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A practical guide to tree hugging

Up until yesterday, I thought the term tree hugger was one that described people who want to go out and immerse themselves in nature and be one with the forest. And I’ll concede that I associated this phrase with hippies and other flower-children types too.

I want to publicly apologize to all the tree huggers out there for this. For I now realize now that it is far more complicated than that.

You see, I had a life-changing experience yesterday that showed me that anyone can be a tree hugger given the right circumstances.

In fact, yesterday, I think I became one too.

It happened while I was walking my dog in the woods near my home. And much to my surprise, this transition did not involve any spiritual awakening or profound realization that the woods are alive, and that we are all part of some unified great life force. Nor was there a single thought that the trees were ancient, wise, sentient beings eminently worthy of our love and respect.

It was far simpler than that. It was not a spiritual experience at all. In fact, I’m ashamed to admit, my reason for hugging trees was purely physical.

You see, I hit a patch of ice and it was either hug a tree or fall flat on my butt.

That tree meant nothing to me – at first anyways.

But my affection towards it grew exponentially when I also discovered that the ground I was on was not perfectly level and covered in ice. Worse still, it became very evident that the slight slope I was on grew steep enough to cause the kind of acceleration that makes you reconsider your views on helmets. Basically, that slope was a slalom course with hardwoods and a ski jump at the end.

Anyone, walking along the road who might have looked into the forest would not have ascertained my precarious situation, however. Instead, they would have viewed a middle-aged man hugging a tree, perhaps a little too tightly – which is how, I suppose, small-town rumours get started.

Fortunately, there was no one around to see any of this, except my dog, who was more than a little confused by my public display of affection towards trees.

After all, her kind has other uses for them.

What happened next was a classic example of practical tree hugging – the kind that deserves a chapter in any survival manual. I let go of my tree, slowly slid downhill to the next and quickly reached out and then hugged it too. Then I did the same to the next, until I made it all the way down the slope into the crunchy snow.

I’m got going to lie to you – I think the trees and I connected, especially the birch I hit at the bottom.

I’ll even go so far as to admit that I now look at trees a little differently. For instance, I have a new appreciation for the soft woods. And I will never be able to walk past that spruce without thinking about our brief time together and how great it smelled. The same goes for the basswoods and the ironwoods as well as the poplars and that red oak, even though it was rough around the edges.

All I can say  is thank goodness I never had to hug any maples though. Things would have got way too sappy.

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