Love them with your hands and feet, with forgiveness, service, sacrifice, a kind word, with your casserole dishes and your snow shovels, with itchy masks and Walmart gift cards.
His name was Jesus, and it’s the day we celebrate his birthday.
Outdoors is my Happy Place and I’ve never loved it more than now, in these months and months of Covid. Thanksgiving is coming up and with so much that brings us joy closed to us, I am beyond thankful for the time we can spend in safety outside.
I have always had a special relationship with trees.
Growing up in a Wisconsin oak forest, I cached books in a secret knot hole and read the hot summer hours away on a broad branch. My skinny young back supported by the strong rough-barked trunk, a tree was for me a perfect hideaway for daydreaming of the life I planned to have.
In the fall I stockpiled acorns and fought silly acorn wars with my friends.
The older I got, the higher I ventured into the canopy.
I still have a scar from the time daring exceeded ability and I fell to the ground, impaling my forearm on a stick. It didn’t dim my affinity for being a tree hugger one bit then and now I live in a Southern place with new trees to discover, new arboreal friends to make. The behemoth above is a favorite — a live oak so old that I can’t even imagine its age.
So many trees in the South are not lone sentinels in the woods but a host, a jungle gym for the amazing vines that grow here.
This oak supports a whole world of plant life — resurrection ferns, vines, and mosses, including the ethereal and iconic Spanish moss.
Trees give shelter and support to spiders, insects, fungi, birds, and small mammals in, under, and on themselves.
They grow in funny shapes, to accommodate insects and their tree neighbors. Can you see the deer head silhouette this branch has taken on?
Or the complete circle here?
Trees communicate through a complex system in their underpinnings beneath the ground and are sensitive to and supportive of the other trees growing around them. They clean the air, shelter from the wind, moderate temperature, provide oxygen and food, calm the soul, home wildlife, heal patients, herald the seasons, reduce violence in cities. I always feel better after a day spent deep in the presence of these old and gentle souls.
My tree climber days may be over but am still a tree hugger, an enthusiastic appreciator of the beauty of trees.