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Hemlocks in Snow

“Do you know that even when you look at a tree and say, ‘That is an oak tree’, or ‘that is a banyan tree’, the naming of the tree, which is botanical knowledge, has so conditioned your mind that the word comes between you and actually seeing the tree? To come in contact with the tree you have to put your hand on it and the word will not help you to touch it.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known

I encountered a stand of hemlock trees shading the path I walked. Combined with the crisp breeze I was quickly chilled. Not five minutes before I’d contemplated taking off layers and just like that the trees stole whatever warmth was radiating down from the sun and left me with nothing but cold. Yet the trees stood indifferently to my comfort.

Walking through the hemlocks, feeling their silent majesty, I stopped focusing on myself and appreciated the stoic beauty of the trees. These trees touched me, even as I felt their indifference. And I wanted to linger even with the cold wind relentlessly driving me to find a sunny spot on the trail. Now mind you, I don’t go around hugging trees. But I do exhibit what might be considered by some to be an unusual fondness for them. And these trees, red bark and green needles, are survivors. It’s not easy growing on a mountain, and my moment of cold discomfort was a good reminder of their toughness. For even now they stand together in the dark of a winter night, while I retreat to the comfort of home.

It’s funny, you can leave a stand of trees, yet they stay with you still.

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