As I’ve written before, I talk to the trees. (There’s  song about that from the musical, “Paint Your Wagon…”) Seriously, I always have. I grew up in Bay Village, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland and lived right smack on Lake Erie where trees grow like crazy.

When I was about six years old I discovered a young tree on our property I hadn’t noticed before and absolutely fell in love with it. I don’t know what kind of tree it was, I only know it was incredibly beautiful. I named it, “Hope.”

I climbed up Hope’s trunk almost every day and wrapped my arms around her leafy branches. Sometimes I told her silly, little girl stories I’d made up. And sometimes I sang her songs.

Hope seemed happy with my attention and grew bigger and stronger. And even ‘tho I grew taller too, I finally had to get a small ladder so I could reach her lower branches and get a good foothold.

By the time we moved away about ten years later, her branches were huge and her height was nearly a hundred feet. I wonder if she’s still there. I bet she is. I hope someone is sitting in her branches – and talking to her. And maybe even singing to her…

I hadn’t thought about Hope in a long time. Until last week. Last week I was jogging around the reservoir in Central Park (there’s a beautiful path where only walkers, runners and bicycle riders go; it’s wonderful any time of the day, in any season, regardless of the weather.) I was concentrating on my “workout” – getting my thoughts together for the day ahead, deciding what I was going to wear… and not much else.

Then for some reason, I did something I don’t ever remember doing on all those morning jogs: I looked up. Not only did I look up, I stopped dead in my tracks – and said out loud: “Wow! My God, you’re so beautiful.” There in front of me was perhaps the most gorgeous tree I’d ever seen. It must have been at least 300 feet tall with branches that seemed to reach up to the sky as if to embrace life.

I was literally transfixed. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tree so big, so graceful, so proud, so…well, magnificent.

“Where have I been all my life?” I asked the tree out loud. The tree stood still for a few seconds and then shrugged. It was the wind ruffling her leaves, of course, but I took it for “Hey, I was here, where were you?”

And I can answer that. I was “looking down.” I was “getting stuff done.” Like jogging. And going to meetings. Answering emails and texting. Reading the papers and watching the news. Cleaning out closets and catching planes. Emptying the dishwasher and paying bills. Getting my nails done…and walking the beloved Willa.

And speaking of Willa, I asked her the “Where have I been all my life” question and she gave a little whimper and thumped her tail: Her way of saying, “It’s okay, mom. I still love you.” I patted her beautiful head.

“Not looking up” is understandable, I guess, isn’t it? But is it really “okay?”

Not when you miss the one-of-a-kind magnificence of – and the conversation you can have with – a hundred year old tree.

Or the magic of the sun shining on the water you’re about to jump into. Or the look on the face of somebody you love who could use a hug… (Or a pat.)

This is the week to start looking up and looking for the simple thrills. Or something – or someone – new to love and be grateful for. And wrap your arms (and maybe your heart) around them.

Perhaps that will give you Hope…

Here’s a picture of the tree I talk to (I call her “Hope 2″) – and her sisters…

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