This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help baby boomers, seniors, retirees, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and purpose in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled: “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class, is available by clicking here Amazon.com. Click here for her website: LeeGaleGruen.com
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Recipes give us instructions: do this or do that. They are most often thought of as dealing with food preparation: measure, add, mix, beat, pour, bake, etc. When you’re done, you have a creation that nourishes the body. I’ve printed such an offering in this forum before. (See my blog post of December 22, 2014: What Do You Do When the Happy Holidays Aren’t So Happy?) However, today’s entry is to nourish the soul.
During COVID-19 where our activities have been significantly curtailed, we should spend more time surveying nature to pump up our emotional well-being. So, I’m going to give you a recipe on how to really look at a tree. Although recipes use the command form of verbs, my commands are merely suggestions. Try them out if you wish or ignore them at your loss.
Pick any tree wherever you are. Slowly scan it up and down. Notice the symmetry, the irregularities, the trunk and branches, the leaves or lack of them. What are the characteristics that makes this tree different from any other tree? Is it healthy and vibrant or sickly and withering? Watch the effect of the wind on your tree. Are the branches still or bobbing up and down; are the leaves rustling gently or thrashing wildly?
What color is the trunk: brown, tan, green, gray or alabaster? Is the surface flat, knobby, ridged, striated or dappled? Does it have galls: abnormal growths from its reaction to parasites? What does the bark look like? Is it straight and even or twisted and gnarly, tight or peeling off?
Do the branches begin closer to the ground or higher up on the tree? How far out do they extend? Does the tree have flowers? What size, shape, pigmentation, and scent describe them? What kind of fruit does it produce–something edible for humans or animals, a complex cone, or a puny pod only suitable to house seeds for future generations?
Examine the leaves carefully–notice their form, texture and hue. They might be long needles, wide plates, or all sorts in-between. Are they uniform or rough? Are their edges continuous or undulating with peaks and valleys? Are they large, small, rounded, pointed, a single configuration, or complex and fern-like? Are the colors the green of spring; the reds, yellows, and oranges of autumn; or the brown of decay?
Move your eyes to the top. Bore deeply into the canopy. What is hiding in the tree? Are airborne dwellers flying to and fro or landing on branches or nests? Some dress up in colorful costumes that delight. Are squirrels working the trunk and its extensions? Is a neighbor’s cat peering at you from on high? Is the kid from across the street nestled in a fork, legs dangling on either side?
It’s okay to get up close and personal with your tree. Touching is allowed and even hugging if you’re so disposed. What is the sensation on your fingertips or cheek–rough, smooth, or somewhere in-between? Feel the leaves; do they prick you or are they friendly?
Use your other senses. Listen for a moment. Do you hear the birds you spotted? What do they sound like? Pay attention to their different colors, sizes, beaks, and calls. Maybe you can only experience them auditorily; they can be elusive, hiding from all creatures including the human kind. What is the smell you’re experiencing? Trees such as pine let you know you’re near through their spirited scent even before you see them.
Trees are your friends. Get lost in your new friends. Marvel at the wonder of them. During coronavirus days, trees can provide you with hours of free entertainment not to mention shade. Study them carefully as you stroll around your community or from your window while huddling inside staying safe and alive.
To help you start practicing, here are some trees I photographed on a walk around my own ‘hood:
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