My Love Affair With Trees

January 29, 2013

When I am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
– Mary Oliver, Thirst

My first love stood tall and sturdy in front of 18450 Annchester, my childhood home. It was a massive American Elm tree. My early years growing up in Detroit were often spent leaning against that beloved tree or turning my face to it as I counted to twenty, my neighborhood friends scattering and hiding from me while we played Draw a Circle on the Old Man’s Back.

And then one summer morning I walked outside to find nearly every leaf from the tree had fallen to the ground, brown and withered.

I cried in disbelief. My tree had Dutch Elm disease and would soon be cut down and destroyed.

The mighty Elms of Detroit used to form a canopy over the streets, shading us from the hot summer sun.

But in the years to come, the neighborhoods would look naked without these majestic trees–many of which had grown over 100 feet tall.

I scoured old photos for a picture of my precious tree to no avail.

When I wasn’t in the front yard playing around the Elm tree, I was often in our backyard sitting up on a branch of a small old tree which leaned against our garage. I would be reading a book, drawing, or just plain hiding from the world.

No child should have to grow up without a tree nearby to climb, like the mighty Beech tree above.

One of my favorite children’s books, both as a child and as a parent is A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry, lovingly illustrated by Marc Simont. It doesn’t surprise me that this simple little book about trees is still in print after 57 years.

Many years had passed since I’d read it, but one day on a trip to the library with my son when he was young, there it was on the bookshelf! My heart skipped a beat. It was as if I had found an old friend.

“A tree is nice because it has a trunk and limbs.
We can climb the tree and see over all the yards.
We can sit on a limb and think about things.
Or play pirate ship up in the tree.”

Many years later when I was married and living in a suburb of Detroit, I found myself once again surrounded by beautiful Elms.

One late summer afternoon, a tornado blew through our neighborhood and in just a matter of seconds, the storm changed the landscape of our street forever.

Able to bend with the wind, the little trees survived–but many of the tall Elms snapped in half.

When we ventured outside we saw the fallen trees laying across the road like a logging company had been there. Even as an adult, I cried.

My friend, Mary, who still lives around the corner has one of these precious Elms in her front yard. The roots have pushed the sidewalk up and I’m sure she’s been asked to fix it. But she watches over that tree like a mother bear with her cub. It’s that precious. I get to hug it when I go back to Michigan to visit.

What is it about trees that make us fall in love with them?

Why do we treasure them so?

One of the first things I learned when I began studying energy medicine was how grounding they are, and just being in their presence can connect us to our beloved Mother Earth.

I remember the first time my teacher told us to go outside and hug a tree, or lean against it if we were feeling anxious, depressed or ungrounded.

Admittedly, I thought it was a bit strange at first. Of course, I did that instinctively as a young child but had forgotten as an adult just how healing it can be.

There is a tremendous force of energy around trees that they willingly share with us.

Trees can teach us much about ourselves and our connection to nature.

They are sturdy but yielding, as we should strive to be.

“Be strong” they whisper, no matter your size. Remember the little trees in the storm that survived while the larger trees didn’t.

My favorite yoga posture is Vrksasana, or tree pose, which seems at first to be simply about balance. But it’s also about being rooted, centered and yielding, just like a tree.

Trees go through cycles of birth and rebirth, as do we. They do it effortlessly, though, without fighting nature’s plan.

They don’t say “I don’t want to rest” or “I don’t want to blossom”. They just do.

According to Ayurveda, we are one with the nature that surrounds us and in fact, made of the same elements. We can learn a great deal by paying attention to the natural rhythms we witness in the presence of trees. I think the reason I have always loved living somewhere with four seasons is because I am equally enraptured with each transition–the budding branches that burst open in blossoms or leaves in springtime, the gift of shade that summer brings, the blazing colors of autumn and the naked stillness of winter.

We can learn a great deal by paying attention to the natural rhythms we witness in the presence of trees. I think the reason I have always loved living somewhere with four seasons is because I am equally enraptured with each transition–the budding branches that burst open in blossoms or leaves in springtime, the gift of shade that summer brings, the blazing colors of autumn and the naked stillness of winter.

I think the reason I have always loved living somewhere with four seasons is because I am equally enraptured with each transition–the budding branches that burst open in blossoms or leaves in springtime, the gift of shade that summer brings, the blazing colors of autumn and the naked stillness of winter.

Winter Trees

Trees that become part of our history remain our friends forever. No matter where I am in the world, if I see a birch tree or smell a forest of Pine trees, I am immediately transported to Northern Michigan where I have vacationed with my family my entire life.

The Birch trees support my trusty hammock for a week every summer and the Pine trees are my aromatherapy.

Birch Trees

And when I stand under a Weeping Willow, I am that little budding artist who always liked drawing them.

Weeping Willow, photo by Barbara Sinclair

But perhaps the best story I’ve saved for last. Before my partner, Ralph passed on we used to ride our bikes down by the Hudson River to our favorite tree. It was all the way down the bike path where there is a lawn with the Statue of Liberty in plain sight.

I would sit under the tree in the shade reading while Ralph always opted for the hot sun, listening to his music.

After he died I received many letters and cards from an organization that I volunteered with, writing weekly letters to people who were sick or just lonely. Now it was my turn to receive, and the letters came flooding in. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from total strangers.

One day I decided to go for a bike ride and I grabbed a pile of unopened mail. I biked down to the river and rounded the corner by our tree only to find a hole where it had once been. I was in shock.

The tree seemed so healthy–perhaps it had come down during a recent storm. I started to cry (What is it with me and trees?) and hopped back on my bike. I found another tree down the way, not quite as beautiful, but this one had a little opening in it where three trunks came together and a fourth had been cut down, leaving a little seat. Perfect, I’ve since discovered, for reading, meditating and people-watching.

I opened the first letter and this is what I saw. A beautiful card with a forest of Pine trees and a quote by William Shakespeare: “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” I opened the card and read:

“In your name, a tree is being planted. Barbara Sinclair and her beloved partner are being honored with the gift of a tree, planted in one of our National Forests. This gift comes to you from Circle of Love. Your tree, a gift that endures, will help replenish a magnificent forest and preserve the habitat of the wildlife that call it their home.”

Pine Trees


Synchronicity. One of those little miracles that happen every day through our love for each other and the world around us, including, of course, our trees! Surely you have a beautiful tree story of your own. I would love it if you would share one with me!

“On the last day of the world
I would want to plant a tree.”
– Place by W.S. Merwin

Much love,

  1. Barbara, this is such a beautiful dedication to our wonderful trees, and so touching to hear about your personal experiences with your beloved trees. You have attracted such kindness from others because of how much you constantly give of yourself. You are amazing!
    Much love, Gael xx

  2. What a touching tribute to our beautiful “kin”, the tree! It brought to mind a memory of being in elementary school and being asked to play the piano solo version of the famous poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer for a school assembly! I remember the beautiful words and melody touching my heart at that young age and helped set the stage for my love affair with trees and nature throughout my life! Today I pulled out my old worn copy of the piece and sat down and played it through….. still mesmerized by the words and haunting notes…..

    Thank you for inspiring me to experience again the beauty of trees through your words, pictures and music…… you are truly a gifted and engaging writer…… In love and gratitude, Carol

  3. What a joy and healing balm your words and images are Barbara! In this bitter cold I cannot get out and walk among my tree friends as much as I’d like, and my heart is longing for their nourishment and unconditional love. Your piece connected me immediately to these feelings and stirred wonderful warm memories of sitting high up in my front-yard tree, hidden away from the world, reading my favorite books and dreaming my own dreams. Thank you Thank you!

    • Well, Katie, this post was for you as much as for me! I had so many photos of my trip to visit you–I wanted to include them all! As it is, the piece got too long because I just couldn’t bear to leave any of the stories out. How lucky that you had your front-yard tree when you were young. Maybe the ‘owners’ of your beloved beech tree will let you climb it! Thank you for sharing your tree love. xoxo

  4. Barbara, Where do I begin in my thoughts and feelings on this post? From the beautiful image of the arch that our beloved elms made on the Detroit streets of our past (mine was on Strathmoor,), a memory I still treasure, to the tree planted in the forest in honor of you and Ralph, true synchronicity indeed. I will never forget when I lived on Country Club and you lived on VanAntwerp, and my neighbor had four elms cut down since their leaves made too much of a mess. You, our neighbor Susie and I cried and ran over to their trees to bid them goodbye. It was heartbreaking. Hence, my fierce protectiveness over the grand elm in my yard which you so lovingly hug when you visit. Thank you for reminding us of the true beauty in our world, which we all must fiercely protect – Love, Mary

  5. My memory is much like Katie’s, except it’s the tree from my *back* yard when I grew up, my maple best friend where I read many books and dreamed many dreams. I carved my initials high up on a branch, and was appalled to find in a year or so that the tree swelled and grew around my Girl Scout knife slashes, trying to heal its “wound”. I felt terrible! I had injured the companion I cherished so — a few teardrops of sap were coming out where I had made the cuts which was heartbreaking to me. Trees are as alive as we are, often more so depending on the individual. Thanks so much for the memory, and your wonderful writing.

  6. […] My Love Affair With Trees […]

  7. Tears in my eyes as I read that you and Ralph were being honored with the gift of a tree. So beautiful! My favorite picture is the one of the tree in the snow. It speaks to me. I have wonderful memories of leafless trees after the rain, their black, bare branches set against the orange and pink streaked sky of a sunset. Thank you for sharing this piece, as it reconnected me to the beauty and wonder of trees and nature.

  8. Barbara, I also love trees. I bought my ten acres when I moved to Gainesville, because of the trees and the magnificent energy they provided. I was hurting, with a broken heart, having just gone through a traumatic break up. The trees called to me when I first saw them and I looked no more it is where I planned to be for years to come. I had a favorite tree that had a perfect seat for meditating and there I began to heal. The front 5 acres were giant old oaks it was breath taking the back 5 pasture for the horses with only a few trees for shade. the people who bought the five acres behind me were going to cut a beautiful tree down for a road. I gave them some of my land to put the road aroud the tree. They thought I was crazy but I told them I was in love with the trees. About 6 or7 years ago we had 5 hurricanes go through central Florida. When I went outside the morning after the worst I sat on the ground and cried. Many of my friends including my meditation tree were up rooted or broken off. it took months to clean everything up and to plant new trees. I will never, I believe, experience anything like the energy and love I felt from those, my favorite, trees.

  9. Ron Daniel de Leon May 22, 2014 at 2:38 am Reply

    Hello I really love trees and while I’m browsing trees on the internet I saw your blog. 🙂 And it’s great! I wanna ask if I can use one of the photo of yours in my project ( I can pay/credit you if you want. Thanks! I’m hoping for your response. God bless

    • Thanks, Ron! Sent you an email…

      • Hi Barbara,
        I was cruising images of trees for a series of drawings I’m doing and I docked onto your blog from which I printed out several pages (for images of the trees). But then I read part of your lovely blog. I love your spiritual connection with trees. It’s moving. I feel very much the same way. In fact, just reading your words felt healing. I feel as if I’m very attuned to the beauty of each tree I ‘meet’–its leaves, its trunk texture, the mottled light coming through the branches or the density of a leaf canopy blocking the light; but now I’ll tune in more to the energy of trees, the slim, the willowy, the stocky, the grand old ones, and the growing saplings.
        Thanks for your writings, a fortunate discovery for me.

  10. Trees like aliens from other planets, so huge and powerful. Next to them you feel like a little ant.

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