It all started in the 60’s as ‘flower power’ gained momentum and people smoked a little too much gunja while becoming overly obsessed with free love. What began as an act of respect, honouring our trees for the place they command in our environment, has evolved into a more one-sided, candid affair. And nobody bothered to ask our trees how they felt about this spontaneous invasion of privacy.

For myself, I have a big no-go comfort zone, where only certain people – my wife, kids, immediate family and perhaps someone seeking solace in their grief – can enter. If others disrespectfully try to invade this chastened area, the hairs on the back of my neck pique like an echidna’s defense system. Warning bells resound within my head and suddenly I feel more awkward than Hugh Grant trying to act.

Take this to the next level….we all know trees have feelings, yet they are unable to communicate them – certainly not as well as these plants, anyway. Who knows, maybe trees don’t approve of our impromptu advances.

A hug is a very special thing. And it doesn’t just communicate “I care about you.” An embrace from your grandmother may seem innocent enough but two teenagers hugging in the back of a car demonstrates something completely different – especially to her father who’s descending on the car faster than a leopard tracking its prey.

So, let’s assume there is a possibility that maybe trees don’t overly approve of our embracing gestures. That being the case, perhaps we need to be a little more discerning in how we approach a tree and grasp it in our clutches. Here’s some points to consider;

  • Learn how to hug. It may seem completely obvious that hugging is a natural physical response but some people, for whatever reason, just suck at it. Take time to be a good hugger.
  • Always remain aware of the relationship you have with the tree – basically its plutonic. It can never, and will never, be anything more than that so don’t kid yourself. Your embrace needs to reflect your understanding of this situation.
  • Don’t hug a tree around large groups. This could mean large groups of people or large groups of trees. The former can be embarrassing for the tree while the latter can cause insane jealousy within a forest. Be mindful of who’s watching you. You don’t want to hurt anyones feelings.
  • Never be the last to let go. You initiated the hug so it’s within your control as to when its appropriate to break the embrace. Don’t wait for the tree or you’ll be there for a long time.
  • Group hugs are appropriate – bear hugs aren’t.
  • If the tree hurts you in the midst of an embrace (ie. its bark grazes your skin, a twig pierces your finger or it drops a heavy bough on your head) take it as a sign that maybe you’re getting a little too close for comfort. Don’t abuse the tree but respectfully step away and find another more engaging offer.
  • Don’t tell your mates about your activities. The “I hugged a tree on the weekend” story is slightly disrespectful and won’t win you, or the tree, any friends. Enjoy the memory – just don’t boast about it.

If you follow these simple guidelines your tree hugging days will flourish and you will always be welcome in the forest. If you choose to ignore them, you do so at your own peril – wear a hard hat.