I love bumper stickers. And since I travel at bicycle-pace everyday I get to read a lot of them…on passing cars, parked cars, rusted cars in yards, cars stopped at red lights or speeding up through yellow lights. I particularly like the clever ones, but am also entertained by the stupid ones…I guess because it gives me an opportunity to harmlessly release my judgmental tendencies and make myself feel smart by thinking, “That’s dumb.” One of the more clever stickers I’ve seen in my neighborhood is PUT OFF PROCRASTINATION. But my favorite one simply says, BUMPER STICKER. Smart.
The other day when I was walking home from the grocery store with a dozen eggs under my arm, I saw one on the back of an older model sedan parked on the street in front of a typical northwest bungalow surrounded by a completely edible yard. Although the saying itself is one I’ve seen many times and is not particularly clever, I DID get a chuckle when I passed by the car’s front end which was riddled with dents and had a smashed headlight that was covered with clear plastic and duct tape. The sticker read: WOMEN ARE NATURAL BORN LEADERS…YOU’RE FOLLOWING ONE. My first thought was, “I sure hope so, because she seems to be a terrible follower.”
Another sticker I see a lot says something like, THE MORE I GET TO KNOW PEOPLE, THE MORE I LIKE MY DOG. It doesn’t cause me to laugh, but I DO like the message. Although, if I had been the designer I’d have said: THE MORE I GET TO KNOW PEOPLE AND THEIR DOGS, THE MORE I LIKE TREES. Nothing against people (as I AM one and know it’s more helpful to like myself than not), or dogs (well, except the ones that bark, jump on you, chase you on your bike, get into the garbage, run away, or break your heart when they die). I just really prefer trees.
For one, they’re dependable…always at home with an open door and willing to listen to your problems. They don’t push their wisdom on you, but gently guide you by their example: stay grounded while reaching for the stars, weather all storms by bending where you can and allowing old dead branches to snap off. Live in harmony with the micro-organisms that eat your fallen leaves. Offer a branch to a bird who needs to nest. Give up your fruit when it’s ripe. You know, tree talk. It’s quiet, but compassionately direct. I have had many tree friends over the years. There’s Ella in Cornwall Park, Elmer in Elizabeth Park, and dozens of nameless ones I pass by daily who offer up their friendliness even though I don’t take the time to stop and chat…or yes, hug. Okay….kiss.
Now before you start releasing your judgmental tendencies on me for kissing trees, just think about all the times you’ve talked to, held, caressed, or in some way expressed your fondness and appreciation for butterflies, turtles, ladybugs, frogs, deer, roses, sunflowers, salamanders, rocks…you get the picture. Of course we ALL love and appreciate Nature. We just express it in our own way (even the resource-extraction company owners love and appreciate an accessible vein of coal or copper…they just see dollar signs where most of us see beauty). However, being the willing electricity-using, toilet-paper-appreciating participant in 21st-century life on Earth that I am, I have to wonder if my kissing a few trees, or your stroking a few soft wild rose petals, will truly make up for cutting down 20 million trees a year to make chopsticks or blowing the tops off mountains, sending Bambi’s guts and bones flying up into the sky, so we can mine coal so we can flip on a television to watch a reality show in order to escape reality.
Uh…hello humans…we’re killing the planet that keeps us alive. But I know you know this. So I won’t go on and on about it because it just feels bad and bad feelings suck. It’s better to feel happy. Happiness feels good. I just wanted to explain why I like trees more than people…they always seem to do the right thing. Don’t resist the nature of Nature. Absorb water. Soak in the sun. Grow. Be at peace. We, the humans, don’t seem to get this. We’re all just pretty stupid. Which brings me back to kissing trees.
I’m not the smartest tree-kisser in the world. Several weeks ago when I was in a funk about….oh, everything…I took a walk in the night to visit Elmer. It was cold and raining. I was either crying or about to cry. I walked up to him as I do and said hello. I told him how beautiful he is with all of his burls and scars from his hundreds of years of life. He’s big. Maybe four or five feet in diameter. They grow big out here with all the rain. I think he’s an elm…maybe a maple…not sure…we didn’t study trees in school. Or I just don’t remember. I just know he’s majestic and strong and always there for me. I reached out to him and placed both of my palms on his massive trunk. His bark is jagged. Crevices create shadows even at night because of the lights that line the park pathways. I felt deep gratitude for this giant. I leaned in to kiss this one particular swath of bark that I always kiss. Only it was dark and my judgement was a little off and WHACK! I banged my front tooth hard. I laughed. In my imagination, he laughed. It was the perfect thing to bring out of my funk.
When I got up the next morning, lighter and happier than the night before, I looked in the mirror and saw that I had chipped my front tooth. I thought, “How will I ever explain this to people who notice?” More importantly, “How will I ever passionately kiss another person again without cutting their lip?” Yes, yes, yes….I know, I could go to the dentist and have him or her file it down. But first of all, I don’t have the money to do that right now, and secondly, it occurred to me that a sharp chipped tooth just might be the perfect defense against getting close to other stupid people only to be brokenhearted by our stupidity. Besides, Elmer doesn’t seem to mind. He likes my kisses, chipped tooth or not.