Trees Can Hug You

Two friends I haven’t seen since the pandemic biked over to share some tomato starts. It was great to see them… and so frustrating not being able to hug hello.

Social distancing is getting a lot of people down, partly lack of physical contact. Hugging is a natural source of hormones and neurotransmitters (endorphins, oxytocin, and dopamine) that reduce pain and increase happiness.

Is your body missing hugs? I’m one of those long huggers — another level of relaxation happens after 10-15 seconds — and went through hug-withdrawal.

But I discovered a way to manage: hugging trees. Really!

It all started a year ago when my dog Sadie died, the sweetest 45 lb. lap dog. I missed her cuddles when I came home.

Then I realized I had another special creature to love — a redwood, a giant sequoia (aren’t they all giant?) in my backyard. It takes almost three people to curl around ki’s* trunk.

I started hugging the tree, resting into the bumpy bark, feeling the energy moving through the trunk’s alive lovingness. It filled me up.

Sending hugs to others

Now I use it to not only fill me up but to send hugs to others. I wrote this note to one of my friends whose mother just died of covid:

I’m going to hug my loving giant sequoia in the back of our yard for you. Its roots will connect to the micro fungal network that will connect the nearby trees, grasses, and all growing things around the shores of Lake Washington up north and east of Woodinville to the very tree in your yard that you’re hugging whenever you can. (Warning: I have some sap on my coat from one of my hugs of a nearby cedar.)

For each of you, I send a hug. You can go feel it yourself.

Go get yourself a tree hug!

Find a tree. Embrace it or rest against it with your back. Let your head and heart settle into the tree. Take a few moments. Breathe.

Notice what you notice. Your body being touched. The aliveness of the tree — sap moving, leaves rustling, creatures abiding with it. Feel ki’s* roots and yours going into the earth. Sense the microfungi of your tree communicating with others. Feel in your senses or imagination this interconnectedness touching you.

Take a breath, and send love, kindness, healing through this tree into the earth, to others you know or don’t know who are in need.

End by appreciating whatever you received or felt. Even just a moment of being is a gift.

I hope you felt my long hug!


* Ki (“kin” is plural): a gender neutral term for earth, plants, and nature was coined by Robin Ward Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass

PS. These are times when emotions, rest, and stress can be worn down. Let’s talk to see whether working together might help. Please contact me at Sondra@RestfulInsomnia.com. I want to be there for you.  

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