Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My Beloved Trees - Chapter 1 Red on Banana Trees and Bad Luck, In Which I Learn How to Focus on the Good

I'm going to post some chapters from the book I'm writing called Confessions and Lessons of a Tree Hugger: Trees I’ve Loved That Have Loved Me Back. These chapters are short, and not yet polished, but rather than have them "sitting in a drawer" I think I'd like to share them. Please don't hesitate to comment and let me know where the gaps are, and where I need to fill in. What things are not clear, and what would you like to hear more of?

I'll deal with images later - plan to illustrate each chapter, and wish you could see the images in my head right now.

I'll start with the intro, and include Chapter 1 here. Happy reading : )

Confessions and Lessons of a Tree Hugger: Trees I’ve Loved That Have Loved Me Back


This book was inspired by a suggestion from my “Distress Tolerance” handout from Connie Powell, my therapist, on accepting reality as I grappled with the decision in 2013, to continue my fast-paced professional job at a university vs. the call of my heart to devote myself full-time to creating art, which has been the call of my soul as long as I can remember.

To anchor myself, the handout suggested that I “Go hug a tree. Think of how you and the tree are connected. Life is in you and in the tree and both of you are warmed by the sun, held by the air, and supported by the earth. Try and experience the tree loving you by providing something to lean on, or by shading you.” ~From Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Marsha Linehan. Copyright 1993 The Guilford Press.

Regardless of whether I have a borderline personality disorder (don't we all?), I found that when I started thinking of the trees I’d loved I realized that they’ve had an ongoing presence throughout my life, far larger and more rewarding than I had realized, so I set out to create this tribute to share my delight. I find that the beautiful, wonderful trees in my life have provided constancy, serenity, protection, and love, among many other things.

Another thoroughly enjoyable discovery is that every single person I’ve talked with about this book as I’m creating it also has one or more very special tree stories to tell. Keep an eye out for the sequel, which will be made of their stories. Think about the wonderful trees in your life that lend you their strength and beauty – love them and allow yourself to feel the love that they return. If you're like me, you'll find that it's very real and quite substantial, especially when you're feeling a little bit alone or bewildered, and it can make the difference between despair and moving forward with good humor and strength.

If you’d like your story to be included in the sequel to this book, feel free to send your name, contact info, and story to me. I look forward to getting in touch with you to hear your story!


Red on Banana Trees and Bad Luck - In Which I Learn How to Focus on the Good

I was four years old, an American child living with her family in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and there was very little I knew, except that the boy next door could catch wild birds in his hands that let him gently pet them, that New Year’s fireworks were simply spectacular and I was allowed to watch them dressed in only my underpants, nothing else in the tropical heat, while running around at midnight on the high-off-the-ground stonewalled patio of our home.

Kuala Lumpur was a land of superstitions, and my older sister’s friend Sharon Wagner, who lived next door, told us that putting anything red on a banana tree would bring bad luck. She dared us to try it, so of course we did, on a night when our parents were out celebrating early evening New Year’s festivities. We tied an old red rag to the banana tree that lived right smack in the middle of our backyard, and that very night robbers came to our house and stole a collection of food and liquor, along with the family radio, which back then was a major form of entertainment and central to the household.

The next morning, our maid asked my mother, as she was bringing coffee to my parents in their bedroom, whether “Sahib had drinkies in the night?” She was referring to the unusually empty liquor cabinet, which was normally stocked nicely for cocktail parties. Mom said, “No, Sahib came to bed right after the party.”

It was during the time of Chinese New Year, which Mom said was the worst time for theft, since the native people believed in settling all their debts before the New Year and often in Kuala Lumpur, if they didn’t “have it to give,” they would steal it. Evidently the settling of debts had nothing to do with being virtuous while on that quest.

After they hit our house the thieves went next door (really brilliant) but the neighbors were home and called the cops. So the thieves ran, leaving all of the stuff they had stolen from our family in a pile next to the stream in our backyard.

This was the stream, by the way, where my father had an open invitation to the natives to come and fish for catfish for their dinner, and one time when they had several big fat catfish laying out by the bank of the stream my sister stepped on one. It flipped up around her ankle and she went squealing and hopping all over the yard. That was a heck of a good giggle time for me, but not so much for her. This was also the house where we would watch as our Aya put yellow sulfur powder all around the border where the bottom of the house met the yard in order to keep the pythons and other snakes from coming into the house.

On the night we got robbed, Mom said she’d just gone to the bank that day and cashed Dad’s paycheck, and there was a load of money in her purse, waiting to be deposited into their household bank account. This was back in the days when transferring money at the bank wasn’t handled electronically, imagine that….  Anyway, Mom said her purse had been tucked into some shelving in the living room and the thieves completely missed it – good thing.

The grown-ups around us shared coffee in the wee hours of the morning and talked of what had happened across the street and all over the neighborhood. The robbers had hit several homes.

After all was said and done, I didn’t believe that putting the red on our beautiful banana tree brought bad luck, because no one was hurt, we were all fine, and the bad guys didn’t get away with anything—it was all still piled in our backyard. Maybe the banana tree brought us good luck after all.


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