The Winter Tree

For years I have sat in the park under this tree.

It is a camphor laurel which is not a native species and a lot of my fellow residents complain about it not being a good old Aussie tree.

It may not be fair dinkum but it is a beautiful tree, nonetheless.

It has been there for over fifty years. Let it grow, I say. Let it grow.

I have a confession to make.

I pray under trees.

I think there are spirits of some kind within them. I can feel them.

Last year, this first day of winter, I sat under this tree and asked for help.

The depression was bad, the stress was worse. It felt like it would never end.

The tree was dependable, branches raised like a preacher. Birds called back and forth within it. A small boy walked round and round its enormous trunk, counting in a jumbled up way – one, five, eight, two.

It seemed that this had always been a safe place where breathing in the smell of the dirt, the wood and the leaves was a remedy for anything.

I sat there under that tree the way I had minus one year, minus five years, minus ten years. And I knew I would sit there again. And again.

And that everything would be OK.

There is a thing that I do during good times, during bad times. It is remembering the moment. If it’s good I want to commit it to memory so I can recall it when times are tough. If it’s bad I want to know that it won’t last forever, so I say: Remember this moment and give thanks it will end.

I kept a small branch of the tree that had fallen in a jar. For an entire year. It sat on my desk among the bric a brac. It smelled as if a forest was in my room. The year, the bad year, was a year of sorting things out. The sorting still goes on but the bad feelings are better, maybe even good.

The first day of winter. Exactly a year has passed. How precise is the course of change.

The tree still stands.

I still stand.

Remember this moment.

It’s a prayer that always works.

Good or bad.

It is something you can’t lose sight of.

The tree remains.

And I remain.

Free to sit like days gone by.

And days to come.

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23 thoughts on “The Winter Tree

  1. Lots to ponder with this wonderful post Selma. I enjoy sitting under a good old tree as well.

    Many years ago when I had taken my first real job and moved states away from anyone that I knew, there was a copse of trees on an old historic path that I frequented. As you keenly observed, if I were to go back there today, those trees would be still there–though we both would look a little different.

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  2. I pray under trees too. My sister picks certain trees to tell her secrets too. I wish she’d continue her enchanted story about living trees – it was gorgeous. They are grounding. They listen and don’t interfere with our thoughts. Sometimes they whisper back – not with words, but with a comforting rustle in the wind. One of my all time favorite stories is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (just read it two nights ago to the kids) – I always cry at the end, because no matter what, the tree was happy, as long as the boy was happy. And I think, there are trees out there that are very much that way. 🙂

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  3. Thank-you for sharing your beautiful thoughts and how you process through the good and the bad. You are beautiful in many ways!

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  4. You’ve hit the nail on the head Selma. It is very easy when depressed or sad to forget that it won’t always be that way. It’s taken me a long time to understand that concept. Trees are like old friends and Camphor Laurels are so beautiful.

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  5. Trees are integral to my unconventional spirituality and emotional well-being.
    This is a gorgeous photo of your tree. Your post reveals how strong you are, well-rooted and baring/bearing the elements of life’s cycles, like your tree.

    Hugs,
    Gel

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  6. I love the symbolism of trees – there’s so much in them. Comforting and spiritual – the way they protect you, and reach up to the sky. A beautiful post, and makes me want to go sit under one and think about my own journey.

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  7. Hi SLAMDUNK:
    A copse of trees is just fabulous. Plonk me in the middle of a forest and I’d be as happy as a lark. I think I was a woodland creature in a previous life!

    Hi TEX:
    I love THE GIVING TREE. The best story ever. Your sister’s story sounds amazing. I hope she will reconsider and write it again. I, for one, would love to read it!

    Hi ONE OF THE GUYS:
    It is hard. I fit it in when I can. Sometimes the days are too busy just to sit, so I enjoy it when I have the time. Great to hear from you!

    Hi NAT:
    Trees and church bells – a winning combination. I love that!

    Hi TOBEME:
    Awww. I really appreciate you saying that because to me you are a very profound thinker. I do think the process of dealing with things is important in life. Not every day is rainbows and unicorns.

    Hi DAOINE:
    And to you too. Hope the little bubster is well XXX

    Hi GABRIELLE:
    I always say to people who feel overwhelmed by depression – ‘Hold on because it will get better. Just hold on.’ Camphor laurels are great. I like the freshness of their scent.

    Hi GEL:
    I really like how you put that because trees are essential to my emotional well-being too. How kind you are to say all those lovely things 😀

    Hi JENNIFER:
    Oh, absolutely. And they do allow us to ponder things, which is so important!

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  8. Selma, this is so weird, I pray under trees too! I love touching them and feeling their wisdom, they were here before me and they will probably be there after me and I just get fascinated by them!

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  9. Our ‘Tree of Light’ was under threat. It stands in the Central Car Park in Amesbury, and they light it up every year at Christmas. But,in spite of local opposition, they were going to cut it down to build a multi-storey car park, which we don’t really need.

    But, this Christmas, someone had the idea of putting up a green light for each soldier from the local area killed in Afghanistan.

    So, they don’t dare touch it now.

    (And, of course, you remember the one in Flower Lane we saved? We like our trees in Amesbury!)

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  10. “I pray under trees. I think there are spirits of some kind within them. I can feel them.”

    My father has said those VERY words to me.

    This was such a beautiful post I think I am going to take the time tomorrow to find a tree to sit underneath to pray. Lord knows Ive been praying a lot these days. Maybe sitting under a tree will also help CALM me and center me again.

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  11. A very moving post, Selma.
    I’ve always believed trees have a special energy about them. I first felt something when I went to my grandmother’s grave a couple of days after her funeral. There was a big chestnut tree right next to the grave stone and I felt the need to touch it. In fact I almost embraced the trunk and it gave me an unusual sense of calm. I was still very upset after my granny’s death then. Now years later they’ve cut down the tree and every time I go there I miss it and I can’t figure out why they did that.
    In any case, I think it’s unreasonable to destroy tress unless they are dead anyway. Every time I see a log in the street where there used to be a tree, it looks so empty and so sad. Like a mutilation.

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  12. As I read it I was imagining sitting under a beautiful, big shady tree I wudn’t pray but I’d enjoy the cool shade and the leaves above me. U write so well.

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  13. Selma, your post was TREEmendous! Thanks.

    DavidM

    I think that I shall never see
    A billboard lovely as a tree.
    Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
    I’ll never see a tree at all.
    ~Ogden Nash, “Song of the Open Road,” 1933

    The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a
    green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and
    deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the
    man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.
    – William Blake, 1799, The Letters

    Advice from a Tree By Ilan Shamir
    Dear Friend,
    Stand Tall and Proud
    Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
    Reflect the light of a greater source
    Think long term
    Go out on a limb
    Remember your place among all living beings
    Embrace with joy the changing seasons
    For each yields its own abundance
    The Energy and Birth of Spring
    The Growth and Contentment of Summer
    The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
    The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter
    Feel the wind and the sun
    And delight in their presence
    Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
    And the mystery of the stars at night.
    Seek nourishment from the good things in life
    Simple pleasures
    Earth, fresh air, light
    Be content with your natural beauty
    Drink plenty of water
    Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
    Be flexible
    Remember your roots
    Enjoy the view!

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  14. Hi LUA:
    Aaaah. A kindred spirit. I love that you do it too.

    Hi TRAVELRAT:
    Awww. You guys do love your trees. I think that is brilliant. I like how you have paid tribute to the soldiers too. Awesome.

    Hi MELEAH:
    That just confirms what a cool guy your father is. I hope you found a nice tree to sit by!

    Hi SHIONA:
    I completely agree. Chestnut trees are gorgeous. What a shame the one that meant so much to you was cut down.I feel really sad that happened.

    Hi ROSHAN:
    Awww thanks so much. It is very restorative to sit under a tree, especially on a hot day.

    Hi TIMOTEO:
    You’re right. The lyrics fit. ‘I’m still standing, better than I ever did.’ So true!

    Hi DAVID:
    Beautiful poems about trees. I love them. I am grateful to you for always adding something significant to the conversation 😀

    Hi CRAFTY GREEN:
    Oh, absolutely. I had a tree house as a kid and it was fantastic. It was like being a spirit of the woods!

    Hi JOANNA:
    How lovely to hear from you. That has made my day. It is great to still be standing.

    Hi LAURI:
    I know you love your trees. There is only one thing to say to that – High FIVE!

    Hi JASON:
    I couldn’t agree more. You’re a bit faboo yourself!!

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  15. Thanks for sharing Selma! You do realize that this makes you appear more and more like a regular human being, and this helps your readers identify with you so much more. Despite the fact that you are fast becoming a literary queen!
    When I think of trees, I think of a movie that I saw in the late ’80s. A taxi driver takes an angry woman to a secluded field because he says that he can help her. She is obviously more than a little concerned with the seclusion, but he assured her that he meant her no harm. In the middle of the field was this tree, very similar to the one that you have described. He tells her that this was how he dealt with his frustrations and disappointments on a regular basis.
    He then walks up to the tree, wraps his arms and legs around it, and then proceeds to scream out loud. He does this for a few minutes, with the woman moving further away from him as he does so.
    Spent, he lets go of the tree, and offers her a “go”. Quite naturally, she is skeptical, but finally tries it too. Once she is spent, she lets go of the tree, he asks her how she feels, and she admits that she does feel better.
    Now I wouldn’t equate this to praying under a tree like you do, but I think that we each express ourselves in different ways!

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