My friend Trevor has a bumper sticker on his car that says “tree-hugging dirt worshipper.” I am right there in the mud with him, giving praise to the ground I walk on, the soil that supports us all. I praise the trees, too, telling them how lovely they are as I walk to work. My leafy friends are amazing. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by their trunks and branches, their canopies of green. The hedges across the street from me harbor flocks of tiny birds, their bodies dotting the branches like living fruit. The leaves purify our air. I would love to live amidst a forest, embraced by the gentle energy of the pines and their amazing scent. Instead I live amongst the scattered magnolias and Japanese maples. This has its own charms.
Most of Seattle’s neighborhoods are not densely forested, so each tree stands out as a piece of sculpture. The deciduous ones are particularly stunning during the winter, their bare branches snaking towards the sky in endless skeletal patterns. Some have chubby limbs, twisted into intricate swirls. Others are wispy, straightforward, standing like upturned brooms against the sky. In contrast to these proud sentinels, the espaliered fruit trees hug the buildings like shy girls at a dance. I love them all.
Their shadows are also artwork. As I walked to my meeting last night I noticed the intricate traceries which mark the sidewalks. These shadows look like iron grillwork, moving across the street with the sun. Their patterns project onto the sides of buildings, a kinetic artwork that is always changing with the moment. I breathe in the clean scent as I walk through them, or perhaps that’s a cloud of fabric softener from a nearby dryer vent. No matter—I am content. It recalls the smell of pine needles, the fragrance of damp leaves. Sometimes I even smell the little flowers which remain on many trees during the winter here. I feel so lucky to be in Seattle, a little piece of paradise in the evergreen state. A tree is tapping on my window, beckoning me outside. See you later!
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
27. Go worship a tree wherever you are. Give it a nice long hug, brushing the snow off first if necessary. Can you feel the tree hugging you back?