On a Friday evening in late August, I headed out early in order to get an hour of personal time in one of my favorite trees before I had to set up for the evening’s climb.
As I pulled up I noticed a woman sitting at a picnic table beneath the tree. In order to install the ropes, I need to have people out of the area, so I was going to have to ask her to move.
This tree and its nearby companion are a pair of mature white oaks that have a special presence about them. Their large size and branching structures are quite a contrast to the younger neighboring walnuts and hickories. It is no surprise to me that someone else enjoys time beneath these trees as I do.
In walking up to her, she appeared to be at peace and had a positive energy about her. I paused for a moment with reservation given I had arrived early solely for the intent of spending personal time in the tree. I thought maybe I should hike a nearby trail and allow her to enjoy her time with the trees until it was time to set up for the climb.
While these thoughts ran through my head, the woman turned and greeted me with a warm smile and cheerful, “hello.” In front of her a wooden flute lay on the table. With pencil in hand, it was apparent I had interrupted her in the middle of journaling.
We were immediately engaged in a conversation about what I was up to, as I was carrying a colorful rope and wearing my climbing helmet.
I was there to enjoy time in the tree. She was there to enjoy time under the trees. That was enough for us to form a bond.
Bonding Under The Trees
For the next hour, we shared stories from our lives. I found myself sharing topics I seldom discuss with anyone other than my closest friends and family. She talked about her life experiences and valued memories. Together, we enjoyed conversations about family, hobbies, life and dreams.
The reason we had met was simply due our appreciation for the two trees above, which is why I think the conversation kept returning back to them.
Together we found that their energy has provided comfort and aided in self-reflection in our both of our lives.
I told her what the trees have meant to me for the 2 years I have been coming to visit. Some of my encounters were from above. I pointed out the branches which cradle my head as I lay back to gaze upon the branches and leaves above. I shared stories of climbers who had successfully challenged themselves at different places in the tree.
She has been coming to these trees for many years. Journaling and playing her flute in their shade, she too has formed a bond with them. They have become close friends to the both of us. It was enjoyable to hear her perspective and memories of the trees.
Given how private I am with my own journaling, I was touched when she opened her journal to me to share a story and a hand-drawn picture of the night’s climbing tree.
With colored pencils she had captured the character of the tree in her drawing. Without ever climbing the tree, she noticed and had detailed some of my favorite branches. Two people from separate generations and backgrounds, yet we appreciated some of the same details of this amazing tree.
Giving Them A Name
I like to name trees once I get to know them. It was time to name these two oaks, which is what I was hoping the day’s climb would reveal to me.
We name trees because they are living beings and companions, much the same as why we name pets. It is a display of respect, gratitude and connection. It takes a special person to not only name a tree, but to tell other people that you talk to trees by name.
At the conclusion of our conversation that afternoon, she shared with me that she had named the trees years ago. The Grandfathers. Our climbing trees had already been named.
This encounter reminded me of the beauty and role trees play in people’s lives. I appreciate my personal relationships with individual trees. She gave me insight into what these two trees mean to her.
We can all look at the same trees, yet they will reveal the different aspects of their personalities to people who are ready to listen.
As our time together came to an end, it was time to prepare the tree. My intention that day was to get to know this tree better through time in its branches. I gained a greater appreciation and connection to The Grandfathers thanks to my new friend sharing her private time with them.
As an I.S.A. Certified Arborist, T.C.I.A. Certified Treecare Safety Professional, T.C.I.A. Climber Specialist, and GOTC Recognized Instructor, Curt has spent over 25 years dedicated to the study and care of trees.