I recently took a walk to the building on campus furthest from my own academic home. As I walked, I wondered about the cherry blossom trees near my building. Since the weather is erratic this time of year, I worried that I would miss the short-lived season of blooms. To my right–a little off my path–stood an already-blooming tree, near an almost-completed building on campus.
Work trucks, building materials, and a fence–not the most glorious backdrop for this beauty.
It’s odd [to me] to find trees growing just outside a construction site, sites often prepared by unearthing their nearby friends.But when the cherry blossom opens, it makes all the sense in the world that a little beauty was left behind.
I usually join Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. I’m joining a week earlier for the final April post because next week is all about sunflowers and poetry. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.
An urgent deadline made me miss #ThursdayTreeLove last week, but all the tree photos hiding out in my phone will not allow me to forgo participating in the first TTL of the year. So, here I am, a week late, with snow laden trees from my very first tree walk of the year. Oh, how I wish we could capture pure delight with our cameras!
These photos were snapped January 4, two days after our first snow. We don’t get snow very often in the South, so when we do, we’re [Southerners] usually over-the-moon with excitement. I did not take the time to go out and play in the snow the evening/morning it fell. I planned to the next day when everything was all white and pretty, but the freezing temperatures kept me indoors.
When I returned to campus two days later, I was pleasantly surprised to find the trees on campus still beautifully adorned with snow. I raced to my office, dropped my bags, grabbed my camera and spent the first moments of the workday with the snow trees.
I shot with my phone and my camera. I am sharing the phone photos because choosing from among the far-too-many camera photos is a task for another time. [Click images 2-5 to view full-size versions of these photos in a Flickr album. Eventually, I’ll add the DSLR photos. Eventually…]
TheLion King is running in Nashville, and Cats will be here in Huntsville soon. I will miss both. People are not always cautious, so I am still wary of large group events. Sometimes, it seems the coronavirus is robbing me of life and fun, but spending time with the trees on a gorgeous day more than makes up for it.
Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now how comfortable it will be to touch the earth instead of the nothingness of the air and the endless freshets of wind? And don’t you think the trees, especially those with mossy hollows, are beginning to look for
the birds that will come–six, a dozen–to sleep inside their bodies?
After this week’s rainy start, autumn graced us with sunny skies and cooler temperatures. Those of us who dwell in the Deep South appreciate the respite and the acknowledgment of the season, but we know in a matter of days—or even hours—we will be back to mid-summer heat and another season of storms.
I take three or four 5-15 minute walks throughout the workday. I walk to ruminate, to reset, and [especially] to move my body—which suffered much during the year and a half of Zoom. Lately, during my walks, I’ve been noting the subtle but sure transformation of the trees—the changing colors creeping into the dogwoods and maples, the thinning canopy of the black walnut and the oaks.
Today’s tree comes from one of my just-before-autumn walks. It’s not the most striking tree on campus, but there is something arresting in its stance against the cloud-filled sky.
We are some weeks away from the fullness of the season. We will blink one morning and find everything bursting in autumn glory and blink again and find only the bare structure of trees. This tree represents the in-between, a tree dreaming. For once, I am appreciating the slow change, and not rushing toward the glory.
Study nature. Love nature. Stay close to nature. It will never fail you. –Frank Lloyd Wright
The Southern Magnolias and I have had quite a bit of quality time this week. I have had to take frequent breaks from my freezing cold office and from sitting. Since our year+ in front of a computer screen, I find it difficult to sit for more than five minutes. I have a “standup” desk waiting to be positioned and I’m looking into alternative seating that puts less stress on my back and hips. Until then, I stand as much as possible and take frequent, short walks in the area closest to my building.
Based on previous tree love posts, you probably know there are many, many trees near my office. I typically obsess over a particular tree or stand of trees for some time before moving on to others. This week, the magnolias have been commanding my attention and I have been filling my phone with shots of them. I stood underneath the magnolia above while working with a parent to get her daughter enrolled. I looked up and beheld this glorious sight.
This first week back in classes and in person (for me and my kiddo) hasn’t been too difficult, but it has had its mini challenges all week. My many three-minute breaks with the trees have helped shift the load and reduce the stress; they have also reminded me that it pays to look up!
A smile relieves a heart that grieves. Remember what I said. –The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
So far this long weekend has been exactly what I needed. When I left work Thursday, I’d planned to take the four-day weekend seriously re: self-care and joy breaks. I had some “unfinished business,” so I worked till noon Friday and I haven’t thought about work since then.
I have been just as serious about my 10 days of joy.
Yesterday, I held my first full “brain dump” session in a long time and ended up with a three-page list of all the things that have been nipping at my soul. Now, I know that doesn’t sound very “joyful.” And it isn’t. In fact, without context, the list is sad, stressful, anxious, but the JOY is in how I felt after writing the list! I have been carrying too much stuff internally, and when I don’t deal with it or even take a moment to acknowledge it, all that soul-gunk spills out in not-so-nice ways. So…taking an hour or so Sunday morning to detoxify my soul was beneficial in many ways.
I’m not sure I would have been able to even approach that list if the guys and I hadn’t taken time out for creativity Saturday afternoon. We grabbed our cameras, headed downtown, donned our masks, and took a two-hour photo walk. The weather was perfect—cloudy, cool, and breezy.
I noted the typical street scenes—musicians playing, private conversations, storefronts, architecture, diners—but, because I am nearly obsessed with street art, the Clinton Row Colorwalk was my favorite joy moment of the walk!
Everywhere I go I keep falling in love with trees and wanting to stay just a little bit longer.
Gloomy weather some days and a packed schedule other days made time with the trees unlikely this week. Fortunately, late Saturday afternoon provided sunshine and milder temperatures, so I was able to get a strong dose of tree love to carry me through the week.
Since I couldn’t escape the demands of daily life, I retraced my weekend steps over and over.
I walked the path in my mind, again noting the quiet of mid-winter: the understated appeal of the browns and grays against beautiful skies, of leafless and fallen trees resting in the sacred silence of the season.
It’s not exactly pretty, but it is beautiful.
[Recalling] these moments helped me take deep, even breaths and find calm in the madness.
About the Images: These are a few iPhone shots from a walk through trails of the Wade Mountain Nature Preserve. I’ll share some of the shots from my “real camera” for another #ThursdayTreeLove–when the task of sorting through and selecting photos won’t feel overwhelming.
Plans for my “Coping with 2020” series were slightly derailed because, as one of my former students put it, this week was “ugly.” There’s no other way to put it. I worked 14-19 hour days almost every day this week. COVID-19 numbers rose daily. Zeta knocked down trees and power in NOLA and other places. And it seemed the whole world expressed anxiety about what we might wake up to November 4. By Thursday, I was livid because there was no relief from the noise.
One part of 2020’s madness for me is too much doing, too much noise all the time. Everywhere we turn. Noise. Someone or something telling us what to do, how to do it, how to think. Noise. Piling up our plates. Vying for control of our time and energy. Noise. Noise we seemingly can’t escape because doom and Zoom are everywhere.
Grainy Black and White: Impatiens
So how do I cope? I shut it down. Everything. Computers. Phone. All of it. And I sit, drive, or walk in total silence.
I’ve always loved the early morning and late night quiet and the rare but not impossible moment of respite from the daily noise in the middle of the day. But silence is different. We can always find quiet. Silence, ever-present and always within reach, seeks us, but we have to be intentional about being found.
Silence. When there are too many words and too much doing. Silence. When it’s easy to grab the phone and chat away whatever spare moments we can find. Silence. When we can put in our earbuds and tune out the world through music and podcasts. Silence. When the world is loud and boisterous and simply too much.
Grainy Black and White: Begonias
So this week—in the middle of the umpteenth multitasking Zoom meeting, just after the department’s student assistant knocked with one more issue she couldn’t address—I hit mute, closed my eyes and sat in silence.
I’m sure I was on the brink of screaming, “uncle!” That moment in the midst of the chaos saved my sanity.
When the world feels like too much—get off social media, turn off the tv, turn off all screens, ignore the phone and all the doing, and hit mute.
There is freedom and calm right in the middle of the silence.
For the last few weeks my campus walks have been taking me in directions I don’t normally take, and I have thoroughly enjoyed other sights and sounds of campus. As always, there’s no shortage of trees to love.
A couple of weeks ago, my walk started with the tree below:
I pass this tree twice a day–on my way to and from the office. In fact, it’s had a moment on the blog before. But as I was on my way to a different tree, this lone tree and its shadow caught my eye. The photo is a bit boring because I was really photographing the shadow.
Then…just yesterday, my camera wanted to play and found the tree again!
Again, I was drawn to the tree’s shadow. 😉
I’ve had a DSLR with a Creative Auto (CA) setting for at least a decade, but until a few days ago, I had not even attempted to play around with CA. Gasp! Don’t judge me too harshly.
There are various fun settings–toy camera, vivid, monochrome [of course], fisheye, soft focus, miniature, ambient, and more–but the grainy black and white stole my heart. I don’t know what it is about this setting that’s made me go ga-ga! The images are nostalgic and dramatic and artsy and moody all at once.
The really cool thing about the CA setting is that it captures a normal [color] version of the image as well as the “creative” image, so there are no regrets about missing the opportunity to shoot a particular object in color.
Thus, we have my two favorite photos from today’s escape-the-screen photo walk:
Yes. I walked to the willows today.
Be sure to take some time away from the screens and have a weekend filled with joy and creativity!
As I’m nearing the end of this week of not feeling quite like myself, I am thankful for the time I spent with the trees–during one long walk on a path I hadn’t taken in years and in brief moments while running errands.
The photo above was from one of my shorter walks. As I walked, I looked up to behold the beautiful black walnut tree with its gorgeous branch extended over the path–an invitation to loveliness and light.
Being “among the trees” is therapy at its best. “They save me…daily.”
“When I Am Among the Trees” Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
As I mentioned in the previous post, my guys and I took an evening walk some days ago in a nearby nature preserve to see if we could spot the recently released rabbits that were under our care. We didn’t find the bunnies, but we found nature being her wild best.
We love walking in this park. We encounter beauty with each step, whether on the open trail which frames the pond, or the covered trails where we’re more likely to encounter the creatures that make the park their home.
Though much of the brilliance of summer has faded, there’s still so much to enjoy: Unloved flowers showcasing their beauty for those who have learned to see it.
Bugs that feast on the flowers. [Look closely]
Sun-kissed clouds floating above the trees, making way for night.
Random splashes of color.
Feasts for birds…
and the smallest animals.
Remains of fallen trees that continue to give life.
A surprise gift–a moth waiting patiently to be photographed.
A brightly colored flower captured as we exited a trail.
The final gift of the evening.
I hope you take some time this weekend to sit [or walk] quietly in nature, find strength, heal your soul, connect with the Divine.