Tree Hugging — A Great Way to Celebrate Arbor Day

Photograph © Dan Mirica / Shutterstock from our Tree Hugger 2015 wall calendar

Photograph © Dan Mirica / Shutterstock from our Tree Hugger 2015 wall calendar

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 FitzgeraldWaverly 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.

Earth Day

Cycling is a popular and earth-friendly activity in Portland. This image from the Bicycle Bliss 2015 wall calendar features Portland in the background.

Cycling is a popular and earth-friendly activity in Portland. This image from the Bicycle Bliss 2015 wall calendar features Portland in the background.

Several years ago, we went to an Earth Day celebration here in downtown Portland. Part of downtown was closed for a parade that featured musicians, dancers, and tons of adorable children dressed as their favorite creatures. We saw a menagerie of wee ones dressed as butterflies, dolphins, bears, kitties, puppies, pandas, elephants, and more. I was pretty impressed with the creativity and energy so many of them had invested in their creations. I could feel how much they loved these creatures just from the level of enthusiasm they expressed by dressing up like them — so much care and detail.

There was a main stage event in Pioneer Square where the parade ended. All kinds of groups performed, and several people shared information about the City of Portland’s environmental stance and initiatives. As we waited for some of our dancer friends to perform, Mother Nature decided to join in the fun of the celebration. Within an hour, we experienced sunshine, rain, hail, wind, more hail, more rain, and then full glorious sunshine. One of the wonderful things about living in Portland… the crowd stayed downtown to celebrate as Mother Nature joined in the show. It was like an honored guest had arrived and we all wanted to stay and share the joy. We were all smiling and sharing as the steam lifted up off the sidewalks as the rain evaporated into the sun.

Originally a US holiday, the first Earth Day celebration was in 1970. Now, on its 45th anniversary, the Earth Day Network lists celebrations in over 192 countries. The initiatives and awareness for environmental issues that have developed from these celebrations are wonderful. But we still have much more to do to keep Mother Nature healthy and joyful.


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Spring Pilgrimage: A Personal Quest

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Hearts on Fire greeting card by Michael J. Green

In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer writes that the month of April is the time when folks long to go on pilgrimages, because Nature makes them restless, stirring up a desire to go to strange places and see strange things. Perhaps you too are feeling this calling, a desire to go beyond the edges of your familiar world.

There are many ways to go on a pilgrimage. The most obvious, and perhaps the most delightful, is to visit a sacred site, either far away or in your neighborhood. If you’re not aware of any sacred sites in your neighborhood, make inquiries or let your intuition guide you. Look for places that you feel attracted to when you think of being outdoors in a reflective state or a celebratory mood. Continue reading

Exploring Nature Through Art

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we tend to hibernate during the winter months. My neighbors and I joke around about not seeing each other for months. In mid-March we suddenly start to converge on the street for spontaneous, tiny block parties to catch up and celebrate spring. (We also joke around about our coffee and beer consumption during winters in Portland, but that’s another blog post for another time.)

Spring is such a magical time with plants unfurling and blooming in vivid colors and divine shapes. The pale landscape starts to light up with color and dance with texture. It’s no surprise that so many artists are inspired and deeply connected to nature. Two of our calendar titles, Environmental Art and Land Art, show an extraordinary array of styles with nature and natural elements playing the central role.

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Spencer Byles, forest materials, France, 2012
Featured in the Environmental Art 2015 wall calendar:

Environmental art takes many forms. It can be a thought-provoking presentation of nature in an urban landscape or an illumination of beauty that draws our awareness to our earthly surroundings. It can also be sublimely emotional, as with “Three Portals,” created by Spencer Byles. Approaching the portals, looking through to the path beyond, evokes a primal mystery. The forest bears witness to a rite of passage that can symbolize whatever you wish. The surroundings are as much a part of a work of environmental art as what the artist contributes. Byles says, “When working in forests or mountains or by a river with natural materials, I might leave the work for a period of weeks or months to allow nature to weave its way back onto, around, and through the materials before I return to complete it. The sculptures look more grounded in their environment once this action takes place.” Continue reading

April Is Poetry Month

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Artwork by Denise Gallagher. “Be a Unicorn” greeting card available on our website.

The practice of claiming a holiday for a certain cause—whether whimsical or worthy—has expanded to ridiculous proportions. In the middle of April, for instance, you can celebrate National Submarine Day (4/11), Scrabble Day (4/13), Ex-Spouse Day (4/14), Rubber Eraser Day (4/15—perhaps related to Tax Day?), and National Eggs Benedict Day (4/16). If you want more, you can find a list of wacky and not-so-wacky holidays here. Continue reading