When Nature’s the Classroom, Trees are the Teachers


We saw quite a few of these amiable self-hugging trees as we hiked the trails in Sedona a few months back. The first words that sprang to mind when I saw this particular one was a public service bumper sticker from the 1970’s asking, “Have you hugged your kids today?” Sorry state of affairs that folks have to be reminded to hug their children.

The second phrase that came to mind was, “Have you hugged yourself, today?” How often do we stop and acknowledge our own goodness? To take a moment for a self-hug celebrating the completion of a difficult task? Might it help us along to remember to stop and embrace ourselves in the midst of a harried day? Be good to yourself, this juniper reminded me. Hold yourself close in support and celebration.


Before I go further along these trails, let me invite you to step into these images with me. If you click on any of today’s photos, they get bigger. Click again and a couple of them will get much bigger. But, back to the trail ..

I saw this tree on my only solo walk — a six-mile trek early on a cool morning. Instantly my brain closed the branches into the heart that everyone sees in this photograph. Probably something do with gestalt theory about our brains always seeking to close the circle, fix the “problem” or complete what’s been left incomplete. So with my gestalt brain extending the tree branches to complete the image of the heart, my emotional brain got to thinking about closed hearts and open hearts, about what it means to have a complete heart and if one is in possession of such a wonder, does it mean there is no room left for more goodness?
When my kids come to town I often say, “Ahh, my heart is complete” by which I mean “I need nothing else in this world; this moment is the apex of all apexes.” In yoga there are any number of asanas called “heart-openers,” postures designed to physically model the emotional compassion and openness to others that make for a kinder world. The phrase complete heart says one thing; the words closed heart means something altogether different. I think maybe the lesson this lovely tree imparts is this: only by keeping an open heart, can we experience, again and again, a complete heart.


As in life so in death, I always think when I see these wind-swept trees. Although they are dead, dead, dead, they are gorgeous — branches reaching skyward in jubilation, trunks bent in suppleness; even their exposed roots seem to be tip-toeing off to some arboreal party deep in the forest. In death, it’s as if you can read the story of the tree’s entire life — drought and plenty, storms of destruction, a lopsidedness that belies being overshadowed by greater forces. I can’t help but ponder: what of us when we die? What will those we leave behind see in the forest of their memories of us? I hope-hope-hope to be recalled just like these trees: still dancing in the rain, still reaching upward in hope and determination, bent, yes, and gnarled, yet somehow deeply alive.  Have you hugged yourself today?


How could I not share this tiptoeing tree? Isn’t she a hoot! Kudos to hubby for this wonderful shot.

If you’ve enjoyed these photos and would like to share them, please do; and please credit Debra Darvick (1-3) or Martin Darvick (4) and provide the link to debradarvick.com.  Thank you.


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3 thoughts on “When Nature’s the Classroom, Trees are the Teachers

  1. Verne Royal

    This is a beautiful and thought-provoking post. Thanks for sharing and interpreting the teachings. No one can do it like you. Where others see trees, you find wisdom.

  2. Laya Crust

    What a beautiful “meditation”. Thank-you. I particularly love dried leaves, gnarled trees and dried grasses. They show the windings of their lives. And as in black and white photography they introduce the contrast of their beings.

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