On Sunday afternoon, I made a new friend. Nothing super-weird about that … except I’d already made acquaintance with a tree behind her house and fenced yard — and in fact had done yoga poses and meditated in front of it numerous times over the past few months.
This tree, you see, has been giving me inspiration on my walk-jogs along the paved path where our neighborhood borders the local forest preserve. From its branches the homeowner had hung thin strips of wood painted with what I thought of as mantras, such as “Hope,” “Believe” and “Be Kind.” You know, all that New-Age-y crap I like.
In all the time I’d passed by the tree, I’d never seen a resident of the home and imagined him/her to be a wise guru type, or at the very least a fellow yoga junkie.
Well, Sunday as I approached the tree, a woman in hiking boots was just coming out the back gate holding a leash attached to a big, friendly dog that looked eager to get going. (Of course, I already knew this dog from said yoga/meditation sessions. He’d sat quietly nearby–calmed, I’d imagined.)
I complimented her on the tree, and she was delighted that I found the hanging “affirmations,” as she called them, so meaningful but said she hadn’t noticed me behind her house before. (Probably a good thing.) Other passersby have also enjoyed the daily dose of positivity, she told me.
Some of the phrases come from Scripture; others, either she or her husband came up with. (I could have sworn I’d once seen an “Om” dangling from one of those branches! Well, that’s brain injury for ya.) What surprised me most was that the wood strips themselves were repurposed sections of old window blinds. Nice!
No, strike that. What surprised me most was that my new friend had planted a sickly stump of a treelet years ago and hadn’t expected much. She still has to cut back a dying branch each year, but that tree, which she dubbed Stumpy, has flourished, at least enough to hold our neighborhood’s affirmations.
I had been planning to continue on the paved path to its end and then turn around and head home, but she invited me to join her and her dog on her muddy trek through the woods. These woods, in their drier days and my not-so-seizure-prone days, had been my running grounds.
The woods also contain paths to my old friend Rocky, the boulder atop the high hill overlooking the lake. (See “Rocky” on this blog.) I used to run the mile from home to the hill (by way of another paved path) and keep running until I got up to Rocky, where I’d sit and catch my breath and the view before walking home and heading to the office.
On Sunday, as we sloshed through the mud and tried to strategically avoid giant puddles, we talked about our lives, our families, our stories. Wonderful, messy nature. Her dog, my cat. The need to share feelings and the necessity of solitude.
We hiked uphill to Rocky, had a seat and took in the view. Just as I had already met the tree I now knew as Stumpy, she’d been a longtime friend of Rocky’s. There was even a time when someone wrote affirmations on it, she said.
Conversation continued on the way back. When I mentioned that my family would be seeing “Hamilton” soon, she said she’d loved it and that, weirdly enough, she had finally had time to listen to the entire soundtrack a couple of days ago. I had just made it through the whole thing (though not for the first time) the previous day.
Eventually, we made our way out of the forest and onto the paved path. We exchanged text info, and she took a selfie–which I’m still waiting for, by the way. I’ll only use it if she wants to be in this blog post (and not just to prove I’m not writing about an imaginary friend). I returned to my house, she to hers.
The thing is, I had’t planned to go outside at all that day. Rain was threatening, and I was in a blah spell that I couldn’t shake. My husband knows the outdoors perks me up, no matter what the weather, so he suggested I take a walk. I’m sure he wasn’t trying to get rid of me.
It wasn’t at all what I expected, but it was just what I needed.