Every day, since January 17, I have taken a picture of a tree. I’m not completely sure why, except that the small act of pausing and appreciation enhances my day somehow, and watching Spring’s arrival definitely helped with the darker months of Winter. As William Blake noted, there is a definite scale for humanity’s response to trees: “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.”
Sometimes I take a fleeting snap through a bus window or as I chase the dog across the park, but really the idea is to stop for a few moments. To not take a tree for granted, but to make it the focus of my attention. To get away from my thoughts and be in nature, even if that’s beside a busy road.
Before I narrowed my focus down quite so specifically, I spent a year taking a daily picture of something I was grateful for. Inspired by Plot 22’s blog on the 365 grateful project; I loved the observation that “it was like spinning a thread of gold through a world of grey.”
Some choices were obvious - family, friends, home, food (I tried hard not to overdo it on the food front). TV rarely got a look-in - although the opening credits of Borgen made it. And then a surprise side-effect: I began to notice nature much more vividly. Living in a town it’s easy to feel disconnected from the natural world, but it began to jump out at me - a flower in a garden on my way to work, light dramatically hitting the sea on a winter morning, the inner workings of a freshly cut red cabbage. Finding these moments - counting my blessings, I suppose - felt very anchoring and positive. Even on a bad day my brain was programmed to look out for the good stuff, and I began to realise what makes me happy, and perhaps better understand my values and where I should be spending my time.
For properly beautiful photographs and tree appreciation, have a look at the book Meetings with Remarkable Trees by Thomas Pakenham.
And for more on slowing down, read In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honore.
For a daily photograph, I like the app Project 365, but you could just as easily draw a picture, write a few words, or make a mental note each day.