I did hug a tree before, at the time hoping for a connection, some reciprocity, a promise of healing. This time, I hugged a tree without any expectations, just to get closer, to notice little things about it and to observe my sensory reactions. Nothing too “fancy” or esoteric. It is much more rewarding, I found, to be a tree-hugger in this way.
I hugged a spruce of some kind. It was a random choice. We were in a national park with the kids, I had to wait for my daughter by the loo, and here it was, my chance to hug a tree, unobserved. I could have hugged that cherry tree in my garden and I promised myself I would still do that. But this old tree by a public loo in the park – what chance of a hug will it get in its life? Enough of a reason for me, then.
First, I noticed the roughness and the uncompromising straightness of the trunk. The enormous upward stretch of it. My arms could not clasp half of its girth. Then I zoomed in on things at my eye level. The bark was very ridged, there wasn’t an inch of smoothness to be seen anywhere. The very top layer had a sort of rounded roughness to it, while immediately underneath, the rugged verticality of the inner bark layer, the Phloem (no, I did not know the word before), was unmistakable – these were the pipelines through which sap used to flow. I was reminded of the walls of the Grand Canyon in miniature. Layers of life’s cycles, lived. Some grooves were deep enough to put my finger in and even hook it under a piece of bark. En mass, they looked like a desolate landscape of dried arroyos.
The overall feeling, though, was that of warmth. The actual warmth of the wood exposed to mid-day sun in late April, of course, but also the warmth of the colours – browns, beige, rust.
And there was no special feeling, no transcendental experience to be had, just a feeling of gentle warmth from having hugged a random sun-lit old spruce.