My love for trees began when I was young. On my way to St. Bridget of Sweden Elementary School, I would go out of my way to touch the trunk of an old fruit tree that grew beside the overgrown foundations of a house that had long since disappeared. While I was attending Reed College, there was one particular birch tree on the path between my dorm and the campus that I always acknowledged with a touch when I walked by.
As I got older, I moved from just touching trees to actually hugging them. But I’ve always had to be sneaky about it. For many years, I taught classes in Loew Hall on the University of Washington campus. Two black locust trees grew outside the back door to the building. I used to hug one of those trees before the start of every class. I would put my heart up against the trunk and try to calm down enough to feel the roots running down into the earth and the branches reaching up into the sky. When I got very quiet, I could feel the sap running in the trunk and the branches flexing in the wind. I was always anxious before teaching, and this act calmed me down. And reminded me that my teaching was part of the world—connected to the earth and expanding to fill the sky.
However, I was always slightly embarrassed at the thought of being caught hugging a tree. If a car turned into the adjacent driveway or a student walked out of the back door, I would pretend that I was just leaning against the trunk.
This week in honor of Arbor Day (the last Friday in April), get to know a tree in your life. Perhaps you will simply identify it. The Arbor Day Foundation has a tree guide that can help you. Or maybe you will take time to just be with the tree, whether or not that involves leaning against the trunk or actually putting your arms around it.
Waverly Fitzgerald is a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who has studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shares her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. She is currently working on a series of essays about looking for nature in the city and blogs for the Seattle PI as the “Urban Naturalist.”
In December 2015, Amber Lotus reached a significant milestone of 500,000 trees planted through our partnership with Trees for the Future (TREES). Read our post for more information — Half a Million Trees, Art, Commerce, and Service.