—From CB—

I’m not a tree-hugger. The notion of spiders or ants crawling into my sleeves or around my collar is a huge turn-off. In fact I don’t like nature much, except to look at. Definitely I don’t like politicians who want to pave it over; it still contains a lot of the soul we’ve lost. And I went on lots of camping trips as a Boy Scout and even more as an adult, but Nature doesn’t like to speak to me, except as mosquito buzz.

I’ve known people who actually hug trees. It’s an honorable thing to do, and harmless: not easy to beat your girlfriend black’n’blue or mangle your husband’s dentures when you’re wrapped around a redwood—you’d have to be double-jointed. Might we lessen the chance of nuclear war if we learned to hug eucalyptus in third grade? It’d be worth a try. Maybe start out with practice on maples.

But I have to admit to a weakness. I do put my hands on trees. Whenever I think of it, and admittedly without asking permission. People, yes, you ask at least with a gesture, although in California, NOT to hug seems to imply the other person is covered with spiders or ants. Do birds or squirrels ask permission to climb or skitter or shit from the top of the top? But I do rest my hands on tree bark.

It rarely has an entirely clear complexion. Once in a while I encounter one without wounds and gouges, stray branches thrusting out, or sap clogged out of an aperture. Most bark is like I imagined my face to be at fifteen—maybe not rife with zits but unattractive in new and different ways.

Most of the time, it occurs to me, the texture reminds me of me. That scar happened when I was five, this one—the really gross one—when I was sixteen, and lots more further up the trunk.

But I put my hands on its strength. Its inevitability. Its intention simply to exist. Somehow it speaks to me. It has no need for belief, for political thought, other than don’t cut down this tree, or for my self-definition as a quasi-tree-hugger. It just gives as much as I choose to take.

How like life.


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