All my life, as far back as I can remember, I have felt a connection with trees. I’ve grasped trunks and branches during youthful climbs and wondered how my hands felt to them. I felt their surface as rough, crumbly, sticky in places with sap, and I wondered if they felt me climbing them as warm, human, fleeting, soft.
One of my earliest memories regarding my family involved a tree. A very tall tree. We lived near the end of a long country road and our yard had a row of tall spruce running along the property line, separating our house and yard from the road. I loved those huge spruce trees and would often climb up to sit, swing and bounce on those sprawling lower branches. For my tiny body of six years those branches made a perfect ladder all the way to the top, and one day I just kept going.
I can still remember the sticky sap that clung to my palms as I reached up to another and then another branch-rung in this ladder to the clouds. That is until the branches were so close together that all I could do was perch on the sturdiest one and hold onto the trunk. It was exhilarating. My heart was happy and excited and I felt so intimately close to that old tree. I felt safe. Cocooned. I even noticed how the breeze made that old tree sway. In my mind it was as if I was nestled in the clouds and I loved it.
Then I looked down through the branches and saw my family in the yard: mother gardening, father working on one of his cars, and much older sister preparing to head out in her own car. I could hear them easily and they were starting to ask each other, “Have you seen Gina?” so I unveiled my hiding spot and cheerily called out to them, “Hi Mom! Hi Dad! Hi Sis!” Unfortunately (but predictably) they didn’t think my being 50 feet up in a narrow evergreen quite as enchanting as I did. My Mom went into a screaming state of panic and her fear was palatable. I suddenly gripped that trunk and felt the rush of a powerful fear.
I climbed down with a much more unhappy energy than I’d climbed up with, but I still give thanks for that memory. The trauma from my mother’s fear helped imprint that day, that moment, into my brain to be permanently stored. I loved that tree, that day, the clouds, the breeze, even the sticky and prickly branches, and my mother’s introduction of fear helped sear that day into me so that I would never forget.
Once I became a mother it was easy to forgive and understand my mom’s frantic, scolding behaviour. While I never experienced looking up a 50-foot tree to see my six-year old child near the top, I can still easily understand her behaviour (although I don’t recommend letting your child SEE your level of panic, if at all possible). Obviously I made it down safely, although the coming down was vastly worse than the going up. I was harshly scolded and forbidden from ever climbing trees again. (Not that it lasted. I discovered an ancient walnut tree as well as a prolific cherry tree at our next home. I figured moving made that ‘No Climbing Trees’ agreement void)
Now mid-life has snuck up on me and those memories are decades old. In my world I now have 50-foot spruce trees on my own property. While I do not feel the urge to push my much-larger body through the branches in an attempt to reach the heights, I feel their roots. I offer love to their roots.
I wonder, is this a part of aging? In my youth I longed for the tip-top branches, swaying in the breeze, and now I respect and appreciate roots where I add compost, occasional fertilizer and water during times of drought.
I myself have put deeper roots down as I cherish these years of my forties. If I may be so lucky this is the halfway point… the true mid-life stage and I intend to show up and put on a good show.
Offering my love and appreciation for the two huge spruce I share this property with is one way I celebrate life. They are old trees, older than I am, and their sprawling shallow roots reach much farther than the drip-line. Their roots might even be under me now as I type in the den facing the street, beside the nearest of the two giant trees as I watch the pattern of the wind in its branches.
If this is the case and the roots are under my feet, may it receive this prayer I offer. May this tree feel my appreciation for the birds it shelters and the shade it offers. May it know those fertilizer spikes I pound in at the drip-line during spring rains are one way I show my love as I attempt to replenish the soil nourishment our city lifestyles rob from urban trees. May it, on some unknown level, feel my loving eyes as I watch its branches from my window and attempt to capture poetic words to describe the beauty I behold. May these old trees, and all the trees in my neighbourhood and the wilderness walks I enjoy, feel my deep appreciation for them and continue to flourish and share their oxygenating, healing energy with us all.
Thank You God for all the Trees.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.
~ Chinese Proverb
I willingly confess to so great a partiality for trees as tempts me to respect a man in exact proportion to his respect for them.
~ James Russell Lowell
I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live
than other things do. ~ Willa Cather
[With genuine gratitude for these randomly-sourced royalty-free photos off Google images]