For the Love of Trees

I have always loved trees.  I don’t mean “trees-are-pretty-cool” kind of love.  I mean, I truly love them.  As I mentioned in my first blog, I have been an unabashed tree-hugger since I was a wee sapling.  Growing up in NJ, the trees in my yard all had names and, from my perspective, very distinct personalities.  George, the young maple, although not grand in stature, made up for it with his wise and calming presence. But George could get wild and crazy too. Every Spring, George would produce fruit– what we kids in the neighborhood referred to as “polynoses.” During that time of year, dozens of kids in my neighborhood would open the “wings” of the polynoses and affix them to their own noses. Our house was at the end of a cul-de-sac and George lived near the curb.  I felt rather magnanimous, “letting” my friends take George’s polynoses.  It didn’t matter to me that these plentiful helicopter seeds had fallen onto our public street.  They still belonged to George and it was my duty to remind people of that. Ah, the memories.  Trees have factored into so many of my memories.

The sounds of all their voices mixed together, coupled with the whispering of my tree friends would lull me into a peaceful state.

I spent my summers on the North Fork of Long Island.  My Nana and Pop Pop’s house had several large trees in the backyard.  Many an evening I would lie down in one of the comfy lawn chairs and look up at the trees.  The breeze would blow through the leaves—a sound I still love today.  My Dad and Pop Pop stood by the grill, drinking their cocktails and talking. I gripped my own cocktail—my Pop Pop’s infamous Shirley Temple. I could hear my Nana and her sister, my Great- Aunt Minnie, talking through the kitchen windows.  The sounds of all their voices mixed together, coupled with the whispering of my tree friends would lull me into a peaceful state.  I stared up at the beautiful green with hints of blue peeking through.  It was pure bliss and I felt safe. There is something so wonderful about being surrounded by people who love you—even when their focus isn’t on you at that moment.  My Pop Pop died when I was very little, but for many years afterwards I would lie in one of those chairs and look up and listen. My tree friends would whisper the old stories and the memories would come flooding back.

The call of the loons and the sound of small waves gently knocking the fishing boat into the dock felt like home.

My Mom’s parents had a cottage on East Pond in Maine.  Vacations in Maine were very different from those in Long Island but equally special.  My Grandma and Grandpa were true nature lovers and they could name every bird, fish, and mammal that crossed our path.  The cottage was rustic with (gasp!) no television. We slept in sleeping bags on cots and had to take quick, cold showers.  But no matter, I loved it.  The call of the loons and the sound of small waves gently knocking the fishing boat into the dock felt like home. The sweet aroma of pine needles blanketing the property permeated every room. I couldn’t get enough of it.  In fact, my Grandma gave me a little pillow filled with pine needles so that I could take a little Maine back home with me. Maine also had something that I didn’t see when I lived in NJ—birch trees.  Birch trees, with their white, paper-thin bark, looked like something out of a painting or a fairytale.  It was always exciting to spot the first Birch tree as we headed North to the cabin.  “Grandpa! Look—there’s one!” I would yell from the back seat of the old station wagon. He and Grandma would laugh.  It still makes me smile to think about that.

For a short time in the early 80s, my Dad lived in NYC. My sister and I spent a handful of school vacations there. Although I love visiting NYC now, back when I was in Middle School, everything about it scared me. There were so many people and so many sirens. In addition, I couldn’t understand how my Dad could be “ok” living in a place with no trees.  He would say “We’re only a few blocks from Central Park.  There are plenty of trees.”  Sometimes I would walk with him to the store.  One day, as we walked several blocks, I saw a little tree growing out of the pavement (at least that’s how I remember it).  I remember feeling bad for the poor little tree.  I decided it was a “he” and was devastated that “he” didn’t have any friends.  I was sure that this little tree must be lonely.  My Dad was sure I was being a pain in the ass. To his credit, he did grumble a quick “I’m sure the tree is fine.”  I wasn’t so sure and silently asked God to protect my new friend. Every day for the length of my April vacation, any time I passed the little tree, I would stop and give its skinny trunk a little squeeze.  I don’t know for sure if that gave the tree any comfort, but it sure made me feel better.

As I entered high school and later college, my love of trees was put on the back burner.  Suffice it to say I wouldn’t have been comfortable sharing tree stories at the pep rally.  I still loved trees, but it would have been social suicide to bring that up. I was already in the drama club, which I loved, but that’s all I could handle defending at that time. At the close of my Senior year of high school, I started dating a guy who became my first serious boyfriend (and later my husband and then much later my ex-husband).  It was then that trees came back into my life.  Like any new young love, I remember it being all-consuming.  I was 18, but a young 18—naïve and introverted.  We used to take walks on wooded trails near his house.  I had butterflies and blisters.  Jelly shoes were all the rage and I refused to sacrifice fashion for comfort.

After a few weeks (which felt like months in teen years), we went on one of our usual walks, but this time he pulled out a pocket knife and started to carve our initials into a tree.  Part of me was so excited.  I’d always dreamed of a moment like this (although in the dream it was Michael Jackson doing the carving). The other part of me was screaming “Don’t hurt the tree!!!”  Apparently, I didn’t scream that in my head because he whipped his head around, startled.  “What’s wrong?”  I flushed—afraid that I ruined this perfect moment, but also afraid to share why I had this outburst.  “Um, nothing…” was all I could muster.  He looked embarrassed and put the pocket knife back in his pocket.  We walked in silence the rest of the way back to the car.  Somewhere there is a tree in Massachusetts with “WC +” carved into its bark.  I’ve often wondered what passers-by have thought when they saw it.  I imagine them saying things like “Who did this?  Why didn’t they finish?  Was he or she having an existential crisis?”  Only the tree and I know the truth.

Fast-forward to 2018 and my love of trees is front and center.  Each time I go on vacation, I hug at least one tree.

Poor Deb usually gets stuck taking a picture of me awkwardly hugging a tree in whatever location we’re lucky enough to be in.  Some of the most memorable trees were in the Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon, and the Giant Redwoods at Muir Woods in Northern California.  Muir Woods was an especially sacred space.  It’s truly a church made from nature.  Never have I felt so close to God.  As I put my hand on one of these majestic trees, the energy was indescribable.  It was like a slow humming, rising up from the Earth and through my hand.  It felt like energy mixed with love.  I was incredibly grateful to be in the presence of this 2000+ year- old life form and it somehow underscored my belief that everything is connected.  It also reminded me of what I had known so clearly as a child: the trees want to be loved.  And maybe, just maybe, if we’re lucky, they love us back.

Carol Campos
Carol Campos
Like many, I struggled for years wondering what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I had been working in the corporate world for over 20 years, most recently in a leadership role with a Fortune 5 company. Although I was consistently recognized and promoted throughout my career, I somehow knew that I was meant to do something different. I felt stuck in a life that didn’t fit, yet I had created it. What was my purpose? I had no idea. Finally, I left my corporate job and made the leap into the unknown. After doing months of self-discovery work (actually, play!), reconnecting to my higher wisdom, and re-remembering who I was at my core, I realized I didn’t have to fix myself. I also realized that I didn’t have to worry about “finding my purpose.” What I found was that I’m multi-passionate and didn’t want to be boxed into one thing. I didn’t HAVE to be boxed into one thing. I started a podcast and a blog where I explored the human experience—including my own beautiful, messy, but perfect road. This blog later became my column on BizCatalyst 360°. I became a mentor and a wayshower for others. I became a consultant to help improve company culture and improve client relationships. These are things I couldn’t have imagined a few years ago. But as often is the case, the Universe had an even bigger plan for me than I had for myself. My Soul knew what I would be doing long before I did, and I’m grateful that I followed the Divine map that was laid out before me! I love traveling, exploring new cultures, being in nature, and helping people on their own paths. I hold a B.A. in Communications from Hofstra University. I live in Massachusetts with my rambunctious and hilarious cats, Petey, and Emmett.

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    • So glad you liked it, Larry. I love walking the trails near my house–especially early in the morning. Nothing beats walking in nature–except maybe walking in nature with your four-legged friend. 🙂

  1. Oh Carol! I feel like I’ve taken a mini-vacation after reading this! You totally ignited the movie in my mind and I could even smell the pine needles in the forest where I grew up. We need more tree-lovers in the world! Thank you for this beautiful nostalgic piece that reminded me of the beauty and wonder in the world. Goodness knows that’s not forefront in our minds these days and it should be.

    • Thank you so much for the kind feedback, Kimberly! I agree–more tree-lovers are needed now more than ever. There is such a wisdom in the trees and they’re willing to share it if we get still and listen.

  2. Carol, your love of tree and their ‘inner meaning’and even empathy with we humans is proof there is something out there. Looking at trees, whether at the base where the roots bless the earth as they venture down below the soil for nourishment to pass on to the trees high grandeur, there is a majesty, a surreal connection. Many ignore trees when walking through a grand avenue of masterpieces.

    Your moving description is so real, I am seemingly accompanying you through woodlands walks. The bark also has a life of its own, proud protector of the living energy inside these spectacular wonders of Mother Nature.

    You make the love of trees come to life, Carol. Everything is connected. There is synergy between trees and humanity should an individual take the time to allow their minds, hearts and souls to drift among the glorious branches and accompanying leaves. Pine trees, ever present all year round, projecting a message that they’re hear to speak for the leafless ones.

    When the leaves fall in the Fall, the colors as spectacular as a glorious sunset; a myriad of shades sending the imagination into overdrive, then once hidden far away vistas are revealed as if a curtain of leaves parts to allow the onlooker the infinity of the landscape.

    Trees do want to be loved, and it is certainly not a one way feeling. Tree-hugging offers a real human gift of gratitude. And as trees soar above the ground in silent grandeur, so the connection with the Universe is endorsed.

    Thank you so much Carol for your enlightening and intimate story,

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, Simon. The leaves are just starting to show signs of changing. I love the fall, but it’s always a bit bittersweet watching the the leaves put on their “coats of red and gold” (this description comes from a song that my Nana used to sing to me). 🙂