tree-hug

“All things are connected like the blood that unites us. We do not weave the web of life, we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.” – Chief Seattle

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” –  John Muir

I am a tree-hugging hippie…always have been, always will be. 

I grew up surrounded by nature.  Even though I lived in a suburban development, there were parks close enough to walk or ride my bike to. Tromping through the woods, making faerie houses out of sticks and twigs, branches and leaves, acorn tops, and those little whirlygig things that flutter down from trees. Sand castles at the beach, snow forts in the winter, mudpies any time of year; digging in the dirt, planting seeds.   When my mother couldn’t easily locate me when I was young, she would walk up the street where there was a sort of pocket-park by the library. That was my ‘thinking place’, as I perched on the worn wooden picnic table. Some of my best childhood fantasies emerged from that spot.

I trekked in natural environs along the Appalachian Trail as I did an Outward Bound Course in  January of 1981 when as a 22-year old college senior I spent 10 days cross country skiing, hiking, camping and snowshoeing. Despite returning home with bronchitis, a sprained ankle, frostbite on both hands and a broken pinkie, I had a blast. I will never be that young and crazy again.

These days, more sedate parks are to my liking and there are plenty nearby. I purchased a sturdy and beautiful hand carved walking stick to help me hike on more rugged paths. Lulled by the language of the wind through the foliage, the sweet smell of grass and flowers, the melting warmth of the sun and the ever-changing skyscape, I am at home there.

I have been told that I am a force of nature and I revel in that description since, in reality, we are all a part of and not apart from the elements. We are interconnected beings who are comprised of an essential element; water.

“Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. According to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%.”

In Junior High School, I began volunteering at our local recycling center. On the weekends, I would ride my bike to the trailer filled with newspapers that called for bundling and stacking and barrels of different color bottles (clear, green and brown)  that we smashed with sledgehammers. Great stress relieving exercise, that one. There was an immense sense of accomplishment and a feeling that we were making a difference. As part of the Ecology Club at school, we did annual creek cleanups as we waded in the water and scooped up all kinds of who- knows -what -stuff. When my son was in High School, he did something similar as well as volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.

In my home, I reduce, re-use and recycle. I do my best not to waste water. I buy environmentally friendly and organic products as often as possible. I pick up trash. I walk where I can, rather than drive and take public transportation into the city when I can as well.

I love to hug what I refer to as tree-beings and I do see them that way. They are, to me, sentient life forms with a presence that is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I express gratitude when I pass them and one time, was present when during a windstorm, a 60 something foot tall oak tree came crashing down across a driveway of a hospital where I worked, a split second after the thought “Wouldn’t it be something if one of these trees came down?”, crossed my mind. We were that attuned to each other. On those same grounds was a grove of evergreens that stood between the unit where I saw patients with acute and chronic psychiatric conditions as well as addiction issues and the lot where my car was parked. As I left at the end of each day, I would walk through as a way of transitioning from one state of mind to another. It provided a sense of grounding and allowed me to leave work at work; at least some of the time.

One of my favorite books was written by Dr. Seuss and is called The Lorax.  The main characters are a little boy, The Lorax, and the Once-ler. At the start of the tale, the child comes upon the Once-ler who compels him to listen to the story he is about to unfold. He tells him that the barren land on which his home sits was once a lovely landscape. Greed and disregard for the environment, putting profits before people and the almighty dollar before environmental sustainability created the travesty that resulted. The Lorax was the voice of reason that attempted to have the Once-ler and his family change his ways; to no avail. The Once-ler pleads with the boy to help create a fresh start and cherish the land.

It is a cautionary tale that is playing out right in front of us. The new administration has put a hold on the work of the  Environmental Protection Agency and placed a gag order to prevent discussing details or the work they are doing. We all need clean air and water, regardless of political affiliation. Life imitating art in ways that are potentially catastrophic.

The thing to remember is that regardless of political affiliation, we all need clean air to breathe and water to drink.

Are you a Lorax who speaks for the trees or a Once-ler who erroneously believes that the Earth is here to be exploited? The choice is yours.

I leave you with the same message as the Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”