One afternoon, I found my ivy-clad tree as I drove in my wheelchair along the footpath near my home. It’s lined on both sides by vegetation and is called the Bunny Walk. The walkway is at the bottom of my road and follows the course of the River Chelmer to town in one direction and Broomfield in the other. I used to drive down to see my tree quite frequently and had many thoughtful ‘conversations’ with it.
“Hello tree”, I said aloud on one of my visits. “Hello”, I repeated; “how are you feeling today?” The tree remained silent. I knew a little about trees and in case you don’t know, they talk by connecting and sending messages to each other through a network of fungi beneath the ground. I wondered what the tree was thinking.
It was a bright day in late Autumn; the sun shone through the tree’s branches almost blinding me. I took a photo of them silhouetted against the vivid blue sky. It made a gorgeous picture. “Excuse me; would you mind not taking photos of me!!” I was a little taken aback to hear such an indignant voice responding. “Can’t you see, I’m undressed?” I looked around me and then, realised, to my surprise, that it was the tree speaking. I was quite astonished. However, I decided that it was only polite to reply at that very moment. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I said; “I just wanted to show my friends how beautiful you were.” “I’m not beautiful; I’m ugly,” – he had suddenly become sad and almost annoyed. “Oh, tree; please don’t be so sad; I think you’re beautiful.” “What do you know when I hardly have any clothes on”, a very cross voice snapped at me. “Oh, but you will have when the Spring comes; I think you will be dressed in delightful green leaves and delicate, scented blossom,” I said reassuringly. “Really!”, he stated grumpily. Then, after a few moments, a more friendly voice replied with, “Well, thank you.” He was speaking in a much warmer tone now. “What would you like me to call you,” I said. He replied simply and quietly, saying “Tree.” I thought that was a bit impersonal, but then who am I to judge someone who I’d only just met.
So, Tree it was. I went a little nearer and asked him if he would mind me picking up one or two of his Autumn leaves from the ground. He said that was okay, so I got a bit nearer, reached down from my wheelchair, and chose a couple of damp leaves. Some were brown; others were golden and a few still had a hint of green on them. I thought I’d take them home with me to identify what sort of tree Tree was. I spent ages researching, but it wasn’t as easy as I’d thought. I’ll have to wait until the Spring arrives when the buds, leaves and blossom appear. It’ll make it easier for me to find out what sort of tree he is. I didn’t realise how long I’d been out, sharing my time with him, and decided that I should start making my way home.
Each time I went along the Bunny Walk I stopped to visit my special friend. I watched him changing until the last of the autumn leaves fell to the ground. I felt sorry for him standing there, now naked as he’d previously forecast.
As the weather got colder and wetter, I found myself not going to visit Tree as often. I did feel guilty not going as regularly. More time went by until one cold but bright Winter morning, I woke early; I was so keen to make the most of this lovely day. I set off down the road and a few minutes later, I arrived at my tree. I went up to him, and said, “Hello.” He remained quiet for a few minutes and suddenly came out with, “Huh! What do you want?” I was taken aback by the bluntness of his tone. “Oh, what’s wrong? Have I upset you?” I asked. “What do you think?” Tree said.” “You come down here and befriend me; I learned to trust you and then you abandon me!” I’m so sorry,” I said. “It’s just that the weather has been so wet and cold. But I have been telling all my friends about you and how much I enjoy visiting you.” “Really? Truly?” “Well, if that’s the case, I forgive you”, followed by, “yesterday, I was also telling my friends about you and how much I look forward to seeing you.” “How kind of you,” I said.
“Tree, can I ask you something personal, please?” “Of course, go ahead,” he replied very politely. I could feel myself blushing, “Tree, I’d like to hug you if you don’t mind. I’ve always wanted to hug a tree and you are very special to me.” “Will it hurt?” he asked. “Not at all,” I reassured him.” The only problem is; well; I don’t know how to say this,” I blurted out. “The only problem is … I’m not sure I can reach you. It’s because of my wheelchair, you see.” “Oh, really;” he exclaimed. “Wheelchair? Wheels? I thought they were legs. “My legs don’t work very well”, I told him. “Well, you are just as important to me whether you have wheels or legs.” I could feel a tear welling up, not because I was upset, but because I felt so moved that he accepted me just as I am.
Tree looked at me and noticed I was trying to hold back my tears. “Don’t cry,” he said gently. “We could have a virtual hug.” ‘How lovely,’ I thought.’ So, I drove a little closer although I was aware of the crisp leaves and twigs that I was crushing under my wheels; I got as close as I could and just about managed to stretch out to Tree placing my palms against the bark of his trunk. I’d always wanted to hug a tree. I had happy tears rolling down my face. I felt all warm and fuzzy. It was at that moment, I realised we were in a relationship; not a symbiotic one as in the way trees communicate through the fungi under the earth, but a true, loving and caring one.
(Can humans have relationships with trees?’ I wondered. I think so. Love comes in all different forms, and I loved and cared for Tree very much, and I think, maybe, secretly, in his heart, he loved and cared for me too).
I suddenly realised the time. “I’ve got to go home now,” I said. “It’s getting dark.” I drove back onto the path and turned round to face my newfound friend. His branches waved in the wind, and I’m sure he was waving goodbye to me. I blew him a kiss. “I’ll be back,” I said.