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Tree Hugger

Persimmon Tree, Spring 2023

Tree Hugger

My therapist told me to take back my own story. Celebrate in the face of adversity. Like what, I wondered? Run in the rain? Splash in puddles? Notice commonplace stuff—the warmth of the sun on my face; breeze in my hair; a hummingbird hovering nearby, it’s long, delicate beak extracting nectar from an amethyst foxglove blossom? I don’t think I’m cut out for that.

A red maple stood before me. Huge and strong, blanketed in vermilion leaves. I laid a palm on its silvery bark. Leaned in. It held me. Did so willingly without even a hint of bending, dodging, turning its back on me.

I looked beyond its deep-red leaves into the cerulean sky overhead. Felt the vastness of this world, marveled at the beauty, aware of my infinitesimal, atom-size self in an immeasurable universe.

In summer, the tree’s leaves turned to green. I complained about sweltering heat. Sat with my back against the trunk, taking refuge in the shade. Hugged my knees to my chest, never glancing at the book that lay open by my side.

Autumn leaves changed color: yellow, red, orange. Shedding, they gathered on the ground, a harbinger of cold, dark days to come.

In winter I grumbled about sleet and snow, freezing fingers and toes. The maple’s bare limbs, darkened by weather, in bright December sun, were excruciatingly beautiful.

It’s hard for me to reconcile the immensity of my feelings of importance, my grasping, yearning, striving, with my undeniable insignificance. The importance I place on everything—running out of shampoo, arriving late for an appointment, craving a latte. I desperately want to get that acceptance letter. I berate myself for saying something stupid. Shame, desires, aspirations are relentless.

The tree doesn’t care. Doesn’t notice if I’m bouncing on the balls of my feet with delight on a perfect spring day or if tears stream down, threatening to freeze on my cheeks in winter. If I’m brooding, ruminating with regret, fear, loss. Wallowing in self-doubt, whining about some petty perceived injustice. It remains.

It accepts rhythmic seasonal change graciously, unyielding to powers of nature, random storms, fierce weather. Forces that would level me. It endures.

I wonder if I should tell my therapist. Applaud his sage advice. Tell him about my tree. That it is wise. And I have a lot to learn.

I place both palms flat against the bark. Feel the tree’s strength, enormity, magnificence. I resist the urge to name it, to anthropomorphize it. I press my body against its trunk. Wrap my arms around its massage girth.

I laugh, picturing myself one of those T-Rex memes, stubby little arms barely making a dent. I laugh realizing I’m a tree hugger. I laugh for no reason at all.

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