I just finished my last Power Point presentation, and this one was about local recreation stuff, and included swimming pools, a popular hiking spot, and a favorite garden. It got me into the spirit, just a bit, of Earth Day.
I’m sort of an “outdoors light” type of person – there are things I absolutely LOVE about the outdoors, but I’ve always hated mosquito bites, sunburns, and that “I really have to pee, but there are no facilities nearby” feeling. The thing I hated about the whole camping/backpacking thing was the need to tote garbage. I understand the concept of not leaving anything behind or taking anything, but it’s kind of inconvenient.
I had a favorite tree when I was in college. I gave it to “Emma,” in the story… It was a somewhat ordinary pine tree, on the edge of Chief’s Field (no, I wasn’t in Marching Chiefs…) and there was something about it that drew me there, even though I would sometimes get the dreaded mosquito bites.
It’s long gone, but when it was there, it was covered in vines, probably Kudzu, that ran up along it’s trunk into the branches. Worried that the vines might be hurting the tree, I pulled down a bunch of the kudzu one day, and made a very sloppy basket out of the vines. I kept that basket for years, but I think it bit the dust in the basement of the old house, along with so many things that were once meaningful to me.
I’ve always been into anthropomorphism, so of course I had to imagine the tree somehow knew I was there. I believe that trees are aware of our presence on some level. I believe they silently observe all that is around them. The fact that human beings are incapable of communicating with other living beings around us does not mean that those beings have no consciousness. The consciousness is probably not the same type we have, but I believe, when I gently touch the trunk of a tree, that on some level I am sharing energy with that being.
I suppose that’s why I’ve always loved Tolkien’s Ents, or the Wood Nymphs and Dryads of Mythology. The idea of trees that are capable of travel and communication has always been a fond daydream of mine.
So, what would that tree have witnessed all those years ago?
Moments of solitude. Times when I simply needed to be alone, and could not be in very many places on campus. There were not many times prior to college that I had my own room… I had a room with yellow wallpaper (I think it had elephants on it!) when I was about 3-4, living in a house on Harvard Street on the East Side of Detroit.
We moved to Florida when I was almost five. I shared a room with my older sister until we moved to Dunnellon, and then I shared a room with my younger sister until I went off to college. For the first couple of years of college, I shared first a dorm room and then a one bedroom apartment with room mates.
I am either an introverted extrovert, or an extroverted introvert. I love people, they fascinate me, and I do enjoy talking and interacting with my fellow humans. That said, there are times I simply want to be completely and utterly alone, and many of those times require solitary walks in the woods.
The tree watched as I felt the pangs of first love. It witnessed moments of joy, and moments of silent reflection. It was watered by my tears more than once, as I learned that people are never quite as they seem, and sometimes friends can hurt each other without even trying.
Then, I went away. I moved. When I returned, the tree had been cut down in the name of progress, as more buildings and dorm rooms and classrooms and parking garages were needed.
In Atlanta, I found the Chattahoochee Park in Marietta, the only good thing I found in the several months of living in a now defunct apartment complex. I moved to
Dorinam Doraville, in a complex surrounded by trees, for a little over a year, before moving to a townhouse in Snellville. I don’t think I lived in any given place for more than fifteen months when in Georgia.
But I had visiting spots that remained constant: a lovely park in Snellville, magical Lullwater Park in Decatur, just down the street from the Law School, and there were trips to places like Amicalola Falls.
One of the most magical, fairy-tale like places I’ve ever been was Watkins Glen, New York – part of a big road trip taken just before I started law school. Climbing down steps carved into stone, and wandering behind a grotto-like waterfall was simply magical.
By the time I moved to New York, I had kids. It was more difficult to just wander out the door and walk wherever I damn well pleased. When the older two were in preschool, I took the jogging stroller and hit the trail of a beautiful park in Massapequa.
There were gorgeous places on the North Shore of Long Island, and Norman J. Levy Park, which started as a landfill, and Jones Beach, Lido Beach, and other points along the shore of Long Island.
The thing that each and every one of these places had in common is that being in them created a sense of connection with something beyond mere human existence.
I’m not a “believer” in the Bible. I was raised in the Episcopal church, familiar with the Bible (Yes, I’ve read it…) and frankly, the words really just don’t inspire me. They’ve always raised more questions than they’ve answered, and I’ve felt this sense that the parts that aren’t vague enough to fit whatever situation you want them to fit were doctored by people with an agenda and/or poor translation skills.
Maybe I’m a Druid deep down inside (only without the whole human sacrifice thing…) or some sort of Pagan, but when I am out there, in one of those places where I am surrounded by beautiful sights and smells and sounds, and I can almost imagine fairies flitting by in my peripheral vision, I feel there is something out there that is bigger than me.
Perhaps it is some sort of creation spirit. Or maybe it’s just the planet herself, giving root beneath our feet… Or the sky above, oxygen powered by the stately trees and bending grasses that grace our world.
The water, the tides, the moon in all its glory, the wind upon my face – these are the things that fill me with a sense of longing and belonging all at once.
How it came to be is something that has caused much speculation throughout human existence. However that may be, we should respect our home world.
“The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man.” ~Author Unknown