From Wikipedia. I need one of these babies.

I keep thinking about how I stink at counting.  I mean it.  Counting calories even with a handy dandy fitness app, counting steps – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grimaced to realise I’d forgotten to put my fake Fitbit on and missed out on getting credit for my grocery store shop (you can really crank up the steps there) or morning stroll through Toys Hill with Winnie.  When friends used to try and share the goings on of their statistics classes at university, my eyes would gloss over as the numbers and calculations just jumbled from their mouths, pinball-ed around my brain and dribbled out, I guess, through my ears…Nowadays I stand in utter fascination as Skyler and his Maths’ tutor, Ms Chapman, confidently discuss SURDS, completing the circle and differentiation – throwing in mental math calculations to quickly identify the answers. I can’t even keep up in my own home.

But I’m actually not bad with numbers.  Give me an event to run and I’m your girl on the spreadsheets tallying up costs and affordability of a ball, an eighteenth or our annual Christmas party.  I guess it’s more that I am uninspired by numbers as much as I am ignited by words.  I can hum along to the Ten Duel Commandments from Hamilton with the best of them (you really don’t want to hear me sing) or recall the Twelve Days of Christmas as sweetly as the true love who received the gifts, but taken out of context, numbers just don’t stick in my head.

If I’m forced to remember numbers,  I physically have to write them down.  Funny enough, though, I do appreciate their importance even if my brain’s not wired to retain them.  I appreciate the numbers in our bank account (for instance) and Nick even more so for working so hard to earn them so we can pay for the incredible life we lead (please see above parties). I appreciate numbers for keeping track of beats of music, monitoring temperatures and speed limits, and for where we are in history. In fact, I’m good at anniversaries and dates. But if I need to start counting numbers on my fingers or a calculator they start to boggle my brain. Numbers counting new COVID cases, COVID tests, COVID deaths.  I get confused how to keep track of them all.  Numbers counting the contributions to furlough schemes.  Numbers counting the days we need to self isolate if we are diagnosed with COVID which differs from the number of days our bubble then needs to quarantine.  Numbers of people in England we are allowed to meet with inside or out (okay I can do that one – 6).  Numbers telling us the time pubs need to close to safely to contain the spread of the virus – which does beg the question can COVID tell time?  I wouldn’t put it past it.  

Funnier still, although I am not so good at counting numbers, I want to be held accountable and not only that I want to count.  I want the way in which I am conducting my life to count for something.  To register in the Big Book of Accounting of Life if there is one.  I strive to be considered an asset and I definitely do not want to negatively impact the world or others. And I don’t just hold myself up to measure.  I want people who can actually do something about the numbers that effect the world…COVID cases, increase in CO2 emissions, balance of Supreme Court justices, Parliamentary, Senate and House votes, Presidential votes … I want them to show some accountability.  I want them to take some ownership for the roles they’ve been given by the highest count of votes they received from us.  I want them to stand up and be accounted for. I want them to take this time in history to do the right, just thing.  To use the power of the numbers they have supporting them in the best way possible.

With honour. With integrity. With the intent for the good of all.

“United we stand, divided we fall” still rings true for me no matter what nation you hail from or live in.  Humanity needs a way to work it out.  I’d argue to find, not only good health for us all, but quality of life including equality of life.  

And while we’re at it, please could we give voice to those who cannot speak(or indeed count) for themselves?  Please, please can we find a way to look after the 1 place we all live on? However you divide, multiply, subtract or add it all up, in the end, don’t we all want the same result?

Balance. Equal share of resources and responsibility. Respect for ourselves and others. Honesty. True guardianship of our planet. Fairness. To be listened to and heard.  Are all some of the factors I’d consider worthwhile outcomes.

2020 has been a year laden with meaningful numbers. So much to count with so much we are counting on…ultimately a vaccine, fingers crossed a new president  – definitely each other.

Perhaps the best way I can make it all make sense is to count one thing I know, big or small, counts the most. My blessings. Even though they are innumerable, taking the time to count and give thanks for them is absolutely worth it. 


For Jennifer and Robb

The Hugging Trees

I spoke to my step-mom, Judy, last week.  We had a great conversation.  I especially enjoyed hearing how much trees resonate with her as much as they do me.  So much so, Judy has named the tree outside their house.  The one overhanging their patio, the birdbath and feeder, the wetland waterway bordered by pluff mud and filled with the briney water found between sea and the inland bay of that South Carolina lowland.  Next to the Crowders (the best neighbours anyone could hope for) the tree growing on Broomfield Creek, Lady’s Island. We always say Dad and Judy found paradise as they overlook the waterway running alongside their property teeming with dolphins, rays, sharks, crabs and shrimp caught by the net-full off their dock.  They enjoy the days with bluebirds, painted buntings, hummingbirds and cardinals visiting the feeder, ospreys nesting and egrets strolling, freezing and dipping to feed at low tide.  They watch stunning sunsets over the Sparta grass to see out the evening.  They measure the seasons of the year, not so much by leaves turning red in the autumn and renewed with green buds in the spring, instead, they can tell by the state of grass what time of year they are in. They watch it all through the frame of the dangling Spanish moss swaying in the breeze off the limbs of what Judy calls ‘The Sheltering Tree’.

If you know one thing about me you know how much I love trees; their dignity, their stoicism, the bounty of all they give to us as fuel, as food, as paper, as breathable air!  I love Judy’s connection that trees are also a shelter, physically and mentally, for us.  I can’t but count my blessings I am surrounded by magnificent trees and can regularly walk in the woods with my dog, Winston.  Where the awesomeness of the ocean humbles me in its vastness and power, the intimacy of the woods is one I find so accessible.  A soothing, restoring, hands-on touch with Nature.  The Japanese even have a phrase for it, “shinrin yoku” or forest bathing, which connects for me with the feeling of refreshment we can get from a walk in the woods.

I’ve learned other words like ‘bower’ and ‘dappled’ through walks in and amongst the trees.  You know how you can learn a word from the dictionary, learn it by sight but to really get to know a word sometimes takes an experience to truly understand it?  It took walking to that quiet place emerging in amongst a thicket of brown, grey, mossy trunks to a sacred space amidst the trees, hidden from the world absorbing the sounds and worries of the outside to properly breathe deeply and purely to realise I’d found myself a “bower”. When I first read Keats’ poem, Endymion, at university in Virginia I had to look up the word to appreciate the poem more.  From my strolls around Toys Hill I realise how perfectly Keats choose it.

In those bowers and beyond, the woods have their own soundscape.  They buffer out the pull of the weight of the world filling it instead with birdcalls, rustles in the underbrush, breezes pulling through the treetops to sound just like the draw of a wave across the shore.  Listen and you will hear it too. The squeak of the branches that rub against each others bark, the drip on the umbrella of a canopy in a rainstorm.  It all feels like a filter where thoughts can be examined, played with, fetched like the stick I throw for Winston.  Reminiscing comes easily for me in the woods settled by the pace of my steady walk.  I feel I can tap into my resources but never drain them there.

And it’s nice to know I’m not alone.  The BBC has made 2020 The Year of The Tree covering stories examining “The Power of Trees” in our world on their nightly PM show.  People show the presenter their favourite tree and explain why it is so.  I’m in good company, I reckon.  People getting a kick out of trees’ Spring blossom or Autumn harvest.  I’ll take trees any time full of leaves, evergreen or leaflessly hibernating through the winter.  They find me where ever I go.  Even at Yoga, where Kay has been coaching us to plant our feet in the mat, ground ourselves so we can bend and sway like palm trees.  

And it is good to know we’re not alone.  Especially when those you love and hold as dear as the upright towering redwoods forever strong fixtures in the structure of your life are no longer there.  As strong and solid as an oak remembered best at his home on Oak Grove Lane (believe it or not), my best friend’s father who we lost this week.  When someone like Jim Miller comes into your life and loves you like his own, kids with you and supports you even from afar when your own children grow up.  When a presence like that is felled out of the blue, you feel the tear of his roots exposed from the ground into the air like the shock of a raw gash in a tree snapped at the trunk.  Mr Miller was one of the trees in my stand of friends and family. With him down, I can’t help but feel the gap he has left in our lives.  Just the size and shape of him.

At times like these you wish for the ‘hugging trees’ as I’ve named them.  Especially the pair just above the pond before you get to the horse gate.  A pair of trees that have grown so close they are entwined and hold each other upright even when one is weakened.  It is something to behold.  Unabated, undeniable support.

So I turn to the trees like friends and I hope in touching one, the love and support I feel for those left standing find its way like ‘treelepathy’ and grant them some peace as safe as the haven of an arbour. I search for words to ease and lighten the loads of others but sometimes my own are not enough.  Instead, I thank my friend, Suzanne, for knowing just when to share Mary Oliver’s poem, When I Am Among The Trees with me just when I needed it.

Whatever you are living with or through, may the grace of trees find you and grant you the shelter you seek.  May you bathe in their beauty and peace and emerge renewed.