Living in Season
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March Calendar Up!
My Season: Accidental Wisdom
I've been in a slump ever since January wondering if I had anything to say or if anyone really cared. So that mistake turned out to be a blessing in disguise: Most of my 2,400 subscribers apparently took it in stride as one more aberration of the Internet and many of you sent me notes alerting me to the problem and telling me how much you appreciate the newsletter. One reader even read it 6 times.
My fervor for the newsletter is now revived. In the next few issues, I'll be asking for your ideas on how I can improve the School of the Seasons site and the newsletter. Thanks for accepting my mistakes with such equanimity and even enthusiasm.
The amusing irony is that after sending that last newsletter out six times each to my 2,400+ subscribers, I sent this latest edition out only to myself on March 2nd and just discovered the problem (a typo) this weekend.
Living in Season: Confessions of a Tree Hugger
Yet, since a tree is alive, passionately, vividly alive even in winter when its branches are bare, it should be obvious that hugging a tree brings the same benefits to the hugger as hugging a dog or a friend. I recently read a section on hugs in the book Passionate Marriage by David Scharch. He discusses the subtle ramifications of hugs, like the hug that goes on longer than you intended and makes you wonder about its meaning, the jolt that signals one person is ready to withdraw from a hug, or the melting into the hug hug.
No tree ever jolts or tries to withdraw when I hug it. Usually the greatest problem I experience is my slowing down to match the tempo of the tree. Sometimes I can't do it and turn away, disappointed. But most often, especially if I can get over my fear of being caught, I can relax. I close my eyes and sniff the delicate aroma of the bark, press my body against the trunk and try to sense within myself the slow rise of the sap. I breathe in and out slowly, imagining sinking roots deep into the ground with each inhale and branches reaching for the sky on each exhale.When the wind is stirring the branches of the tree I'm hugging, I can feel that movement shivering through the trunk. Despite being rooted to the ground, trees are in constant movement.
Tree-hugging opens the heart. When I've quieted to the place where I can feel the life force in the tree, the thrill of the sap, the quivering of the wind in the branches, I become aware of the pounding of my own heart and a feeling of love envelopes me, as if the tree wraps a spell of comfort around me. Sometimes I step away, shaken, as if awakening from a trance of green life reaching out for the stars at night.
I came to tree-hugging rather late in my life. I had a magic tree as a child, an old gnarled tree that grew beside the foundations of an abandoned house, and I used to touch the tree for luck on my way to grade school. Later, during the most miserable year in my life, my first year away from home attending Reed College, I adopted a slender birch sapling that grew beside the path between my dorm and the classrooms. Every time I passed, I pressed my fingers to its cool bark, deriving some obscure comfort from this contact.
I'll never forget the jolt I experienced the afternoon I touched the same tree while very stoned. The tree was alive! I pulled my fingers back as if burnt but reached out to touch it again, my cells lighting up with pleasure as I sensed the subtle flow of the sap under the cool bark. That was the first tree I ever hugged.
Since then I have hugged many trees. I still prefer birches but my favorite tree on the UW campus is a black locust. I was happy to learn, when a friend finally identified it for me, that black locusts are considered magical by the local indigenous people. My other revelatory tree encounter occurred with an apple tree during a solitary retreat at the Whidbey Institute. I had always heard that apples were the trees of love, but to me this was an intellectual concept, until I walked into the garden and into the radius of this old apple tree. Suddenly I was surrounded by a delicious feeling of joy and lightness that was irresistible. Ellen Evert Hopman in her book on Tree Magic writes that apples "thrive on human companionship and feel their best when petted and pruned." I certainly felt that with this apple tree, that had been lovingly tended for decades. The same could not be said for the malevolent crab-apple tree that grew in the backyard of my childhood home.
After reading an early draft of this essay to my writing group, I discovered that many people have never hugged a tree. So here are a few instructions if you are interested in trying.
For those of you who are veteran tree-huggers, I'd be curious to hear which trees you prefer to hug, and how hugs differ from tree to tree.
In my Library: Tree Lore
I believe Graves was the first to correlate the trees with the months of the Celtic calendar. Since then, this has become the basis for a calendar-the very lovely Lunar Calendar developed by Nancy Passmore and a divination system: The Celtic Tree Oracle by Liz and Colin Murray and illustrated by Vanessa Card. I love the beautiful, woodcut-like illustrations, and the book contains a nice concise summary of the folklore of each tree, but I haven't used this much as a divination tool.
Graves, Robert, The White Goddess, Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1948
Holiday Packet: Eostre/Easter
This illustrated portfolio contains 50 pages of ideas for celebrating the joyous mid-spring feast also known as Nawruz, Easter, Passover, St. Joseph's Day, Spring Equinox and Hilaria. It tells you how to:
$9.00 + $3 shipping/handling. Please allow 10 days for delivery. An email version is also available for $7. It will be sent to you as an attached Word file within 24 hours. Order in our Store.
New: Sample Pages from Eostre
Signs of Spring
If you've noticed any signs of the season where you live, send them to me and I will post them on my website. See what others have posted here.