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Talking to Trees

Does anyone else talk to trees?

On the trail where I walk the dog every morning after I take the grandchild to school, there’s a tree I like. I always say hello and ask how she’s doing. Her name is Sarah, and I find comfort in knowing she will be there each day.

The other day Junior was playing with his ball on a little rise above the trail. A parent and PTA colleague, walking home with her pre-schooler in a stroller, stopped in front of Sarah. After a moment her little boy got out and stood near the tree, then hugged it.

I went over to her and said, “This is so weird. Do you talk to this tree as well?” She said she was teaching her son about appreciating the Earth and nature, and they always visited with the tree, which she referred to as “him.” I told her I talked to “Sarah.”

Junior dropped his ball into the creek below us. He carefully made his way down the rocks and into the water, retrieving the ball and then retracing his steps all the way up the bank. Then he dropped it again. I could see it would be easier to reach it from the other side, so we walked along to a bridge and doubled back to a little “beach,” where I could almost get the ball without going into the water. I tried a branch, but it wasn’t long enough. One of my dog-walking friends on the other side tossed me a perfect stick, with a claw-like structure on the end. I got the ball, thanked T., and put the ball away so Junior couldn’t lose it again.

When Chloe started third grade a year-and-a-half ago, I felt very out of place at school–a grandma among mostly parents, a new dog-owner in a park where everyone knew all the other dogs’ names and I didn’t even know the protocols for when Junior could be off-leash (it’s not an off-leash park). At pickup time I’d sit in the courtyard with Junior, using the school’s wi-fi to check email or Facebook on my phone.

Now, every morning after Chloe goes in I’m saying hello to K. and her dog Patches, who loves Junior; R., the former PTA president; E., the current president; various teachers, principals and other staff; and random parents. Then at the park Junior romps with Tucker, Dixon, Izzie, Marley, Reya, Etta, Brodie, Ace, and especially Pierre, whose mom, L., I’ve become quite good friends with, and V. and her sweet little chiweenie, Coco, who also adores Junior.

My husband has had three rounds of surgery recently (he should be fine). We scheduled the first one during winter break so I could ship the kid and the dog off to family. The other two were unavoidable; the second I managed with trips between hospital, school, and home, and it was exhausting, especially in Austin’s perennial rush-hour traffic. So for the latest procedure I asked a friend (also Sarah), who has a child at our school. She not only picked Chloe up but they went to our house for Junior. We were at the hospital from noon till nearly 7, so it was such a relief having them with someone I could trust, and Chloe had a blast.

You’re probably wondering why this piece started with thoughts about talking to trees. I think that tree represents the wonderful community I have become a part of–parents, other grandparents, teachers, the principal and assistant principal, extended family, dog-owners, other walkers, swimmers at Stacy Pool. It happened so gradually I didn’t notice it, until one day I found myself having so many conversations in the courtyard while waiting for school to let out I didn’t even look at my phone, and that’s how it is every day now.

This is Sarah. The picture was taking in afternoon light so her "face" is less visible than when I see her in the morning.

This is Sarah (left). The picture was taken in afternoon light so her “face” is less visible than when I see her in the morning.


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