Friday, October 21, 2011

I like trees

Really, I do. I even own a Life is Good® t-shirt that proclaims "I like trees." So you know, I really mean it. Trees fascinate me and make me happy. I love looking at them, taking pictures of them, walking and snowshoeing through them, and staying cool under them.
Trees are glorious all through the year. They serve as perfect ambassadors of the changing seasons in my home state of Pennsylvania, the name which aptly means "Penn's woods" after Sir William Penn, father of the future founder of the Commonwealth.

I like a quote by naturalist John Muir (well, I like many of his). He said, "Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world." It feels that way when I'm hiking. I'm fortunate I have patient hiking buddies who don't mind when I stop to snap pics of the tree-lined trail in front of me. That trail seems to signal the promise of adventure and the potential of what can be.

Actually, it may not be a coincidence that my buddies don't mind since I haven't found a hiker yet who doesn't feel compelled to photograph all of nature's beauty in front of them, including trees.

French Creek State Park

So, yes, as I look through photos I've taken on the trail and on vacations, many include trees and trees against the sky, in all seasons.

Candy Polgar wrote: "Alone with myself. The trees bend to caress me. The shade hugs my heart."

Sounds like a tree hugger, huh? Maybe I am, too. Can't say I know the name or species of every one I see, but I know I enjoy looking at them and appreciating their grandeur. And the gnarlier and more unique the tree, the better. Hike with me and you'll see that I can't walk by a "weird" tree without stopping to capture its essence with the handy digital camera hanging around my neck.


That is the trail, right between those very straight trees
What is it about trees that I'm attracted to? Is it their quiet majesty? They witness so much standing still at attention. Trees grow despite adversity. They'll wrap their limbs around obstacles to find the light and reach the sky.

Trees adapt. Once we had a tree surgeon remove a large tree that a previous owner had planted way too close to our house. It was also crowding out another tree close to it. When we saw how bare, stunted, and lopsided the remaining tree was after the first was removed, we wondered what we had done.

The tree specialist told us not to worry, that the sad-looking tree would fill in and reach out now for all the open space we had provided. He was right! Today, you'd never believe what that tree looked like before it received the opportunity of its life. Not a bad trait, no, to face adversity and adapt to your surroundings! Trees are awesome like that.

Trees are colorful in all their fall glory
Trees are majestic, yes, but with any power and majesty there's potential for both good and bad. We've all seen on the news one time or another the destruction when a fallen tree crashes through the roof of a house or on a car during a storm or with high winds. 

And we've heard sadder stories when trees have fallen and injured or killed people.

Many years ago a coworker had a very sad story to share with us one day. His relative, a young father, lived on a heavily treed lot. He was already out doing yard work with his young son when winds kicked up. He sensed an impending storm and proceeded to gather tools and batten down the hatches.

The winds whipped unexpectedly and a large tree crashed down and killed his two-year-old son in front of his eyes. I remember hearing that the devastated and mourning father cut down every tree on his lot to ensure that no such accident could ever happen again. I don't know if ultimately the young family moved from that property, which would surely be a daily reminder of the tragedy, but I could certainly understand if they did.

I think about this family I didn't personally know every once in awhile. None of us have any promise that life will be fair, but sometimes it's just hard to understand and the burden is too much for any of us to bear. The father who lost his young son to the fallen tree most likely still does not hold any fondness for trees. And who would blame him.

Not too long ago on a day hike I was telling a friend how I hiked in the Poconos last fall and a group of us had lingered near a waterfall. Finally we moved on, but not too far up the trail we stopped quickly, startled by a very loud noise. We turned to watch a huge tree falling through the other trees and drop to the ground with the loudest thud I ever heard in a forest.

Roots from a fallen tree in the woods (not the one in the story above)
Does a fallen tree make a sound in the woods if no one is there to hear it?
The tree crashed and fell right where we had just been standing! All of us stared in disbelief with mouths gaping open. I will admit that I yelled very loudly, "Shit!" That was too close for comfort. Wow! We were very lucky hikers! We could have still been standing there had we lingered just a bit more! Wow! That would have not been good.

Well, soon after I told my friend about the experience the year before with the fallen tree, what do you think happened while we continued to hike? A tree fell! What are the chances? I was lucky again and we weren't in harm's way. But it just makes you think, doesn't it? It's just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And can you ever truly know when or where is the wrong place to be? No. You know the saying that hindsight is 20-20. In advance, you can only use common sense and make smart, informed decisions. Certainly don't take unnecessary risks and be the senseless person I know of who took his daughter camping the night of Hurricane Irene, when all news told us to stay protected in our basements as the high winds whipped and felled trees, creating havoc all around  us.

Now, unbelievably and thankfully, no tree fell on that goofball and the daughter in his care that night. But yet, we know that even without hurricanes and major storms, trees, most probably bug-infested or with rotting roots, have fallen on unsuspecting campers in tents and killed them before they knew what hit them. What's fair about any of it? Nothing.

So, does any of this keep me from walking through the trees? No. When it's your time, it's your time. And there are way too many ways our lives can be claimed, so I don't want to hold myself in fear of any one possibility. I'll do my best to not take unnecessary risks, so I'm not willing to forgo my adventures in the forest as long as I am still in awe of its standing glory and the peace trees bring to my soul.
This tree on the palace grounds in Honolulu
 looks like lace against the sky

This tree on the palace grounds is big

Under the shade of a banyan tree on Waikiki Beach

Banyan tree in Hawaii. These are amazing

Ice and snow highlight the beauty of trees in our yard

Tree out my back window on a spring night with the moon peeking through
For sure I know I have only touched the surface of adventure in the woods. I have so much more to see. There are so many sections of the Appalachian Trail that I haven't hiked yet. And I still have on my bucket list to see a giant sequoia and stand among enormous redwoods. Poet Alexander Smith wrote "Trees are your best antiques." I respect that statement. I want to try my best to hug one of those calm, yet woody, elders, that will still be there when we are all dead and gone.

I like how John Muir personified trees when he wrote, "A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease."

Can you see his spirit? This tree's alive
I like to think of trees as nonhuman spirits, nonetheless alive, yet on a different plane from us. To me, standing by an amazing tree, I sense a soulful, calm existence and it makes me feel just the same. Yes, trees give and take life. Nothing is perfect and life's not fair. So I say I'll do the best with what I have and make the most of it all. When I need to de-stress, I can count on enjoying a simple walk in the woods or a moment to sit quietly with the trees in my yard and listen to the sound of silence. And if I hear or see a tree fall once again and can live to tell you all about it, I'll continue to respect the power and thank the universe for all my blessings.

What can I say? I like trees.

Until next time, yours in fun and tree-hugging...Therese


  1. Great post, Therese. You are on a roll.

  2. Thanks for the nice feedback, Holly! And I really appreciate that you're following.

  3. god, how i know that feeling

  4. where was that picture taken of the very green pretty woodsy trail with the very straight trees? it had no caption below it