Monday, May 13, 2013

Tree Hugger

I apologize for the musing nature of this blog as it seems I rambled quite a bit more than usual. The real struggle was to not make it too long even though it is still about twice as long as my typical posts. Trees kept popping up in my online news feeds and I found myself thinking of Willow trees and then on to other trees from there. Even today when I logged on to preview and post this entry, I got distracted by other tasks and forgot my original purpose. Within a few moments, the following tree popped up and I remembered that I had really come on to post about trees! I love how magically the Universe speaks to us at times!

My earliest memory of trees is from a story my sister use to tell me. Sometime when I was living in Saudi Arabia (between the ages of 3 1/2 to 6), I fell out of a tree and sprained my arm very badly. At the time, my sister (who was still in the States) had a dream about this happening and wrote to my mother about it. I remember the tree though I don't remember falling out of it. It wasn't the tree's fault and all I remember was that my mom no longer allowed me to climb trees after that.

The result was that I was limited to climbing trees only when I was with my dad. I remember climbing a very large oak tree in Westwego, Louisiana not long after returning to the States. I went so high, the branches swayed in the breeze and I could see clear across the levee to the other side of the canal. I was stuck for a long time, afraid to come down and afraid to call out for help and risk angering my father and losing all climbing privileges! If my mother had known, she would have feinted from fright!

We didn't have many trees that were easily climbed in Avondale, Louisiana where I spent my pre-teen years (when we weren't overseas) but the trees we did have had other uses. There was the large persimmon tree in the back that occasionally dropped a few fruits which my parents loved (though I didn't care much for them). In the front was a large shade tree and our neighbor had trees that dropped green fruits that were great for throwing at other kids in war games (though how we were never hurt, I do not know!).

Our neighbor across the street had a Willow tree and often wrestled with the annual caterpillar infestations whose silken nests he often burned out of the tree. I remember the challenge of learning the painful lesson that some caterpillars could sting. After that, it was then a challenge to let them climb on me without causing them to sting or testing new ones to see if they would. I couldn't resist learning this for myself and even had to re-learn it when they didn't sting right away! To predators, the pretty colors might say "Stay Away!" but all I could see was "Touch Me!" (a few pics here: )
and here's one of the pics of one from the page which I often tempted fate with:

I always liked the way the Willow trees' branches hung down like a natural enclosure with their long slender leaves and the way they liked to grow along the river banks. So when a neighbor near where I live now cut one of the few in the area down, I noticed it right away and was quite saddened by the event. It was not near the house and turned the area into a bare bit of lawn that seems so naked now.

When we moved to Mississippi, we were surrounded by woods owned mostly by the paper company and I was very happy to spend the day walking through the woods, imagining all sorts of adventures! So when it finally came time to choose a place to work, the parks and trees of Alabama helped me to choose this area over places that offered more money.

A co-worker had introduced me to hiking at Oak Mountain State Park and I nearly killed myself near the high point on the mountain trying to climb into a low-branching Oak tree. I just couldn't resist doing it though I wondered what people would think of a grown man climbing a tree like a monkey.

In the neighborhood I live in now, we have many tall older trees. They don't have the support of the woods in these urban settings and often lose parts or entire trees from the storms that come through. I finally had to cut both of the old Bradford Pears down after two storms had taken much of them down and made the rest unstable.

The old Oak in the front has twice lost huge bows to storms though my neighbor and I have been lucky not to have any damage from either time. It is missing most of its canopy and looks like a very large twig or an old balding man with whom I am happy to share it's waning years with.

As I mentioned earlier, when I saw a post about Willow trees, I started to reminisce about my love for trees and recalled my last visit to the neighborhood where I had grown up in Avondale, Louisiana. The trees, the shrubs, and even the plants were mostly gone from my home and many others in the area. They looked bland and naked, bereft of foliage and I realized that the area seemed less pleasant, as if it lacked some energy from the missing foliage. I'm not sure why it had been stripped but it definitely didn't feel the same as it did when I was a kid.

I'm fortunate to now live within a mile of the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve where all sorts of trees and plants grow. I may not be able to identify most of the species but I enjoy their shade and beauty. Sometimes I just have to go off the trail to be near a particular one. To touch it and sometimes, to hug it. Some may think that odd and I have finally come to a point where I understand this disconnect such people have and the lack of understanding it causes.

That connection and desire to be near and even touch the trees and plants is what makes me different from some folks. I feel a very intimate and spiritual connection with the natural world. I see things many others do not notice but I no longer hide my perceptions nor do I apologize for them. It is what it is. If someone criticizes my ways, I learn not to share that part of my life with them but I am not diminished by their opinions. Annoyed a bit and disappointed that they don't share my views but hopeful that in time they will have the opportunity to experience some of the things I have.

I do worry that it might happened only when there aren't any more trees to hug but only time will tell if enough people are able to reconnect in time to realize how precious the trees really are.

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