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Notes from an empath: Tree hugger

As the bozillinth week of the pandemic begins, I am really feeling the absence of things I miss.

Catching up with pals in the pub. Sitting alone in a café with an Earl Grey tea and an open notebook. Attending poetry gigs. Hosting poetry gigs. Touring my show. Going to the theatre. Volunteering at the food bank. Day trips to other cities. Train journeys to visit my sister and nieces in London. Knowing I could fly to Canada to see family if I wanted / needed to.

[Side note of gratitude: Canadian family are well and thankfully this hasn’t been an issue.]

And hugs. Wow, I miss hugs. I miss getting them and I miss giving them.

When I first moved to the UK in 2003, I was on my own a lot. I remember missing hugs then too.

I was staying in a backpacker’s hostel in Edinburgh, working part time in a shop and going on weekend hop-on-hop-off bus tours around Scotland. The tours were as cheesy as they were fun, and I made some lifelong friendships on these adventures. On one of these weekend treks, we stopped near the shores of Loch Lomond. We got out of the tour bus to stretch our legs (great for me, being the tall, leggy gal that I am!) and to snap photos of the sublime setting.

Our tour guide was a gregarious Scot with shaggy blonde hair and a massive voice, thick with an accent that was still so new to me. He bounded around each location we visited, sporting an oversized knitted jumper and red tartan kilt for the entire weekend. Full of warmth and wit and tons of stories he was also – as they say – mad as a box of frogs.

On our stop at Loch Lomond, I looked over to see him with his arms and legs wrapped around a tree. His face shone with joy. He declared that hugging a tree is worth 14 human hugs. He belted out orders for us to hug trees too. I laughed. I tried it. I loved it.

Now, as my tired spirit limps along in 2021 and I force myself to go for daily walks in the nearby park, I think I may start hugging trees. Not sure how long it will take to make up for months of missed human hugs, but it might have to do for now.


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