As The Trees Bud (take off of As The World Turns)

Remember that famous Barbara Walters’ query she is rumoured to have posed to many of the celebrities she interviewed back in the 1980’s? I believe it was: “If you were a tree, what tree would you be?” And we all kind of thought she was wacky? Well it turns out Barbara may have been onto something. Though the real story of the question is a bit different than the lore, the legend lives on. Not to burst your bubble, but according to Cynthia Littleton in Variety, Walters apparently asked Katherine Hepburn what kind of tree she would be, after Hepburn “described herself as feeling like a very strong tree”. Hepburn’s reply was that she would “prefer to be an oak rather than an elm to avoid Dutch elm disease.”

Barbara’s alleged question came to mind this morning after reading something a friend posted on Facebook this morning. It is a response from Ram Dass, the famous American Spiritual teacher and author of “Be Here Now” to a question he received about judgment, self and otherwise. He provided a little parable in reply, which makes up the powerful quote that follows:

“….when you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are…”

So, whether Barbara really asked the question or not, she should have. We do accept trees for what they are, whether they be spindly and weak, bent and misshapen, or strong and sturdy. Why don’t we appreciate people for what they are? Or for that matter, ourselves? As Ram Dass says: “You just allow it.” Allow, accept and permit: so easy in theory; so hard in practice.

In her poem, “If I Were A Tree”, Pamela Lutwyche partially answers Barbara’s rumoured question in her first three stanzas:

If I were a tree,
and someone made a swing on me,
I would enjoy their laughter./
I’d be big and strong
and help the day move along,
I would help the people breathe fresh air./
Birds could build their nests in my branches,
my leaves would be green and healthy./
Birds could lay their eggs
and new life would begin.

The poet does not answer the question of what kind of a tree she would be, just that if she were a tree, she would provide laughter, fresh air, a home to new life, and a new beginning. What more could one ask of a tree?

If I were a tree, I would choose to be a tall, strong coniferous, perched proudly on someone’s front lawn. I would be decorated at Christmas but never in danger of being cut down to grace a living room because I would be a crucial part of the landscaping of the homeowner’s property.

No article on trees would be complete without Joyce Kilmer’s 1913 poem called simply enough:

I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree./
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;/
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray/
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;/
Upon who bosom snow has lain
Who intimately lives with rain/
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

(Poems provided in honour of April: official poetry month)

Okay–you know I am going to ask it: If you were a tree, what tree would you be?

Published in: on April 15, 2015 at 2:42 pm  Comments (34)  
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34 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Today, a pear tree. That could change.

  2. Beautiful post. I think I would be a jacaranda to please people with my delicate lavender flowers.I’m going to reblog so others can enjoy it and I will be able to read it over and over. Thank you.

  3. Reblogged this on The English Professor at Large and commented:
    On The Homefront gives us this lovely post that I want to share with you.

  4. I think I would be a big red maple tree like the one on my front lawn. It only grows stronger every year :). I love to sit and read underneath it and listen to the wind whispering through the leaves.

    • that is beautiful–I sit under my white birch on the front lawn and read in the summer

      • If only we lived closer, we could read together :).

      • that would be lovely

      • Wow! Have you ever been totally blown away by a coincidence? I am reading Lisa Genova’s latest book called Inside the O’Briens, and I just read a section where a young woman is struggling with some very scary issues in her life, and it made me think of this post:

        “She stands, still facing the mirror, and presses her right foot into her left thigh. Vriksasana. Tree Pose. She places her hands in prayer position at her heart, then inhales, reaching her arms up as if they’re branches extending to the sky. This is her favorite pose. She is grounded, balanced where she is, but she’s also growing, reaching, changing.”

      • love it–I would try the pose–but would probably fall over–so will just do it mindfully–lol

      • I thought you might like it, and don’t worry, I would fall over too :).

  5. I would be an oak tree. Slow in growing but strong in stature. An oak just seems to have strength and knowledge.

    • excellent choice–thanks so much for the Ram Dass quote that inspired this!

      • You are welcome. I am glad it touched you like it did me.

  6. Ahh I’d have to be a silver birch, our lady of the woods!

  7. I so loved this post! Ram Dass’ thoughts about how we allow a tree or whatever in nature to just be without judgment. Oh, that we humans could remind ourselves of this more often. Your musings feel like a lovely Spring day. I do like oak trees. And Palm trees. Maybe I’d be jasmine growing on a tree, twisting and wrapping around other green stuff with that wonderful fragrance.

    • I replied to this once–must have forgotten to send–the fact that you want to wrap yourself around another tree indicates that you just want to send hugs out into the world–and I bet you already smell nice

  8. Wonderful post! The air smells different, much fresher when surrounded by trees. I feel at home amoungst the trees. I would be a poplar tree….I love the clapping sound of the leaves ask they dance in the breeze.

    • how very lyrical–remember our yard was full of poplars when we were little? I love your description–and at the cottage you must be in heaven

  9. I’d be I think a Maple tree ..a tree that can provide branches for birds to nest … .that changes colour every fall, and produces sweet maple syrup every spring…. Diane

  10. Damn good post

  11. The quote from Ram Dass is so insightful. And, like you said, we should not only be less judging of others but also of ourselves. I’d be a tree in a redwood forest. I have yet to actually visit one but since grade school, when I first learned that redwoods are immune to fire, I’ve been fascinated by them. The outer layers of bark do get burnt but because they are so tough, the inside (or “heart” of the tree as I like to think of it) remains unscathed.

    • I learn so much from you–yes, I can imagine you as a redwood–are they creative and smart too?

      • If they are, then all the better! What a lovely compliment, thank you 🙂

  12. Can I change often? I don’t want to be just one tree, but all kinds all over the world.

  13. I think I would be a palm tree. I’m tired of our winters & would like to be somewhere warm & tropical. 😉

    • I fully understand–you would be a balmy palm tree

      • I knew you’d understand. 😉

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