A recent article in The Wall Street Journal has me thinking about the emotional connection humans often feel for trees. In “Why a Tree is the Friend We Need Right Now,” columnist Elizabeth Bernstein describes her relationship with the banyan tree she first encountered while worrying about a sick relative, and to which she returned again and again to seek comfort under its boughs.
The heartfelt gratitude she expressed for her banyan reminded me of Shel Silverstein’s poignant picture book, The Giving Tree, and also of my own tree-friends.
My relationship with trees began with my childhood summertime reading and the mimosa tree in our front yard. I’d climb up to the sturdy limb that perfectly fit the curve of my back and, cocooned in the cool, dense shade of its feathery leaves, I’d read my latest Nancy Drew.
In the neighborhood today, hundred-year oaks and other wizened trees abound. Like the WSJ columnist, I feel an attachment to many of them. I revel in the shade of the ancient oaks that shelter a nearby path, bending toward each other like a giant arbor. There’s one with a burl that looks like a teddy bear. I pat its fat belly as I walk by.
Down the street there’s one that appears to be winning a decades-long power struggle with a city sidewalk. I cheer it on as it pushes the cement away from its powerful roots. Another favorite shelters a little fairy house.
|Fairy house tree.|
I also mourn the giants cut down too soon, along with the charming brick bungalows they stood beside—only to make way for new, gentrified, and decidedly unremarkable houses.
Thoreau once opined that “trees indeed have hearts.” So when the WSJ states that a “calming and awe-inspiring tree is the perfect antidote to anxiety,” I heartily agree. Especially nowadays, when anxiety seems to lurk around every corner.
Do you have a special relationship with a tree? If not, go out and find one. Spend time there. Hug it, if you feel the need. It might be the start of a beautiful friendship.