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Pictures of Trees Can Help Us Heal

Honey Locust Tree in the neighborhood

When I walk my dog through the neighborhood, I sometimes stop to take a picture of a tree that catches my eye. Though my dog loves to walk, she patiently waits while I get just the right angle. Then we're on our way again.


Keeping my eye pealed for a tree that I want to photograph helps me to stay focused on the moment instead of thinking of what needs to be done at home. I find myself intrigued by birds flying through the air, a lizard skittering behind a clump of grass, my dog sniffing at whatever delectable scent her nose discovers.


In more quiet moments at home, I look at the tree pictures I've captured on my iPhone. They remind me that each image is a little bit like the moments that make up our lives. Each second contains a physical and emotional memory. What happened in that instant can be pleasant or can store varying degrees of pain.


I sometimes experiment with looking at each of those tree pictures and deliberately giving myself permission to let go of any unpleasant physical or emotional memories that might come up as I look at them. There are usually no unpleasant events around the taking of the picture. But, in its own mysterious way, my mind can be triggered by the photos. Suddenly, I am remembering something totally different that still holds pain for me.


If I allow my mind to find its own pathway to that pain, it presents a chance to heal from sadness, anger, confusion, indignation, fear or other emotions. The letting go process involves the willingness to dwell for a short time on the painful emotion.


That's the hard part. If I am willing to sit with that emotion, the feeling soon begins to soften until it releases or become so mild that it no longer triggers discomfort. The key is to be willing to sit with the pain until it lessens. It usually doesn't take more than a few minutes. If you sense that your painful memories are too great to handle alone, try this experiment with a counselor or a trusted friend.


Initially, I thought that walking my dog was something I did to help her explore the neighborhood, stretch her legs, and give me some physical activity. I didn't think about the emotional healing that can come when I look at pictures of trees I've taken on those walks.


I don't always take pictures of trees when I walk my dog. Sometimes I just enjoy every moment for the peacefulness it holds. And that's okay too. It helps to create pleasant memories, and I can never have too many of those.

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Exploring Your Family's Christmas Memories

My Christmas tree today

When I was looking up information on the internet about the history of Christmas trees, I came across an interesting trivia fact.


The website, https://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas-trees, revealed that "the tallest living Christmas tree is believed to be the 122-foot, 91-year-old Douglas fir in the town of Woodinville, Washington." That caught my eye, because my niece and her family recently moved to Woodinville, a town I had never heard of until they moved there.


It made me think that an entertaining family activity might be to learn interesting facts about Christmas traditions in your family. For example, what kind of Christmas tree did your family use when you were a child? What kind of tree did your grandparents use?


When my son was in elementary school, he came home with a question. His teacher wanted all the kids to find out what kind of Christmas tree their parents had as a child.


I wasn't sure. We had grown up overseas, in the Sudan, where my parents spent several years working. When I asked her, my elderly mother said it was a sesaban tree. The closest spelling I can find to that on the internet is a sesban tree. My mother died a few years ago, so I can't ask her anything more about the tree, what it looked like, where it typically grew, or why they chose to use that kind of tree.


Information like that gets lost so easily unless someone in the family interviews parents, grandparents and other relatives and writes down what they say. When I was a child, I didn't wonder what kind of decorated Christmas tree stood in our living room. My mind was captured by all the Christmas gifts in colorful wrapping under the tree.


When I attended college in Kansas, I found a tumbleweed and brought it to my dorm room to decorate for Christmas. It was just the right size, and the decorated tumbleweed captured the Christmas spirit. Once out of college, I abandoned the tumbleweed idea. Today, I use the same artificial tree my husband and I bought more than 40 years ago. It still works great, and it holds many good memories.


If you decide to ask some of your relatives about their Christmas memories, you might discover some interesting, intriguing facts.

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Let Nature Tune Up Your Body and Brain

Different kinds of trees grow near each other in this rural setting.
Trees flourish in a rural area.

Nature can help your brain and your body stay healthier. You can take a hike into the mountains or anywhere else in nature to give your brain and body a tune-up.


Or you can do something a little less time consuming and, basically, cost free. Find a tree near where you live. It might be a tree in your yard, in your neighborhood, or in a community park.


Spend a little time walking near the tree, sitting under its branches, or admiring it as you stroll through the park or neighborhood. When you do that, notice what begins to happen to your body and your brain. Does your body start to relax? Does your brain quit going a hundred miles an hour and begin to slow down?


Do you feel less stressed? Are your worries starting to fade? You might feel more alert. Maybe you sense a surge of creativity flooding your mind and body. As you start to relax, you may discover you can let go of those angry, upset, or irritated thoughts about a person or situation.


By the time you've spent 15 or 20 minutes around those trees, you may feel like you have a lot more energy. It's amazing how good we can feel when we let go of unhealthy thoughts that weigh us down. It takes a lot of energy to carry around so much weight!


There are many places where you can learn more about the benefits of being in nature and about getting into a meditative state. One of those places is in Mindful Magazine, which is packed full of ideas for getting healthier by learning to mindfully meditate in different ways. You can get it on-line or as a colorful  magazine postal mailed to your home.


Have fun spending a little time among trees in the next few days. You may be surprised how much better you feel afterwards.

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Make Up a Name for Your Favorite Tree

This spruce tree in my back yard has a new name: Meleeka
Spruce tree in my back yard

Five years ago, when I moved to the house where I live now, I went into the back yard and looked at a tall spruce tree. It seemed quite beautiful. In the evening, it looked a little sparkly. It seemed to be catching a hint of light from somewhere. I called it Sparkly Spruce.


Every time I went into the back yard, I would say, "Hello, Sparkly Spruce." It made the tree seem like a friend.


But I always thought there was a better name for the tree. For a long time, I couldn't figure out what that name might be.


Then one day this month when it was cold outside, I stayed inside and looked through the living room glass sliding door at Sparkly Spruce. There was something elegant about the tree, something almost regal.


I thought about calling it Mellik, a name that means king in Arabic. But that didn't seem to suit it. There was something feminine about the tree. I didn't know what the female version of Mellik was, but Meleeka sounded like it would work. The name seemed to fit the tree. Now every time I'm in the back yard, I say, "Hi, Meleeka." It's fun to think about having royalty living in my yard.


Do you have a favorite tree in your yard or somewhere in your neighborhood? It might be fun to figure out a name for the tree you like so much.


Stand near the tree. Study it. Notice everything about it. You may feel a sense of calmness as you focus on the tree.


What name do you think fits the tree? If no name comes, just keep noticing how comfortable you feel being around the tree. A name might pop into your head. If it seems to fit the tree, it will be a good name for it.


Every time you go by the tree, you can say hi to the tree and call it by the name you gave it. The tree might seem a little more special to you because you have given it a name.


The next time you are bored and wonder what to do, find another tree and go through the same process to give it a name. It's a fun way to be creative.

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How to Help Others Stay Grounded

This tall cottonwood leans a little before it straightens up.
A tall cottonwood

When people are sick or experience an emotional upheaval, they often have a hard time staying grounded. Instead of feeling connected to the good old terra firma, they seem to be floating off somewhere. Talk to them, and they're a little flighty and unattached. Their mind wanders, making them unfocused.


How do you help someone like that? If they can walk, take them outside and sit with them near a tree. Trees are so attached to the Earth with their roots that their groundedness can have a positive affect on whoever feels a little flighty, unfocused, or unattached.


If they are too sick to go outside, buy a potted plant, something rooted in soil. Put that plant in their hospital room or bedroom where they can easily see it as they lie in bed. They may get a sense of rootedness from the plant. It could help them feel more grounded.


Talk with them about ways to feel more grounded. Have them imagine they are lying on green grass and feeling the firmness of the Earth through their bodies. Or imagine they are on a beach half buried in pleasantly warm sand. That feeling of being attached to the Earth helps people feel more connected to their own life in this present moment. It can help them heal faster and feel more enthusiastic about wanting to get well.


If they can't get outside and plants are not allowed inside, play a game with them. Each of you imagine a tree you have seen that made an impression on you. Take turns describing the tree you remember, what its bark looked like, how its roots grew into the soil, how you felt when you were near it. Whoever isn't doing the remembering should listen carefully. Just remembering the tree can help a person feel more grounded. And just being listened to can make them feel more whole.

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