Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hug a Tree

My granddaughter, Layla, loves walks. It is her favorite activity. When she was a baby we went on daily nature walks. She sat in her stroller and stared at the trees in awe as I explained how they changed through the seasons and showed her leaves, needles, and fruit that had fallen to the ground. Eventually she started pulling herself up onto the couch, climbing onto the cushions so she could grab the windowsill and stare out the window. I assumed she was watching the birds, or even the chattering neighbors. When she started to walk I quickly learned what it was that had captured her attention just outside the window’s glass. When her parents took her outside for a tour of the lawn, the first thing she did was toddle over to the small apple tree in her front yard and wrap her arms around its trunk to give it a great big hug.

I share my granddaughter’s love of trees. My life would be naked without trees—cold and exposed. From the tiniest fruit tree to the towering oaks that grace my home, I am in awe of the beauty of these precious gifts from God. When I feel weak and afraid and in need of strength and stability, I wrap my arms around the trunk of a Live Oak, taking slow, deep breaths, reveling in its constancy and might. When the wind races past my home and the window glass shakes and trembles, it is the leaves of the trees that provide the soft, shimmering sounds to soothe my soul.

My little backyard menagerie would not exist without the sprawling oak with its long, thick branches that reach into each corner. The squirrels use these branches to leap onto the roof when they hear my noisy dogs. The younger squirrels use the branches as a jungle gym, chasing each other from one side of the tree to the other, sometimes hanging upside down, making chattering sounds, teasing and playing. These same branches, like giant fingers, hold the corn cobs the little squirrels use for their afternoon snacks. The cardinals, tufted titmouse and finches use the rough bark for landings and the leaves for shelter from the rain. And only God knows how many tiny bugs creep around the bark each day providing food for the birds.

We planted six fruit trees in our front yard. I am certain we will lose most of the fruit to the deer, and this feels right to me. Our many pecan trees already feed more than their share of little creatures with their thick, hard nuts and there is still plenty leftover for us. As for beauty, the crape myrtles with their pink and purple flowers are a favorite of Texans and in our yard they shade and shelter both ponds. When the wind blows, the delicate little flowers fill the pond like a lovely, floating blanket. The crape myrtles are favorites for the birds, as well as the large garden spiders that use the branches for their intricate and delicate webs.

As humans, we have found many uses for trees, from shelter to paper. Fortunately, with the current widespread use of the internet, we no longer have an excuse for destroying trees for bills and advertisements, but we do it anyway. Now, I’m not talking about cards that provide reminders of love that are passed on for generations, or watercolor paper used for works of art that provide immeasurable pleasure to all. Each day when I check the mail, I find my box full of paper that will simply end up in the recycle bin and it’s a ridiculous waste of trees and time. Today I received a large mailing from a local store that I already visit twice a week, a two page letter in an envelope with a return envelope from an organization I joined through the internet urging me to send them money that they could have saved by using the internet for their message, and a two page letter and envelope from a company that sends me “reminders” each month informing me that I will not owe them another payment until a year from now. I am taking the time this afternoon to write each of these organizations a letter on the internet, urging them to stop sending me paper in the mail. When I am finished, I will walk outside to my front yard, wrap my arms around a mighty oak, and give it a great big hug of appreciation. I urge you to do the same. The sense of peace to be gained from this simple act is truly indescribable.

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