Every day I look down the trail in either direction, checking to see if anyone is coming. I’d just as soon no one knew I was talking to a tree.
I take the same hike every day. There are lots of trails and most folks try different trails on different days. I don’t. I do my best thinking on my daily walk. I am not seeking variety. Some days I am seeking inspiration. Some days I’m looking for answers. Some days I just want a little escape. More and more lately, I’ve been looking for comfort.
I visit a particular tree. I walk by a lot of trees, but this pine is special. It may not be the oldest, but it’s awfully old. It has survived at least a couple of major fires and still wears the blackened scars around its base. It has obviously had some close calls, but it is doing well now and it is not an exaggeration to say that this tree cheers me every single day I see it.
Every day, I risk a little embarrassment and have a word with my favorite tree.
I lean in close. “How’re you doing?” I ask.
A few weeks ago, the potential embarrassment of being caught chatting with a tree carried a lot more weight. Right now, I’m happy to get some comfort, and perspective, wherever I can.
I don’t really expect to hear anything back. (I tilt toward the edge at times but I haven’t quite toppled over.) Still, I figure this tree has seen it all: fires and droughts, woodpeckers and chainsaws, lightning and windstorms.
All around my tree are the remains of dead trees, some that died within my lifetime, some that died long before I was born. This tree has beaten the odds and is standing here today, letting me know it can be done.
Every morning I read the news and every day I realize with greater certainty that nothing is certain. I have friends and family who rely on theaters and churches and concert halls and ballrooms to make a living and right now, the only thing they know for sure is that they will not know for a very long time when or if they will get their livelihoods back.
My cousin who tours with an a cappella singing group and my brother-in-law who stage-manages corporate events and my other cousin who is a minister; they’re all wondering what their lives will look like in a month or a year’s time. They are depressed and angry and confused and anxious in turn, but mostly they are uncertain because the times are uncertain.
In these times, my tree has become a lot more important to me. This tree has seen it all.
And, although the tree doesn’t actually speak to me, it has a story to tell. Because somehow, this old tree managed to make it. It had some luck. It sits in a low spot, where there has been more water over the eons and where fires have been more likely to hop over. Misfortune is never equally shared and this tree has survived, not simply because it is strong, but because it is lucky.
I feel very lucky these days. I feel lucky that I can get out of my house and take these walks in nature, but luckier yet to be like this tree—in a place where there is enough water and the worst of the fire has passed over.
And no, I’m not embarrassed anymore to be chatting with a tree.