A tree has something to say

The trees greet us each morning.  Alexandria, June 2015

The trees greet us each morning. Alexandria, June 2015

“When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent.”
Hermann Hesse

It would be difficult for me to quantify, or even accurately describe, how much solace I have gotten from trees, for as far back as I can remember.  As soon as Jeff and I reached a point where we were able to be a bit choosy about where we lived, we prioritized having as many trees as possible to look at from our kitchen and family rooms.  Even in California, where trees were far more scarce than they are here in Virginia, we enjoyed having beautiful eucalyptus or willow trees looking back at us from across our yard or just outside our windows.

Once many years ago, when Eric was on a quick layover in San Francisco, I met him in the city and we drove to Muir Woods for a walk. Of necessity, we discussed some heavy, urgent and sad topics related to illnesses among our family members.  At one point when we paused to look up into the green cathedral of redwoods overhead, he expressed regret that its beauty was the backdrop for our current preoccupation with worry over our loved ones.  “I hope all this talk isn’t messing this up,” he said.

“You can’t mess this up,” I said.  “This is way bigger than any of our problems.”

I meant it; the serenity of that timeless glade was a balm to my troubled emotions, more effective than any chemical remedy could have been.  And it’s not just the majestic redwoods that inspire me to such transcendent peace.  I’m equally comforted by the common trees that light up with the sun each morning, greeting me as I come downstairs to begin my day, whether in York or Alexandria.

As Jeff and I recently celebrated our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, symbolized by the traditional and modern gemstones of emerald and jade, I am grateful for green in my life, in all its many forms.  Whether you find yourself in the midst of summer or winter, I hope you will find some green in your world today, to bring you thoughts of stillness and peace.

38 Comments

  1. Good morning, Julia! Thank you for mentioning Muir Woods. I have always wanted to see Redwood National Park, but have never been close enough to it for it to be feasible to visit. However, I’ll be visiting my son in San José next month, and now that I’ve read about Muir Woods, I’ll have to insist that we visit!
    Here in New Hampshire, the trees are getting a good soaking, which I expect will only increase the lush green that is already so prevalent in this lovely state!
    And here is something colorful and fun to ponder, for “indoor” people: http://www.goodhomeadvisor.com/blogs/physiological-and-psychological-effects-of-colors/

    • Susan, thanks for that interesting article! I was happy to read about light blue helping with insomnia, as Matt has been having problems with waking too early and it just so happens we just recently had his room painted light blue.

      Muir Woods is lovely but small compared to the big national parks that have redwood groves. I always wondered if Muir Woods wasn’t what Joni Mitchell was writing (singing) about when she wrote the lines “They took all the trees, and put ’em in a tree museum/Then they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em.” (from “Big Yellow Taxi”). Of course, it’s considerably more than a dollar and a half now, but well worth it to have even a small redwood forest so close to the city. If you are able to wander a bit farther out, there are gorgeous redwood groves in Sequoia NP of course, but also in King Canyon and Yosemite, so any of those would give you some great chances to enjoy the splendor. Living in New Hampshire, of course, you have a good supply of that right at home! Jeff and I hope to get back up there and spend more time someday soon.

  2. Good Monday morning, Julia. ☕️ I’m amazed at the shade temperature close to a tree as opposed to standing out in the summer sun. Bill and I have been asked WHY we leave the beach to come sit in a bunch of TREES! 🌲🌳🍃 It’s a very peaceful, tranquil, green place to be! But although this Willow Tree weekend has been delightful, 45 minutes away, my real world is calling….. Or is that Walter? 🐥🌴 Haha! Have a good week, my friend. 👩‍❤️‍👩 Sheila

    • Sheila, Walter has asked me to remind you that, ahem, “he IS your ‘real world!’ ” 😀 🐥🐥🐥 Still, I’m glad you were able to get away to swap some ocean breeze for tranquil trees! Hope y’all have a good week too!

  3. Michael

    I enjoyed the Little Leaf Linden trees in Chattanooga. Heavenly fragrance. City reminds me some of Seattle.

    • Hi Michael, did you enjoy Chattanooga? I used to love driving through the mountains there en route to Nashville. When it wasn’t snowing, that is. I can’t think of what reminded you of Seattle, though…was it the downtown area? Or maybe the cooler temperatures (assuming it was cooler than Atlanta, anyway). I’ve actually seen very little of the city of Chattanooga, mostly just the interstate. Hope you had fun with the grandchildren!

  4. Carolyn

    Here is a late Happpy Anniversary wish for you two ,35 and many more to come. Well even if rain messed up graduation, we watched Liam graduated. Suppose to be outside but moved inside, he was given 3 tickets ,so family went and grandparents watched on the computer. We have enjoyed being here and leaving Wed. and Emma will come home with us for a week visit. Now about trees, I love them until they shade my flowers to much. My neighbor doesn’t take care of his and it hurts my flowers that need some sun. His trees are shrubs that have grown to much. Oh well the yard and flowers still look good. I’m looking forward to bring at home and enjoying my porch. You all take care and give us an update on Jeff. Hugs and love . Carolyn

    • Hi Carolyn, thanks for the update and good wishes. Glad you got to be with Liam for the big day even though you had to watch by remote cam. So glad Emma can come home with you! Re: the plants…I seem to remember your giving us some impatiens YEARS ago to plant in the shade; am I imagining that? I too have the problem of wishing I could grow more sun-loving blooms. At least 9/10 of our flowerbeds or potential flowerbeds are in heavy shade. Aside from our mailbox, a flower bed at the base of one tree, and the decks at both homes, everything else is pretty much shade city. That translates to lots of azaleas and camellias, so life’s not all bad, I guess. We are about to have one HUGE and two small trees removed, so that should change the picture a bit, but mostly it will give us more grass, I imagine. Jeff is doing pretty well. He had to miss his chemo again today due to horrible white counts, but his CEA is still creeping downward, which is good considering how often his treatment gets nixed due to blood count issues, and how low the doses already are. Today I told him he just needs to keep it at bay long enough for all these genetic T-cell and immunotherapy treatments to get farther down the R&D pipeline, since they may constitute a cure eventually for many types of cancer. Hope you guys keep cool and have a great week. Love to you both.

  5. Oops! It appears 95% of my comment didn’t download. I hate it when it does that!

    • Eric, that happens to me too (and to lots of others) and it’s VERY annoying. I’ve never been able to find an explanation of why this happens on WP, but sometimes my words just seem to “vaporize” without warning. Thanks for trying again.

  6. Cherie

    Oh!! For the joy of trees!!!!! I also love those mighty remembrances of times past and stretching on into the future. I would be a live oak. They are always alive with energy. Julia, you brightened my day once again.

    Ron is doing much better and has even gained a couple of pounds. Good ole southern cooking will do that. I am fixin pork short ribs and all the trimmings today. Just so thankful for all of your prayers.

    I pray Jeff is doing good and Matt is well. Have a beautiful day!
    Cherie

    • Cherie, I’m so happy to hear that Ron is doing better and gaining weight! I can vouch for the benefit of Southern cooking in that regard. Only for some of us it’s not a benefit, hee-hee. We will keep Ron and you in our prayers and you keep that skillet (or grill) going. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post about trees! Today Jeff pointed out to me a Mama Robin feeding her babies in a nest in the tree right outside our front door in Alexandria. I even got a good shot of her. Trees are indeed alive with energy, in more ways than one!

  7. Another visit to an American town that has fascinated us both reminded me of a Broadway musical. Skagway, along with Dyea, was the jumping off point for thousands upon thousands of prospectors seeking their fortune in gold. Blood, sweat, tears, and more importantly emotion amassed to create an atmosphere that still hangs in the air. Though the Klondike gold rush was nearly half a century after the “Forty-Niners”, Lerner and Lowes’ “Paint Your Wagon” captures some of this spirit.
    Being willing to take a second solo hike of our trip, I was delighted when Sherry wanted to accompany me to Reid Falls, north of Skagway. There is a cemetery at the base of these magnificent falls. Among the many graves is the memorial to Frank H. Reid who lost his life in a gunfight that also ridded Skagway of its most notorious criminal of the nineteenth century.
    Fredrick Lowes music came back to me as I gazed up through the towering trees at this site, and the lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner played in my head: “I talk to the trees . . .”
    Unlike the words of Hermann Hesse, in the blog above, Lerner’s words continue. “. . .but they never listen to me.” (much less offer words of wisdom).
    But, there may be a greater advantage – psychological research has proven that the serenity of such places increases endorphins and even lowers the blood pressure as one feels the cooling breeze, and gazes up to see the sunlight filtering through the green foliage. All these experiences combine, transporting one “beyond this place of wrath and tears” (to borrow a phrase from the poet, William Ernest Henley)
    Now, this will knock your socks off. The same research proves that you don’t actually have to be physically present at such a beautiful place to get the physiological advantage – just knowing such a place exists, and imagining yourself there – feeling the breeze, staring up at the trees, maybe even hearing the sound of a waterfall in the background – same benefit occurs! Julia is right. “You can’t mess this up. . .This is way bigger than any of our problems.”

    • Eric, I too thought of that song (especially Tommy Smothers’ rendition of it) as I was writing that post. Regarding the line “…but they never listen to me,” maybe the singer’s problem was he was too busy talking to listen to the trees! I can’t usually pick up any sort of wisdom from outside sources while I am talking, hee-hee.

      Skagway was our favorite part of Alaska in our admittedly limited experience of it, but we didn’t see the place you described. We did rent a car and head out into the Yukon, which was stunning, especially the quirky Carcross Desert out there in the middle of all those snow-capped mountains.

      I do think it’s great news that we don’t have to actually be in such places to experience their therapeutic effect. Even more thought-provoking are the logical corollaries to those research findings; 1. that a good imagination can be beneficial, and is therefore worth cultivation, and 2. that using a good imagination to frighten or traumatize ourselves, through compulsive worry or catastrophic rumination (hello, 24/7 “news” competitive broadcasting) can be damaging instead of therapeutic. I’m not advocating denial, but I am advocating psychological (time-limited) boundaries to prevent the relentless assault of the scary and depressing, as well as intentional decisions about what we will do with our time and energy. Peter Pan was right! “Think of a wonderful thought, any merry little thought…” 😀 Of course, nearly 2000 years earlier, Paul said much the same thing in Philippians 4:8. Thank for taking me away to Alaska for a few minutes!

  8. Julia I am so delighted to see the verdant green surrounding your Alexandria home right now. It is visually stunning and I know the peace they exude must be balm for your senses. I should probably never shut the doors! I enjoyed seeing the front of the town house in a previous post too. 🙂 Congratulations on the 35 – my wish for you both that there be many more in peace and comfort. xoxo

    • Pauline, how perfect that you chose the green colors for my lovely pendant! Thanks for your good wishes. Wish you could be here to enjoy the green with us, but living in New Zealand, you have no shortage of fabulous scenery to enjoy. Thanks for being here!

  9. Happy belated 35th Wedding Anniversary Jeff and Julia! That is certainly impressive. I remember seeing a photo of you two a while back, maybe you were on a cruise a few years ago. I thought, “my gosh, such a handsome couple”. You must have had lots of on-lookers thinking the same thing as you traveled with your young boys. You seem like beautiful family out of a glossy magazine. What we now see too, is the honest to goodness perserverance and deep love it takes to stay married this many years. It’s not an accident or even luck. It’s dedication and selflessness mixed with a deep desire to make each others lives better. That’s just a beautiful thing.

    We’re very lucky to live in the river valley here in Edmonton. We’re surrounded by one of the biggest continual urban forests in North America, just at the end of our street. We could have build or bought a newer home, with all our desires in the burbs. But nothing compares to the solitude and beauty of a green surrounding. Birds live here, bunnies pass thru, it’s so peaceful. I’m actually on my deck as I write. Here’s what I see:

    http://wp.me/a2edlt-29c

    I wish you could hear my fountain gurgling. We could chat until dinner then make a nice salad and sit out here till late. It’s not getting dark till 10:30 pm now. One day! xoxo K

    • Gorgeous! and those lovely flowers add that unmistakable Boomdee touch. I can almost hear that fountain and see P & B relaxing while they keep a close eye on the bunnies (who are NOT white right now, correct?) I agree that you are lucky to live where you do! Since life is too short to live in all the beautiful places of the world, the next best thing is blog-hopping around to each other’s decks and verandahs and living rooms and even vacation spots. Enjoy those gorgeous Canadian gardens for me!

      Thanks for your sweet words and wishes to Jeff and me. You are gracious and generous as always. As all of us who have “been there” know, reality is rarely glossy and not as glamorous as the words sound, but still it’s a wonderful place to be, looking back over many years and feeling happy for (almost) all that’s been, and hoping for what lies ahead. What a strange and beautiful world, and how happy I am that we are all on this planet together at the same time!

      • No white bunnies right now J. They are a tan colour for the most part. There was one sunny on our gravel walkway just Friday when I came out of the garage door. I said “hello sweetness” and he stopped but then had second thoughts and went out the front gate. I watched him hop away, wishing I knew ‘Bunny speak’ so we could’ve visited longer 🙂 xK

        • I’m glad I’m not the only one who talks to animals! Whenever I pass someone walking their dog, I always greet the dog, not just the person. Most dog lovers seem to understand. But I wonder whether anyone who overhears me saying hello to birds, bunnies, squirrels and even little toads thinks I’m crazy. 😀 It’s so fun I don’t care.

          • I love that you do that ! You and I are both crazy then Julia 😀 “Oh hello” can be heard from my garden when it’s just me home. I’m probably greeting the bumble-bee’s or found a ladybug <3. I've spent a considerable amount of time trying to rescue wee frogs from inside our sprinkler box at the lake. It was about 2.5' deep and maybe 3' x 3' (to fit a pump) Well they'd hop over here and over there as I'd gently try to pick them up and bring them out. They didn't know I was a helper, of course I do look rather giant and threatning to a tiny frog. Poor guys ! Finally released under my Hosta's where it was cool and moist. Home sweet froggie home 😀 Now that I think of it, maybe it was always the same one playing silly games with me…LOL Those frog's are such characters 😉 wok

            • Well I am happy to report that I have been outside just about an hour ago, chatting with two lovely bunnies, one of whom let me get very close (in fact, I was afraid it was injured and couldn’t get away, until it finally went hopping across our back yard into the azaleas). I also was surprised by a cute little toad that hopped out of my bleeding heart plant when I started to water it (of course I apologized to him as I did not mean to startle him) and then a few minutes later I let out a little scream, jumped back and had minor heart palpitations when I saw a small garter snake slithering away from underneath a bin of yard waste I had just moved. Even though I know they are harmless, they horrify me. I know they can be beneficial if they eat rodents such as the voles that destroy lots of our bulbs, but they also eat those cute frogs. EEWWWW, it makes me nervous just to think about having seen it. I can’t work up any desire to talk to a snake. I don’t want to end on that note, so I’ll just say “hope you have a lovely weekend in Boomdeeville!– and give my regards to your non-slithering critters!”

              • Yikes, snakes? I’m with you on that call J. The only snake I found remotely charming was in ‘The Jungle Book’ when he tryed to mesmerize Moogly into a sleepy transe. Remember that?

                Happy Fathers Day to the Denton’s. Thinking of you ❤

                • I have no memory of that, though surely I must have seen that film at one point or another. I’m sure I wouldn’t have liked even a cartoon snake. The only ones that have ever looked cute to me are the little green snakes, but I haven’t seen one of those in many years, and I haven’t missed them, hee-hee.

  10. Beautiful Julia, beautiful. Yes, trees are the lungs of the earth and we are lost without them. Happy Anniversary. It’s wonderful when you get to have that kind of match for even a few years.

    • Marlene, I love that! “Trees are the lungs of the earth.” They really are, literally. Thanks for your good wishes!

  11. raynard

    Julia, my bucklist somewhere on it is Yellowstone National Park, The Grand Canyon, Mt Rushmore, Niagra Falls. ( if only ” in the movies or cough cough” I dreamed the dream followed by” me singing Italian Opera lol Be blessed

    • Raynard, we have Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore on ours…we can vouch for Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls, both of which are definitely worth seeing. The falls wouldn’t be too bad of a drive for you. We drove across New York state and really enjoyed it. If you go that way, be sure to stop in Cooperstown. Even if you’re not much of a baseball fan, the hall of fame is worth seeing, but the town itself is charming as well. Niagara Falls is one of our favorite places. Just amazing.

  12. Michael

    Well actually it is my son- living in Canton- who said Chattanooga reminds him of Seattle and he did not say exactly why- but one thing is the countless joggers, bikers and kayakers. Lots of very fit youngsters there. The aquarium complex was amazing and took most of the day to visit. A little pricey but worth it and Norah loved the butterfly house.
    Back to the tree thing, after Fukushima tsunami disaster people said,”-look at the Cherry trees they are hanging in there, and if they can so can we. There is a video about this somewhere which I have not been able to find.
    Trees have much to tells us and if you watch “St.Vincent there is a funny yet telling comment about the book, “The giving tree.” Shell Silverstein a family favorite. My favorite tree in Georgia is the Liquid amber- Sweet gum- maybe.
    I still can’t get a handle on Atlanta geography. Spent a day at Kennesaw battlefield which game me a better understanding of the battle of Atlanta. We hiked up to the top and saw the cannon emplacements.

    • We have never been to the Chattanooga aquarium, but we’ve always said we wanted to go someday. We used to pass through there all the time during the years we would drive between Nashville and Atlanta, but the aquarium wasn’t built yet in those days. Hey we did see St. Vincent but I can’t remember the reference to The Giving Tree – can you remind me? We like Silverstein too. I gave my parents that book many years ago when it first came out. For someone who grew up in Atlanta, I know surprisingly little about that battle even though I’ve been to the cyclorama before and after its renovation. For years we’ve had a framed print of a lithograph of the battle, which (oddly enough) we bought in an antique books store in Sonoma, CA. Drew now has it hanging in his home. It’s been so many years since I went to Kennesaw mountain that I have no memory of it at all. It’s funny how much I forget, considering how many little details I recall. Memory is strange that way.

      • Anon E. Moose

        Yes, Julia, the Cyclorama was renovated during your lifetime, but will close July first. They are moving the painting to the Atlanta History Center.

        • Oh, no! I had not heard that. Another Atlanta landmark gone. How on earth can they move the painting? Silly me, I had always thought it was a massive mural painted directly on a wall. Was it the painting that spun around, and not the chairs? You can tell how young I was when I first saw it.

  13. Michael

    When she says to her son- who said something about the tree in the book who kept giving and giving until there was nothing left- about her ex,” Well I guess your dad thought I was a tree.”

    As far as directions go- when close to Marietta people would say it is so and so distance from-” the Big chicken sign.” I think it is off the Cobb connector road. My son said don’t go by the road numbers -like 5 so which I tried to do when I ended up in Austell. I have seen the sign but have no idea where it is. One block off of 285 and I am lost. No sense of direction when I am there. Have to get a compass. My son’s new station 55- double nickel- is right across from Dobbin’s airforce base off of Delk Road. Canton is ext. 19 off 575N. So I can find that. They have a nice restaurant there called Coastal Kitchen and Wednesday is oyster night. We also went to Harveys in Woodstock for one of their famous burgers.

    • I guess we all see the people who love as as trees, in that sense. Sometimes it’s all to easy to take advantage of another person’s giving spirit.

      My brother Al says Atlanta has the worst signage in America. That might explain some of your confusion. I have no innate sense of direction, so I have to have maps. Even with a GPS I’m very uneasy without a road map to make sense of where we are and where we are headed. My brother used to be stationed at Dobbins, I think, when he flew F-100’s for the Georgia Air National Guard. I like the Marietta area and always thought it would be a good place to live. It’s probably way more “citified” than I remember it, though.

  14. Michael

    You can still buy boiled peanuts in Marietta, but I have not really acquired the taste yet. I did get a postcard of the big chicken there which is not on the frigerator.

    • Michael, I never did acquire a taste for boiled peanuts. Roasted ones are perfection! Why try to improve on that? 😀

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