My on-going project to find the beauty every day at Sky Meadows State Park continues, and in the first week of February, I found myself fascinated with trees.
There are so many beautiful colors and patterns in bark
This is a great time of year to examine trees, especially their bark, which may sound dull, but it’s not. There are lichen and fungi, bird and insect holes, twisted roots and cock-eyed limbs…well, you get the picture. And so did I, some great ones in fact, and I’ll share two of them and the stories behind them.
My first great tree story of the week came on February 4, but really it started a few days before that. Let me explain.
In the early morning hours of February 1, I had a very vivid dream that I was at work when I suddenly realized that I was late picking up my daughter for her swim class. I had only five minutes to get her to her class, which is a problem, since I live 30 minutes from the park!
In my dream, I got in my car and started the drive home, determined to get her there on time. I didn’t get far, though, because suddenly cars were pulling off on the shoulders; the road had become impassable due to dozens of trees that had fallen across it. I woke up and felt immediate relief that it had only been a dream.
Three days later, I was out and about in the park, beginning my closing duties. I was in a hurry, because I had to get home to get my daughter to her swim class. (Can you see where this is going?) Suddenly, I heard a terrific cracking noise, followed by a thunderous thud. A tree had fallen across the park road, just beyond the park’s entrance station, effectively trapping the few employees and one volunteer who were still in the park. That weird feeling of déjà-vu settled in and I recalled my dream. I have to say, I found it a little creepy.
None of us who were trapped in the park was chainsaw certified, so we had to wait for an off-duty ranger to get to the park and cut up the tree so we could leave. The wait wasn’t too long, about 45 minutes, and it did give us a chance to examine the tree up close. The gorgeous fungi and lichen patterns at the top of the tree were now within reach and I was inspired.
We also got a chance to experience the park as twilight became dusk. The dimming light and the elongated shadows were truly stunning. Of course, my daughter never made it to her swim class, but she didn’t seem too upset about it.
A few days later, I was walking on the Captain James Ball Trail when I passed by an enormous oak tree. I had noticed it before – it’s hard to miss. However, I don’t think that I had ever really examined it when its leaves were gone. Its limbs, massive and expansive, seemed to reach out to me, inviting me to come closer. I accepted the invitation. I walked right up to it, leaned against the trunk and peered upward. From my vantage point, the tree looked like a bark-covered giant with its arms held wide, waiting for an embrace. So, I did what any person who had just had an eerie precognitive dream about trees would do; I hugged that tree with all my might. It felt good; it felt safe.
Have you hugged a tree lately?
If you’ve never hugged a tree before, I highly recommend it. It is a very fulfilling experience. If you need a tree to hug, come out to Sky Meadows State Park - we have lots of them, in all shapes and sizes. And, if you will excuse me, a Lorax moment, I think I can speak for the trees when I say they seem to like the attention.
Drive Time: Northern Virginia, 45 minutes to one hour; D.C., over one hour; Richmond, two hours; Tidewater/ Norfolk/ Virginia Beach, three hours; Roanoke, two and a half hours