaBauve

I think that I shall never see/a poem as lovely as a tree. Nor a book as beautifully rendered as Bill Guion’s Return to Heartwood. In equal measure homage and elegy, Heartwood is both a stunning visual time capsule of the ancient live oaks that grace the south Louisiana landscape and a collection of essays that poetically capture why these majestic trees are indispensable to our culture and our imaginations.”

Sage Roberts Foley, Executive Director, Baton Rouge Green

“Guion has done yeoman’s work to catalog and create beautiful, haunting images of the most spectacular live oaks in Louisiana. If only these amazing trees could talk, they would remind us mere humans that they are the true sentinels of our ecology, history, and identity as Louisianians. We should all be humbled by their presence.”

Return to Heartwood book wins national award in self-published art-book category

New Orleans, LA, February 2022:

William Guion’s newest book, Return to Heartwood – A Search for the Heart of Live Oak Country, was selected for an Honorable Mention award from 1,946 books submitted in the North Street Book Prize—a partnership between the website Winning Writers and the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).

In their comments on the book, the judges said “These (oak) portraits seem halfway between photographs and meticulous pencil sketches, or perhaps 19th-century landscape etchings. This technique gives his subjects the aura of ghosts reaching across time to beckon us into their troubled history—as well as warning us about the loss of irreplaceable flora to pollution and urban development. In his accompanying essays, Guion writes eloquently about photography as a meditative process. Using an old-fashioned manual view camera with 4x5-inch negatives, with shots that could take 45 minutes to stage correctly, he created misty, spectral black-and-white images of huge spreading branches draped in Spanish moss. All in all, Return to Heartwood is a beautifully designed and thoughtful book with a unified vision.”