JoAn Martin

If you have ever been to California, you might have had the privilege to hug a tree. I am truly a tree-hugger. I once hugged a tree in California that was alive during the time of Christ. I couldn’t resist. I had to get next to such ancient life. To walk among that grove of redwoods was better than walking in the hush of a cathedral, only a tree more ancient than any church. I couldn’t help looking up in the presence of such trees.

Naturally, I had to take their measure. Even with the help of my family we couldn’t reach all the way around those trees, but it was awesome to try. Baytown could be called Trees on the Bays. We too have trees that are worthy of hugging. You too have hugged trees, admit it or not. When you were a child, you hugged lots of trees if you were a climber, like me, or if you used trees as home base during hide-and-seek. 

Carrying a load of firewood is a way of tree hugging, if done with a certain attitude. And when cutting down the Christmas tree, I’ve on occasion taken hold of trees in ways that could be described as hugging.

On the other hand, I’ve been known to wrap both arms around a scruffy old oak and utter thanks and blessings for what it’s meant to the scenery and the air and the critters of this garden-spot of the universe. It’s a way of giving thanks, and giving thanks is the key to happiness. Amen, brother. It’s a way of affirming life, of choosing hope over despair, faith over cynicism.

Abe Lincoln, a man who sometimes suffered what we’d call clinical depression--a man who suffered cataclysms and personal tragedies and incredible stress, said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

It’s true. To assess life by starting with your misfortunes is a sucker’s game. There’s no end to the misery you can catalogue. For the privilege of being alive, I start each day with an attitude of gratitude. How lucky am I?

I would say, let me count the ways, but it would be impossible. Life is like winning 50 million lotteries in a row to have existence at all. That’s how much luck is required. It took all the crazy detours of history to bring your parents together or you wouldn’t be here now. 

And those trees, exhaling oxygen and inhaling the poisonous carbon dioxide from our own breath, exist in a relationship to us that is symbolic of the fragile web of life. It is reason enough to thank God. And reason enough to hug a tree.

JoAn Martin is a retired teacher with five published novels. Reach her at or at


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