Have you ever had a relationship with a tree? I mean for real. I’m very serious, and I hope to be taken seriously here. If you have not, I recommend that you try this. And if you don’t know where to start, I’ll share with you my experience.
There has only ever been one tree that has made a significant difference in my life. I recently took a trip to see him (he’s a “him” but some trees are also “hers” I suppose), and was shocked by how much he had grown.
I met this tree during a very fragile and transitional time in my life. I had just moved out of New York City but did not yet know what I was going to do with myself. I was lucky enough to be able to live at home while I searched for a new job doing who knows what. I was very lost, very uncertain, very impatient, very frustrated, and desperately searching for answers. It was not a very fun time, and yet at the same time, it was an incredibly creative time for me. During this time living at home, with all of these extra hours on my hands (after of course I performed my daily online search for jobs), I dove into nature. It was a fabulous way to detox from living in a crazy city for four years. I ate cleaner, I breathed cleaner, and it was just a fresher and healthier existence.
During this time, I also created a series of tiny paintings which I call Dioramas. These little paintings are only 3 3/4″ x 4 3/4″, and they are made using old family photographs and acrylic paint applied to glass. This series is very reflective of my time living at home and really illustrates my feelings about family roots, Pennsylvania pride, and my love of nature. Here are a few Dioramas for your viewing pleasure, and if you want to see more, please visit my art website at www.libbysaylor.com
Diorama 1, acrylic on glass with photograph beneath, 3 3/4″ x 4 3/4″ 2011
Diorama 2, acrylic on glass with photograph beneath, 3 3/4″ x 4 3/4″ 2011
Diorama 8, acrylic on glass with photograph beneath, 3 3/4″ x 4 3/4″ 2011
My daily routine was very simple and very pleasurable, despite my general feelings of misery about my life situation. I would wake up, have something healthy to eat, get my job search stuff out of the way, and then hop in the car and drive 20 minutes through captivating corn fields, and another 15 minutes through town, to get to my favorite nature walking spot. This park has everything I could ever want. It has rolling fields with wild flowers and rustic paths so as to not make you feel too constrained, but yet you still feel safe. It has a pine tree forest if you’re in the mood to go deep and uncover the darkest mysteries of your soul. It has a beautiful and clean creek running throughout the park if you want to sit by the water and listen to the brook’s babblings. It’s got steep hiking hills if you want to get your cardio on. It’s got butterflies, and dragon flies, and snakes, and ducks, and frogs, and turtles galore. And most importantly, it has my tree friend.
As I was walking one day, feeling lost about my life, looking for answers, and just plain down, I came upon a tree I had never really taken note of before. This time however, I saw him and truly noticed that he looked very friendly and happy. He was standing in the middle of a field with no other trees around him, and yet he seemed to be super cool with that. He also felt very inviting to me. It’s almost as if he was saying, “Come hang out with me!” So, I kind of stopped dead in my tracks and just looked at him for a bit. And then something compelled me (you’re going to think I’m the biggest whack-a-do ever) to quicken my pace and hasten towards him. And without stopping and without thinking, I just instinctively trotted over to him and dumbfoundedly wrapped my arms around his approachable trunk. Yeah, I did that. I hug trees. Frequently. And I’ve also been known to kiss them too when no one is watching. Try it, it’s fun.
This was my first tree-hug by the way. My tree friend introduced me to the joyous wonders of tree-hugging. And honestly, once you crack open that door, there’s no going back. You’ll become a tree-hugger ‘til death.
This tree was kind of perfect for me. My arms just seemed to wrap so comfortably around him, with my fingertips just barely touching each other. He had a ton of shade to offer and a comfortable little nook for me to nestle myself into when I felt like resting up against him. I would come to visit this tree every day, give it a hug (and maybe a kiss), and just sit under him and allow myself to feel comforted. His skin (aka bark) smelled like fresh leather for some reason, and I thought it was divine! I can remember crying, complaining, and really just wanting all of my problems to be solved in those moments of sitting with him. And although trees can’t solve problems, after I got up and started walking away, I always felt better. And if you haven’t noticed, it’s hard to accomplish much in life when you feel like crap. So, there is something to be said for cultivating activities that make you feel good.
Once I got my new job (which did not take too terribly long by the way), I moved away from home and settled in the Philadelphia suburbs, where I remain today. So, I had to kind of say a soft goodbye to my tree friend, knowing he most likely wasn’t going anywhere, but also knowing I couldn’t visit him every day. It wasn’t goodbye for good, but just for now.
So, it’s been six years since I’ve paid an actual visit to my tree friend. I have been back to the park many times, but I was always with someone, or I would see my tree from over the hill and just wave or call hello to it. But only several weeks ago did I take a walk by myself (I can do a whole post on the importance of spending time in nature by yourself, rather than with others, but that’s for another time) and decide to initiate a bit of a reunion with my tree friend.
My reunion with my tree friend was unbelievable. I could see as I approached him that he looked different. He wasn’t much taller but his trunk was noticeably wider. I mean obviously, that’s how trees grow. The rings, one per year, I get it. But I guess I didn’t really get it until I saw the miraculous transition in my familiar tree friend. His trunk was darker too. It used to be this light grayish color, but his color had now deepened, and it really threw me off. I felt like, “Who are you and what have you done with my friend?” Most importantly, he wasn’t quite as huggable anymore. I mean of course, I gave him a hug. But I couldn’t get my arms around him at all, not even close. It was so strange to witness. Perhaps because I felt such a sense of fixed steadiness from him during that fragile time of deep neediness. I never expected him to change. But how silly of me. And it wasn’t a sad feeling to experience all of this. Rather, it was just kind of fascinating to me. Everything changes, everything grows, nothing ever stays the same, and don’t take anything for granted. It also made me realize that I really do have a relationship with this mute being, to the point where I am so familiar with the exact texture of his skin and the exact size of his bod, that I notice when it’s different. It made me appreciate our relationship and the intimacy that I had cultivated with him during that difficult time.
Print by Bryan Nash Gill, author of Woodcut (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012)
Goddesses, for real. If you have any strange hang-ups about this, or if you feel self-conscious about trying it, I’m not trying to be a jerk, and I would like to say as delicately as possible, “get over it and get over yourself.” Sorry, there is no polite and lovingly encouraging way to say “get over it.” To me, it always sounds like such a harsh statement and I hate when people say that to me. But I mean it, and I wouldn’t say it unless it was for the greater good of humanity and the expansion of your beautiful goddess souls. Even if you feel dumb, just try it once and see what happens. Ideally, you’d find a tree, hug it, and see what happens. You might not be soul mates, he might disappoint you and just not meet your needs in the ways that you need him to. And that’s okay, that’s not his fault and it’s not your fault. It just wasn’t meant to be. But you find a new tree and you try again…You get the point 🙂
Good luck with this experiment goddesses and have fun with this! It’s worth the weirdness and it’s definitely better if you are alone. Even if you go with a friend (that would be so great if you and your friend found trees together!), it’s still better when you go by yourself. The intimacy is lost when another human being is around. But if you need to have a friend to feel more comfortable, start with that and then keep expanding, yay!
Happy to see my tree friend.
Featured photo by Lukas Gächter on Unsplash