Have you hugged a tree lately? Because I have, and it’s great. (Outdoor Diary)

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Episode 379

When did you last hug a tree? I mean literally, actually hug a tree?

Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but hang with me, because this silly thing has been recharging and reshaping how I feel about heading outside.

Listen now!   

Some of the good stuff:

[00:35] Tree Hugging as Gratitude

[01:20] Grounding Experience of Tree Hugging

[01:41] Winter Contrast and Appreciation in Seattle

[02:49] Monthly Sit Spot Reflection 

[03:08] Observations and Gratitude for Trees

[04:36] Emotional and Sensory Connection with Nature

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Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

This is going to sound a little crazy, but when was the last time you hugged a tree?

Recently I have been feeling especially grateful for natural things around me — and it’s made me want to hug them. I know. That’s a little fruity.

I’m sure this recent tree hugging desire is related to the clear cutting that was done behind my house, obliterating into tiny wood chips these trees with which I felt a connection. But the hugging itself actually started before that — and is born of my increasing appreciation for the natural wonder I see around me and fully notice thanks to my time outside.

My first recent tree hug was last fall, after I returned from that terrible trip to the Grand Canyon in October. You can hear about that really quite dangerous hike in an episode from October that I’ll link in the show notes.

When I got home I was so happy to be in the familiar comfort of those woods behind my house, that I stopped and hugged one of the trees we were passing. And yes, that tree is now gone as a part of the project, but that’s not what we’re talking about today.

That hug felt wonderfully grounding. It felt safe.

More recently while flying through Seattle in February, I stopped for an overnight in a hotel rather than take a red eye flight. Right across the street from my hotel was a lovely park and lake, and I was able to take a walk there before my morning flight. I felt in complete awe over the greenery and trees around me. Back here in Alaska, it was very much still the winter and so seeing tall green anything made me feel inspired, very happy and very grateful.

Which is why on my way out of the park no joke I walked up to the one of the trees, gave it a big hug and told it that it was doing a very good job being tall, and strong and green.

It sounds silly. I know it sounds absolutely crazy. And I’ll be honest, doing it felt silly too. But it also became powerful because it allowed me say out loud what I really appreciated about that space as I connected and I mean physically connected with a part of it through hugging.

This week was my regular visit to my sit spot where I go once a month for 20 minutes just to see how things are going. You might remember that this is a habit I started this year inspired by Allister Humphries and his monthly visit to sit in a tree, which he talked about in a podcast episode with me also linked in the notes.

For my year I picked a local lake. And I go and I sit there on a bench and just see what’s happening once a month on the same day at the same time or so. It’s April as I’m recording this, so this was the fourth time I’ve gone to the spot this year. And how it was going on this visit was in fact very snowy, yes in April — but I digress.

As I sat there the top thing I noticed was the trees, how are standing and how are changing now that spring is here and yes, it was snowing and it’s still spring. I understand that. It’s complicated.

There was a crew doing some tree maintenance in the campground that’s next to where I was sitting. I could hear them sawing, and shouting timber right before some trees fell. The nearby cutting made me feel even more appreciative for the trees that were near me.

So before I left, I walked over to one huge cottonwood with its glorious, deep trunk texture. I put my hand on it, gave it a hug and said: you are doing a good job of being big and strong and old. Don’t stop and don’t get cut down, please.

Then I turned to the tree next to it, a skinny birch sharing trunk space with the cottonwood. I touched its papery bark, hugged its trunk and said you are doing a good job of sharing and being lean and tall and gorgeous.

As I walked to my car I passed several trees that I used as hammock anchors last summer. I touched each of them and I said I’ll see you later, you are doing a good job of being here and well hang out this summer.

Touching those trees and saying those words and speaking of gratitude out loud, gave me a connection to that place and those living, breathing organisms that I didn’t have before I did that, as silly as it sounds. And while each of those spots where I’ve hugged trees are special in their own ways, my connection to them increases every time I use not just my senses to experience them, but also my emotions.

And that’s what we’re really talking about here on Humans Outside, isn’t’ it? The emotions of spending time in nature, the emotions of connecting with living, breathing things that are all around us, and the soul-level value we find by spending time outside every single day.

You can see as the art for this episode a photo of me hugging the tree they cut down behind my house, in existence no longer. And you can see photos of all of my time outside in nature, quirky, not quirky, fails or no fails on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram.

I want to see your photos to share them with hashtag #humansoutside365. And until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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