Don’t Forget to Hug Trees

Don’t Forget to Hug Trees

“Don’t Forget to Hug Trees” A painting from Francine Davies’ Iceland Series. Currently on show at Crafts by the Sea, Ogmore by Sea, Vale of Glamorgan.


Don’t Forget to Hug Trees

It is not unheard of in our family to hear someone say of me: “For someone so simple you don’t half complicate things!” or “Stop Thinking!!!!” or even “How on earth did you arrive at that…?”

It’s true I do live by some very primitive beliefs that have evolved from simply living day by day for nearly 50 years sharing, caring, losing, finding, making, breaking and many other human actions.  Like many others I have experienced enormous sadness at the loss of people that I believed I could never survive, living without.  So I learnt quickly that I needed to develop a survival infrastructure that would help me function and give me a constant that I could turn to unconditionally.  So I turned to Nature.

It was my family who introduced me to Nature  throughout my childhood.  With farming at the heart of my father’s upbringing he ensured I had a deep, inquiring passion for Nature and its processes.  But even more generous of him was to awaken in me an awareness of how empathetic the landscape was and how unconditional its support would be.

Do not at this point begin to place me in a category and assume I am speaking from a religious or even scientific doctrine.  I am speaking purely about how my beliefs were formed from experiencing first hand the generosity of Nature.  I won’t let religion or science take the credit for the beliefs I live with because they break them down and take away fundamental aspects.  For example, sometimes I need Nature to be inexplicable, mystical and magical.   The arguments that can arise between science and religion do not interest me whereas,  first hand experiences of Nature performing, holding me gently at times of distress or scaring the wits out of me,  have never been so welcomed as now.

I am so grateful to my parents who knew I would need something greater than them to help me through my life.  They showed me how to allow Nature to flourish and how to respect it in its various forms.  They showed me how to look for answers in its history and take comfort from the inevitability of change.  They showed me how to care for it and live off it- to a degree.  They taught me about balance and harmony and subsistence.  They taught me about animal welfare and even the intelligence of plants.

I have not practiced every part of what I was taught every second of every day, as like most people, I have been going with the flow of a capitalist society.   However, I feel really lucky to have never been homeless, never been entirely broke but always having to watch the pennies.  Fortunately, I have always had a creative streak so the fashion and home décor industries have never benefited much from me.  Even as a teenager I liked to alter things or adapt things or preferred something old and more battered rather than something pristine and smooth.  Texture and a history always won over “latest” or “popular”.

However, It took me until I had my children to change gear properly and keep the focus on ‘backwards’ rather than ‘forwards’ when thinking, buying and creating experiences in their lives.  Nature came fully back in to my life then and has never played second best to anything else ever again.  Whilst I can still remember being sucked in at times by popular culture and capitalist expectations I am so grateful for having been shown Nature in the first instance.

Being shown that there was natural space out there for us when we needed it and even when I lived in towns and cities I knew it was there and sought it out.  This has been the greatest gift my parents could have given me.  Furthermore, they never ever made me look at it as a resource to exploit but rather as something to build an almost subservient relationship with. I have always known that it needed caring for and I questioned throughout my studies how people could have exploited it so badly over the years.  Furthermore, how those same people could also demand that it protect them and entertain them and feed them from the entire circumference of the planet.

If we look back at how attitudes to Nature have changed over time we can easily begin to understand how we have taken Nature for granted and how hard nature has been working to meet our demands.  Watching the numbers of folk who have tried to reach out to Nature during this pandemic only goes to show how much it means to us all.  How much we know we are getting from it every time we experience it and how much we expect from it. When i suggested it gives itself freely and unconditionally it can only do so if we know it for what it is and understand the basis of it’s demise.  It will keep giving unconditionally but it isn’t able to replenish so what it can give unconditionally becomes less and less.

Knowing how important it is to my life as a: backbone; a hand; a cushion and a mentor I have spent more time lately simply wondering what I can give back to it.  The one thing that the lock down has highlighted for me is how calm we all are.  How we talk to strangers, how we metaphorically “reach out” to others and try and touch their lives in some way.  The desire to show others our love and gratitude, many of whom we have never met but are helping us stay safe is phenomenal.  We have time around the house to talk with the people in our lives and concentrate on many of the most basic of daily tasks such as meal times and household maintenance.  Things we had decided we were too busy to priotise previously.  In particular I refer to the re-cycling of waste which when introduced originally caused us all a degree of stress as it took time to wash and sort out.  The recycling throughout the lock down has become even more ingrained in our family life and we have begun to look closer at what we are throwing away and seeing other opportunities for things before we bin them.  We have time, you see.  Everything used to be a chore.  Now people are talking about their chores as if they have become their latest hobbies.  It is wonderful because we are “living in tune with life”.  Our environment has become our sanctuary.  We are seeing all those environments that support us with our eyes wide open and clear.  ‘Time’ is the very thing that can make a difference to our attitudes to Nature and the Environment.

Many of you are still working hard to deadlines and some of us are trying hard to create our deadlines to keep things going but all of us who so far have been sparred from the awful virus are realising we are supported by our environments in ways we perhaps previously didn’t notice.  Whether it is four walls and a window or a access to a patio or garden many of us have never been more grateful for nature than we are now.

I have shied from putting up paintings as posts on Facebook because I didn’t want people to feel downhearted if they could not experience them themselves right now. This really stopped me in my tracks.  I have struggled to find reason to paint but then with the help of friends and family I was reminded that for a good year or so I have focused on connecting Art with Nature as a powerful tool for promoting Wellbeing.  Therefore, I have regained some of my motivation and will post again more regularly.  Like with The Ogs, this is not a commercial venture but a basic desire to connect you with environments that perhaps you are missing in the hope that they brighten up your days.  I have seen how much pleasure it has bought one of my elderly, housebound neighbours and now I have come to appreciate I do have a purpose during this pandemic and I will stop questioning it and just do what everyone else is doing:  The best they can!

And don’t forget whenever you are near a tree, give it a hug!  Another thing my dad taught me xx

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