I started meditating every morning with an online group in January.

We meet on Zoom at around dawn, two dozen people from several countries, each of us in our little boxes on the computer monitor. A different person leads each day, having hand-picked a 15-to-20-minute meditation from any of numerous sites online, or by reading our own. Some leaders light candles or hit the side of a prayer bowl to signal the start. At the signal, we mute and turn off our video. The words on the audio usually begin with some version of “Find a comfortable position” and “Take a deep breath. Breathe in. Breathe out.”

In the three weeks I’ve been doing this I’ve noticed the effects throughout my day, like a lower heart rate at rest on my Fitbit and a deeper calm to handling the numerous curve balls thrown my way. I solve problems easier. I go with the flow.

I also notice things I’d looked past before, like trees! A meditation by the late Thich Nhat Hanh had me thinking of a tree I had cherished in the past, and I imagined I was standing on the grounds of a stately mansion-turned-retirement-home in Virginia, where there was a colorful maple I loved seeing change from green to orange leaves every fall.

Then I thought about the tree on the road leaving Pine Level for Selma, how the tree was trimmed by working crews to avoid power lines and now the tree looks like a chicken.

Later, after that meditation, I was walking out the door of the Harrison Center for Active Aging in Selma, and I glanced to my left. There, across the street, spreading its limbs in a cosmic hug, was the most magnificent tree.

It has a thick split-open trunk, like a grandfather wearing his jacket open because it doesn’t fit closed anymore. In seven years I have never noticed this tree. I guess I looked right through it, really. I know I saw the houses beneath its canopy because there are always people coming and going, or moving about on their porches, living their daily lives, bicycling, mowing the grass, talking to neighbors. I just never thought about how they were under this tree’s sheltering embrace.

In fact this huge tree had been waiting patiently seven years for me to look up at her. When I did, I sensed motion, as if it was drawing me closer, like a mother who opens her arms to encourage a child running home. I felt that if I went and hugged the tree, it would envelop me in her bosom.

I photographed the tree so I could write about it here. I’d like to explore drawing the tree as well, and getting advice from a local artist about bringing the tree to a fuller dimension on paper.

Now, every time I park at the center, I stop to nod my head and greet the tree. I get the feeling she has stories to tell me, now that she has my attention. I plan to keep meditating to see what else I can explore.


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