Of all nature’s creations the one that has the most draw on me are trees. The connection feels primal. I am a tree-hugger but not in the sense of ecological politics. I am a tree-hugger because I like hugging trees. There is no larger agenda behind it. I also like hugging trees because they do not hug back. There is probably some psychology involved in that but it does not matter to me.
By design or default university campuses the world over tend to have great trees. Trees everywhere exude that sense of rootedness for more reasons than the most obvious one. However, on campuses they have that extra depth in their rootedness.
I was at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign yesterday to complete my son Jashn’s registration in the School of Engineering. While he went about his orientation I had an opportunity to check out one particular kind of tree seen in the photos. I have no idea what it is called but irrespective of what it is called it has great charms. The leaves are fine and like needles but they don’t prick. They felt surprisingly tender. I almost wanted to eat them as salad.
What’s best about trees in terms of their aesthetics is that they are at once rugged and gentle. The trunk and branches of this particular tree, for instance, have the bark in various stages of peeling and falling. That gives the tree that weather-beaten look which is wild but full of allure.
All trees have a bearing that is both self-assured and precarious. They all look improvised and not necessarily thoughtfully designed. Therein lie their charms. There is probably is a science as to why a particular tree, even within the same family, grows in a particular way. Looking at them though, you get the sense that they have just made up their shapes extemporaneously as they go along. You would have noticed that no two trees are alike although they may feel like it.
Even without the NSA monitoring it trees have no privacy. People like me touch them at will, hug them and take pictures without their permission. I am yet to hear a tree protest or push me away.
I find it striking that despite being exposed to the elements most trees look well turned out. I doubt if standing out in the open for years I can look a tenth as good as many of the trees do. To be as immobile as trees and yet to be so vibrant demands extraordinary natural gifts.