I hugged a tree (and I liked it)

No tree hugging intended!

I never saw myself as a tree hugger.

I hugged a tree (and I liked it) - tree hugger

A nature lover: always.
Flower child hippy chic: sometimes (in a groovy kind of way, you understand!).
But a tree hugger: never!

That was just a bit too (conkers) bonkers.

So how did I find myself… you know, doing the deed? Hugging a tree?

I hugged a tree (and I liked it)

Well…

There’s a woman (we call her ‘Framboise ’) who teaches our kids about meditation and mindfulness. She’s forever encouraging me in a similar direction too. One week I joined in with the activity she did with the children: creating a vision board. I’d already (unknowingly) made something similar myself before which I showed her – I’d filled it with images of anything that flies, birds mostly, and stuck it with feathers I’d found scattered around over time.

Framboise has also devised a few two-hour mindfulness sessions aimed at adults. So I signed up.

The first one was a guided meditation. The kind of thing you’d expect (yoga mat, peaceful room… zen vibes).

But the next Saturday morning I arrived, things turned out a bit differently.

My son – then aged 10 – had wanted to come with me but Framboise had told him this was just for me.

D Day (or Tree Day)

It was a chilly day in autumn. I shrugged off my coat into the car and knocked on the door. When Framboise greeted me, she asked if I wasn’t going to be cold but it still took a while for it to dawn on me that I hadn’t checked her flyer before coming. Today wasn’t an indoor activity. We were going for a walk in the woods.

I put my coat back on, and off we went.

Framboise led me and the other participant (let’s call him René – because that’s a ‘very French’ name – and we were in Belgium) up her road and into the forest.

At the entrance to the wood she handed us some home-made incense to sprinkle (if and as we wanted) around the trees in thanks for welcoming us in. I speedily quieted my inner voice that was already telling me that was weird, and instead, concentrated on, uh-huh, beginning to try to commune with the trees (and Yoda, please be quiet – I know there is no ‘try’ you have to ‘do’, but I had to start somewhere).

I noticed that as we walked, Framboise picked up litter along the way and began to fill a bag she’d brought.

‘How… good’, I thought.

We were told there’s be no chit chat as we walked. Instead, we were to use all our senses.

It reminded me of this exercise I’ve tried in the past. Have you ever done it? It’s so simple, but a good one. You can do it anywhere, but a forest is ideal.

An exercise in mindfulness

An exercise in mindfulness - I hugged a tree (and I liked it)

Use your five senses – one by one

Stand (or sit) still. Close your eyes. Use your ears to really listen. Notice what you hear very close by. Listen properly to all of the sounds. What do you notice in the middle distance? The far distance?

Next, with your eyes still closed, breathe in and really take notice of all of the smells. Take your time. It’s important not to rush.

Do the same for your senses of taste and then touch. I know it’s not as straight-forward for these two senses, but I’m sure you can taste ‘something’… Open your mouth and taste the air on your tongue. Feel the breeze or light rainfall on your skin.

And then open your eyes and really look around you. Move your head around and turn your gaze down to the earth you’re walking on. Look right up into the air. What do you see above you?

Look up and really see the trees
Look up and really see

My five-sensory experience

I could see: the sunshine sparkling through trees, tall ones, reaching up to a blue sky.

I could hear: birdsong – so much life going on above us, geese prepping for flight, reminding us of a change in the seasons

I could feel: cold, fresh air on my skin.

I could smell: damp freshness, a mossy kind of odour.

I could taste: again, the damp freshness of the forest.

As we moved through the woods we continued to use all of our senses. I tried (there I go again, Yoda!) to ‘feel’ the walk – to ‘be’ in it – rather than feel uncomfortable in the silence… It made me realise how much of a need I have to try and fill any silences, lest they be ‘awkward’.

Tree hugging - I hugged a tree (and I liked it)

After a time, we came to a clearing where two paths crossed. We were asked to take our time and choose a tree that we were drawn to.

Tree meditation

In past meditations I’d done with Framboise and the kids, she’d guided us to imagining a ‘tree’ within ourselves. My tree had been pretty conflicted. In fact, there kind of two trees (in me). One was a wild tree with no leaves on, its spindly, tall branches extended upwards, being blown around by a storm… but there was also another tree, beautifully and calmly blossoming delicate buds blooming into deep pink flowers.

So now, she asked us to connect with our tree. To feel the roots, the sap…

‘See what happens,’ she said. ‘Sit down if you like,’ she added, presenting us each with a polystyrene kneeling mat she produced from her Tardis backpack.

And that was when her guidance stopped.

Just me and the tree

Just me and the tree - I hugged a tree (and I liked it)

‘OMG,’ I thought. ‘Tree-hugging!’

It was very quiet in the forest, but there was an odd cyclist or walker who passed by.

One voice in my head was saying, ‘Well this is embarrassing!

The other voice was saying, ‘Hello tree, thank you for sharing your energy with me today.

Embarrassed voice returned, ‘Just pretend you’re doing the ‘thing’. It’ll be over soon.

My ‘bigger’ voice, ‘Tree, you are a powerful, wonderful creation. I welcome this connection.

And so it went on…

I hugged a tree - life on life on life...
Life on life on life…

‘My’ tree was an oak tree. I ran my hands over the rough rivets of the bark. I noticed a large ivy root growing up and around the trunk. And upon the ivy, dried up moss was growing. Life on life on life… so much life. All intertwined.

I glanced up at the light through the branches. Low and behold – birds!

I hugged a tree (and I liked it) - birds in trees
Look up and you may be surprised

And that was it. My first experience of tree hugging. Although I’d been more than a little self-conscious, I did my best. I may not have reaped the joys and benefits of a full-on tree-hugging experience, but I did notice how there is something magical and magnificent about ancient trees. Perhaps if I try again (or ‘do’ it again)… I’ll go a step closer to feeling those good (wood) vibrations.

Forest treasures

When it seemed time for us to finish, we bid goodbye to our tree. Framboise suggested we find a little offering (if we so wished) to leave for our tree. I left mine a fir cone.

We walked a little further and found beechnuts. We fell into a little easy conversation, although I’m not sure if this was planned. It turned out René is a gardener and botanist. I hadn’t realised you can eat beech nuts. They taste quite nutty (I suppose the clue is in the name). Framboise gave me some to take back for the kids, perhaps hoping my son would forgive us for not letting him come today.

Francoise presented me with a wee feather… much in the same way I gift my kids with treasures I find along our walks in nature.

She said she’s never seen so many feathers and it must be because the forest is honouring me – what a lovely thought!

I hugged a tree (and I liked it) - Fluffy feather found on forest floor
Fluffy feather found on forest floor

On our way back to her house, Framboise dumped the rubbish she’d collected into a Council bin. ‘I’m not taking the rubbish home,’ she laughed. ‘We pay enough for the Council taxes!’

I told you she was ‘good’!

Then we walked back to have a cup of tea made from flowers she’d received from a permaculturist friend.

My fellow tree huggers and me.

Not at all conkers bonkers.

Touch wood!

I hugged a tree (and I liked it)

In the words of our guide

During this activity I was hoping to share a special time with you. We can pass through the forest while still remaining shut inside our daily life, always seeing the paths in the same way.
Or, we can ask the forest to welcome us. In this case, we concentrate, connect, unwind… So the pathways are always different… We can listen to what the trees have to tell us by using our 5 senses, by listening to our feelings…

Françoise Gouthière, alias – in our household – ‘Framboise’

You can read about my experience of Reiki with Framboise here.

If you around the Ardennes region of Belgium, you can check out what Françoise gets up to here.

I hugged a tree (and I liked it) - Tree hugger Flynn
Magical vibes of a tree hugger

Are you a tree hugger? Do you believe in their magic?
Has this prompted any thoughts? I’d love to hear from you…

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30 comments

  1. I’m a tree hugger! I used to have some big gum trees in my back yard and I would hang out with them and chat, like I do with my garden and pets. One of them was really big and gentle, and felt really nice to hug. I don’t usually hug random/strange trees, anymore than I would with people. Its nicer when you “know” the tree already, like a friend 😀😀

      1. Exactly! That’s the way it feels to me. I often talk to or pat/touch my plants to acknowledge them, so a hug is just an extension of this. And if you are in your own garden, then it’s more private, so you don’t get funny looks 🤔

    1. Thanks for you comment 🌺 It was quite hard to silence that ‘What are you doing?!’ voice. 😂 I was trying to tell myself that as I was there, I may as well give it a go properly! But self-consciousness can be a demon 😂 xx

      1. Sounds like you truly got stuck in, so well done… maybe you can set up a group and go out at the weekend to make it more of a common ‘thing’ to be seen happening around your neck of the woods! 😉

        1. Easy now 😉 That might be taking it just a little too far 😆 Getting the kids and dog out takes all the organisational skills I can muster, usually 😆

  2. Oh, I would love to meet Framboise so much. It’s not the first time you mention her and she has such a sweet and yet strong spirit. She must be really lovely. Did you know that it is said that finding feathers is a sign that angels are around or want to connect? Since you’ve been hugging trees, I think it’s safe to disclose this info! Haha. Now a bit more seriously I felt a great joy while reading about your experience, it was really meaningful and it had a very positive impact. I like your new addition to the blog, the pink (fuchsia?) bird. It’s beautiful. Very feminine and powerful at the same time, I like it a lot. Going back to the trees, when you mentioned about the two kind of trees I recalled that I (mentally) adopted a (real) tree in 2015. Curiously enough, the damn tree’s appearance was always a reflection of my emotional inner life. This just to say I too swear by the power of trees, they are deeply intelligent and wise, it’s not bonkers! 😊 Or maybe we are bonkers. A bit. 😀

    1. Hugging trees, angels… whatever next? 💞 That’s lovely to know about the angels. I hadn’t heard that before. Thank you so much for your positive comments 🥰 Glad you like my logo. Finally made one with Canva and although it’s simple, I like it. I’m a bit colourblind so I’m not sure exactly how ‘normal’ colour vision see it, but if you say it’s all right then that’s good 🥰 Yes, ‘Framboise’ is a lovely person and we’re lucky to have her in our lives 🥰 And you too 🥰
      Here’s to trees and friendships 🥰

  3. Very interesting read 🙂 Nature is absolutely amazing. Having those moments where we just still ourselves and our minds, look around us at the majesty creation is, we can’t help but feel more connected within ourselves. I wish more people were hugging trees here instead of cutting them down! 😐

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your comment 🥰 I’m very lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world in the midst of nature (the Belgian Ardennes). I miss the mixed culture of city life, but the birds, creatures (except the mozzies!)… and trees are just incredible 🥰

  4. Superb! I was with you all the way, tasting the air on my tongue, hearing the birdsong. Listening to the tree. Great images too. Thank you for sharing this. Anita.

  5. I enjoyed your internal chatter battle, we really do find it difficult to nurture our inner child and quiet down our stuck in the mud inner critic! What a beautiful place to live!

    1. Thank you for reading and for your comment. I have these internal back-and-forths all the time! I’m working on listening to my kinder (inner child?) self more and more 🥰 Yes… the Ardennes are really beautiful 🥰

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