Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Have you hugged a tree today?

What are you doing on this cool, rainy, summer night?

I'm curling up to my favorite new book The Remarkable Trees of Virginia by local authors, photographers, tree lovers: Nancy Ross Hugo and Jeff Kirwan and Robert Llewellyn. I am in the process of tracking down photographer Robert Llewellyn, whom I first had the pleasure to meet at last year's Bread for a Better World event at Feast! He brought his lap top and was sharing recent tales of his trip to Iceland. What a passion he has for telling stories with his photography! I hope to track him down by the end of the summer for an interview about this amazing four year project of photographing and telling the stories of the most remarkable trees in Virginia. People all across Virginia nominated their favorite trees and after a long, arduous process, the trees were selected and photographed in all their glory. The categories are old trees, historic trees, champion trees, community trees, unique trees, fine specimens, noteworthy species, and mighty oaks. I just read the account of the Crying Tree in Marion, Virginia, whose story has been passed on from generations: Sally, a five year old slave girl was comforted by this tree when crying over her lost family after they were sold into slavery in Lynchburg, never to be seen again.

I find trees offer a beauty, presence, strength and solace to us which defies description.

When I first moved here from Utah ten years ago, I could think only of the majestic Rocky Mountains which were no longer within my sight every day. I missed them so much! The grounded, jagged, peaks of the Wasatch front (which line the valley of Salt Lake City) were an incredible canvas of color, light and texture at my favorite time of day: sunset.

With time though, I have come to adore the trees here in the Piedmont. I remember during recess at Sutherland Middle School (my first job here was teaching English there) staring up at the enormous pine trees telling my colleague, "You guys have got some amazing trees!" Some of my favorites are at UVA and in surrounding parks and homes. Last year I discovered a boxelder tree I call Old Man Elbow along the Rivanna River Trail near Riverview Park. Recently he lost one of his arms after a wild night of storms (a nearby Ash cascaded onto the main branch which hung over the Rivanna, which I'm quite sure served as a launch pad for many a daring Charlottesville youth.

The trees are jubilant this spring and summer with the copious amounts of falling rain. I hope you take an opportunity to get to know at least one - enough to hug it regularly.

I also hope you'll check out this lovely book and website.

If you or someone you know is interested in starting a tree club here in Charlottesville, I'll be the first one to sign up!


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