Tara has written and recorded in her own words what trees mean to her
“There is nothing like the scent of pine and earth that can bring me home. In a year of harsh realities and uncertainty, the one thing that kept me grounded was the company of several enormous spruce pines attached at the roots and at least five stories high. I believe they are of the common spruce family, perhaps white or red spruce, found in New England and the earth’s northern regions.
It is hard to say if there is one tree or two. Like conjoined twins, this entanglement of spruce sits at a far corner on the historic Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, along the edge of the Blue Hills reservation. “I’m off to the vortex!” I’d tell my daughters, who were reluctantly sheltering in place, having been evicted from college life. We all needed to find some space. So dwelling under the languishing branches of pine with their bright pink nubs in spring became part of my regular self-care routine. Sitting on one large trunk would bring me back to the forts of my childhood, the kind that didn’t require any special props, just a quilt to lay on and a good book to read. I assure you that when you step into this coniferous tent, you can feel the energy of Mother Earth like a warm embrace.
I made it my goal to visit the spruce family and memorize a poem by Mary Oliver, called Trees, that I found in a slim volume of her work. This was an exercise I hadn’t done since memorizing a Shakespeare sonnet in high school. Like then, it took some effort (even more now) but I was pleased in the end. I know it by heart (listen here).
Heaven knows how many
trees I climbed when my body
was still in the climbing way, how
many afternoons, especially
windy ones, I sat
perched on a limb that
rose and fell with every invisible
blow. Each tree was
a green ship in the wind-waves, every
branch a mast, every leafy height
a happiness that came without
even trying. I was that alive
and limber. Now I walk under them —
cool, beloved: the household
of such tall, kind sisters.
~ Mary Oliver
With the brain fog that accumulated over the months of the pandemic, the grief of witnessing a relative in an alcoholic free fall, and the impending move from our home of 20 years just down the street, this brief recitation became a kind of ritual. A momentary prayer. If anything, I felt the cleanse of a forest bath and tree molecules seep into the tributaries of my neurotransmitters. As a therapist, I know that being in nature is sustenance for the soul and fuel for the brain. Not just for me, but for humanity, too. The science is unequivocal on that count, but that doesn’t seem to matter to some.
Trees are generous with their love. It’s hard to measure the girth of these sturdy gals. With their wide trunks, 7 and 10 feet around, this spruce grove is indeed like a pair of best friends bolstering me after a heartbreak. Sometimes I’d rest my forehead on one branch too large to wrap my arms around and weep with grief or gratitude depending on the day. I miss them now.
Recently, I visited my spruce sisters. On the lawn nearby was a group of teenage girls having a picnic, laughing and chatting before the inevitable start of another uncertain school year. No peace today, I mused. As I wandered along the edge of the rhododendrons, the girls bolted into my pine vortex and began to sing. It was both strange and nostalgic. Not a common site in the modern world of emerging young adults. Perhaps that’s the power of these tall fine ladies. It was as if they were showing me exactly what I needed to see.