Archives For trees

Loving Trees

August 17, 2013 — 53 Comments

tree_canopy smAll 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.

spruce_tree 300Then 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)

tree roots 350Now 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

See additional quotes on TREES and more on my Quotes Page.
Related reading at my older post: A Forest Sprite

[With genuine gratitude for these randomly-sourced royalty-free photos off Google images]

The glorious boreal rain forests of British Columbia were where I spent my latter single-digit years. What a magical world of greens and cool dampness they were, with spongy moss to soften my explorations and the pungent aroma of Skunk Cabbage forever etched into my most pleasant of childhood memories. Looking up past trees that towered so high I could not see the sky, I felt securely sheltered in the under-story of this quiet ancient masterpiece of Nature.

My explorations were carried out off the path. I traveled slowly, carefully, as silently as I could, out of my respect for the spirit of the forest and all the unseen creatures. I still recall my explorations feeling like I was home somehow, looking for shelter if needed, noting which trees were climbable, where the berries were, and how far I had travelled from the tiny stream trickling through the boulders by a favorite hidden thicket. I wanted to live amongst those old trees. And in those years of my youth, I practically did.

This sacred place remained my secret. It was a forest much farther along the path than my childhood friends journeyed in our games and playing. I had seen how school-mates treated the massive Banana slugs no matter how I protested, how they hated the smell of Skunk-Cabbage, how quickly they became bored, and did not seem to notice the sacredness of these deep old forests. I knew of no one who would understand the quiet magic and majesty of this precious place, except perhaps my father, but I assumed he was too busy and never told him about it.

When I remember how much time I spent alone in those forests, away from home for hours at a time, often sun-up to twilight in the summer months, I am sure that unseen forces helped protect me. There was a part of me that delighted in remaining hidden, and I would silently tuck behind a massive grouping of ferns upon hearing voices approaching along the nearby pathway. Like a forest sprite I would seek shelter from sight, hiding with other unseen creatures, watching the noisy humans pass by. I recall a thrill when once I heard a young woman say to her walking partner, “Wasn’t there a little girl up here? Where did she go?” I wondered if this is what deer felt like, to be seen and then to disappear, but actually remain closer than one might think.

In my joyous solitude, I marveled at the foot-long slugs and would get down, really close, to watch how their sides undulated as they glided across the mossy carpet, tentacle-like eyes seeming to glance at this young human and then turning away, unconcerned. The silken vestige of their travels shimmered almost magically in the soft light of that special forest. At the sight of a huge perfectly undamaged spider-web glistening with ten thousand shimmering dewdrops in the early morning light, my heart would fill to bursting and I began to discover the glory of God far more than in my family’s occasional visits to the neighbourhood church. The sound of a songbird calling for a mate or defining its territory sounded so melodious that it melted my heart, yet even then I knew it was ‘just biology’. As I sat quietly on a mossy log to observe the songbirds, I recall noticing an interesting looking beetle soldiering along amongst the rough terrain of the forest floor, then suddenly tumbling over and flailing all legs in a feeble attempt to right itself. With a smile I picked up a fallen twig and gently touched the end to its belly plate, knowing it would grasp the small branch. Sure enough, and as I let go the twig onto the ground and watched this tiny armored tank continue on its mission, I noticed the seemingly black color of its back was actually shimmering with iridescent colors only to be witnessed if the light was at the right angle.

Even at this tender age before my tenth birthday, I truly found God in Nature. That my eyes could see such glorious beauty and hear such sweet melodies as wind in the trees and birds calling to mates, I felt that must be God. I felt then, and still feel, that God so glories in us humans that He gives us such gifts to behold with joy and wonder, that our hearts may open, and gratitude for this life, for every moment, may fill our hearts and overflow into the world. From one middle-aged forest sprite to the world, I say:  Thank You God, for this life, for all of Nature, for every day. Thank you. May I help shine Your light and love from within me out into the world. May I assist others in remembering our abundant reasons for gratitude. And may we unite in holding together towards peace, towards healing, towards cherishing this great glorious globe that we are blessed enough to call home. Namaste. ~Gina

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.  ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

I thank you God for this most amazing day,
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees,
and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural,
which is infinite,
which is yes.
~ e.e. cummings

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it…. People think pleasing God is all God care about.  But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.  ~ Alice Walker, The Color Purple

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.  ~ George Washington Carver

I’ve always regarded nature as the clothing of God.  ~ Alan Hovhaness

God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars.
~ Martin Luther

Just A Smile

April 16, 2012 — 19 Comments

Simple kindness is something I genuinely enjoy offering to others, and welcome it warmly. It is more magical and healing than we often admit. Even just a smile or kind word cause ripples out into the world, helping more than we know.

I will always remember a moment that happened one morning about 12 years ago as I faced another day at a horrible job. I trudged along, head down, my smile gone. As a financially strapped single mom, all I could do was pray every morning for the strength to endure and send out resumes every evening, like messages in a bottle thrown into the sea.

Nature is always my solace, so in the concrete jungle I look for trees and birds as I walk. The sidewalk was sloping down as it headed under the railway and I looked up to see if pigeons might be roosting and quietly cooing to each other in the rafters. As I wearily raised my head I saw a woman looking at me with a smile of pure sweetness. Bright teeth flashing at me in that dark depressing morning. Instinctively a smile slowly grew on my face to return the favor but she was already gone. Passed swiftly by me, leaving a lingering moment of kindness like a ray of sunshine piercing the gray. I felt touched, noticed by another person amongst all the pedestrian traffic, trudging along. She was like an angel, to know how much I needed that smile, but didn’t even know it myself. My spirits immediately lifted and I remembered the Truth: this hardship was temporary and I would get a better job.

The generous kindness of a stranger, giving me one of her smiles when mine were all gone, changed my world that day and will be remembered forever.

Gardening Heals

April 15, 2012 — 17 Comments

Much has been written about the healing power of gardening and I feel my rebuilt life is valid proof. To recover from a tragedy so encompassing that it changed the very essence of my naturally cheerful personality into one of quiet reclusiveness takes a near-miracle. For me, growing plants was the basis for that miraculous recovery.

Pulling myself out of bed and out of my house required great effort that spring of 2009. The nearby neighbourhood mall had erected a seasonal greenhouse in the parking lot and it drew me out of my shell like warm sunshine. While going to the store for groceries seemed to require great effort and had been the only event getting me out of the house, visiting that plastic Quonset soon became my panacea.

I felt heartbroken and heavy that spring, and I knew I could not force a quick healing. This was a wound that would take time to recover from. At least I was gentle with myself, although I suppose what I felt was apathetic acceptance more that gentleness towards myself. When it feels like the footing is ripped out from under oneself, balance is a long time returning. Those first forays into the greenhouse were not intended for purchasing anything, and I knew that. I only wanted to be around green things growing. And the temporary peace I felt in that place kept bringing me back, day after day. Getting me out of my house.

In the beginning, my visits consisted of wandering aimlessly up and down the two long aisles, allowing the images, sounds and smells in this tiny greenhouse to slowly wake up my numbed senses. The jungle-like mass of leaves of all shapes and sizes in every shade of green formed a backdrop for a riot of blooming colour. The water dripped steadily from recently watered overhead baskets, overflowing with petunias and lobelia. The clear plastic walls noisily flapped and strained with the spring breezes. Long black hoses snaked their way around and under the greenhouse tables, preventing easy passage for old ladies with carts. The rows of herbs, tomatoes, onions and squash at the back of the tent made me dream of growing my own food, until I heard an inner voice warn that I was still too broken for that kind of endeavor.

Plants of all sizes sat lined up and crowded together, waiting to go home with eager gardeners, novice and expert alike. Sometimes I would surreptitiously watch people picking out the plants of their choice and for a moment I would wonder about their garden. Was is large and established or were they just starting a new one? Were they going for a riot of vibrant colours or were they carefully staying within a select range of two or three colours? I felt myself begin to wish for the energy to garden again, as I had before the tragedy happened. And then, suddenly, as the wish stirred within me, I felt hope that I might someday actually have energy for something again. It had felt like a long time since I had even wished for anything.

In familiar silence I drove back to my home: my shelter, my cocoon. A tall wooden fence surrounded my back yard and I felt securely hidden and unseen. There was a bench under the ancient apple tree that I found myself sitting on after these trips to the greenhouse. I would just sit and listen to breezes and birds, and gaze at the thawing ground and dead plant matter amidst last year’s garden. I didn’t have the energy to cut back the old plants and clean up the garden. I just didn’t care enough.

I recall one particularly fateful day. The still-weak sunshine shone through the leafless branches and warmed my shoulders. I stared at the hateful sidewalk pavers shooting arrow-straight from my front gate to the rear one, and I longed more than ever for a graceful sweeping curve in that concrete path. With a sudden urge, I stood and placed my foot on a paver that rocked. I watched the corner move up and down as I applied my foot to it. Wondering how heavy this paver was, I grabbed my shovel and pried it under the loose corner. It was heavier than I expected and I quickly let it down to lay askew on the neighbouring paving stone. I squatted and wrestled to lift the stone up sideways. Then I backed out of the way and let it fall upside-down on the dead grass beside its original placement. The weight of the paver shook the hard ground with its impact. I felt a glimmer of pleasure at what I had done, and suddenly felt focused on a project: I would dig out these pavers and create a curve in my pathway!

With a hint of a smile on my face at the nearly-forgotten feeling of determination, I began flipping the heavy two-foot square concrete pavers out of their decades-old places, and into my long-desired curving shape. I worked for hours to move all twenty-four stones into their new locations atop the brown turf, until I was happy with the shape of the curve they made. As the sun passed the horizon and the day turned to evening, I went inside with a foreign sense of inner peace from both the physical exhaustion and a day spent forgetting about my heartache. I slept through the night for the first time in months.

I woke eager to see the new path. I stepped outside and my heart lifted at the curve in the path, but my back ached at the work still involved. The pavers now needed to be leveled and I would have to dig out sod. Stretching out the stiffness, I pulled on my gloves and got to work. This pathway project took days of work, and I felt a healing happening within me. This focus was replacing the emptiness that had enveloped me. There was feeling returning to my numbed spirit. As I envisioned an expanded garden here in my sleeping yard, my spirit began awakening. I cut back plant material and worked compost into the soil to prepare for a new season of growth. After a few days away, I returned to my little greenhouse haven with new resolve. I was at last ready to bring home a plant. Or two.

As it turned out, that summer my garden exploded with all the care and attention I bestowed upon it. Above the newly curving pathway I erected an eight-foot-tall lattice arbor I had built and planted Scarlet Runner Beans on both sides of the base. I divided and multiplied many of my existing perennials and added new ones. From the greenhouse I first brought home six Johnny Jump Up plants. The next day it was another Echinacea to be a companion to my current purple coneflower. Before long I was walking past those flapping plastic walls to the very end of the aisles. I found myself in the vegetable area examining tomatoes and chives. I brought home a pepper plant, two ‘Early Girl’ tomatoes, a container of chives and a zucchini plant. Within days I returned for a basil plant, then I added rosemary and thyme. A few days after that I came home with a flat of marigolds with their pungent aroma to help keep cats out of the raised veggie patch.

Every day that I could I spent from dawn to dusk in my garden that summer. Sometimes I would enjoy digging or weeding or moving a plant to a better spot in the garden. Other times I would just relax on the bench and gaze at all the life growing in my garden. I would enjoy the antics and calls of birds in the branches overhead, and would watch the activity in the hollyhock blooms, filled with bees gathering pollen. I gazed up at the tall arbor covered in leafy vines and smiled at the shade it provided. I relished the feeling of peace in my heart, and marvelled at how I was at last healing.

The memories and gratitude for that summer of gardening, and the healing it provided, will remain with me always.

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