Confessions of a Corporate Tree Hugger

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A tree spoke to me. For such a momentous and profound experience, you would think that I’d be able to tell you the exact date and time of this event. I cannot. I can’t because I ignored, dismissed, and pretended that it never happened for over a year.

I do remember that it occurred on a lazy, nondescript August evening in the summer of 2018. The time was about 8 pm, and I decided to go for a walk after dinner. There was nothing unusual about this, per se, but I did not bring my dog, Sky, along with me — which was atypical.

As I set out, I distinctly remember that I had not even left my backyard when I decided to “set an intention.” This was also unusual because I was not — and still am not — the kind of guy who “sets intentions.”

Why specifically I did this, I can’t recall. I am inclined to think I had just read about the latest environmental catastrophe. Perhaps it was a hurricane or tropical storm, a wildfire out west, record temperatures, melting glaciers, or some other natural disaster.

I departed my yard, crossed the street, and headed down Emerson Avenue in Southwest Minneapolis. I spotted a maple tree about 50 yards ahead of me in a neighbor’s yard and unleashed my intention directly at it. With heartfelt sincerity, I said (in my mind and not out loud) to the tree, “What can I do to help you?”

What happened next has only increased in power, poignancy, and significance over time. The tree responded with a single word, “Us.”

The force of it struck with such velocity that had anyone been watching me stroll down the street; I think they would have seen my head snap back as though hit with a solid object.

I am not suggesting the word “us” was vocalized by the tree. All I can tell you is that the word was indelibly impressed upon — and into — my mind. How this happened, I cannot say. Did some long-repressed feeling in my psyche suddenly rush to the fore? Did the tree release a chemical that caused a synapse in my brain to make a unique connection? Did I have a mystical experience? I don’t know. What I do know is that I immediately and intuitively understood the tree’s response. It was telling me the question I was asking was wrong. The question I should have been asking is: What can I do for us? The tree was telling me that we — and everything else — is connected. We are one.

This was a profound insight and an extraordinary gift. One might think that I would want to share it immediately with the world. I did not. I am sorry to say that I repressed it almost as quickly as I received it. I continued my walk, and by the time I returned home a half an hour or so later, I had almost forgotten about it altogether. The reason I suppressed it is because it was at odds with the expectations of my corporate clients. I feared — and still do to an extent — that I would (and will be) dismissed as a fringey “tree-hugger.”

As a result, I told no one for almost sixteen months. On a business trip to Chicago in December of 2019, I eventually — and nervously — opened up to a business acquaintance. She listened intently to my story, and I was stunned when she smiled and then responded with her own tree story. Our dinner, synchronistically, ended with a friend of hers texting her — out of the blue — a picture of a tree. No words, just a tree.

Slowly, I began to share my story with others, including my wife, my family, some friends, a business colleague, and, most surprisingly, strangers who seemed to be coming into my life with increasing frequency.

My openness and the frequent retelling of my story have all served to awaken me to the power and significance of this event in my life. I don’t expect everyone to believe my story. Skeptics are right to be dubious, and I hold nothing against cynics. I cannot scientifically explain what happened to me and, honestly, I don’t feel a need to do so. What I can say is that I had a potent experience that transcends scientific explanation.

All I can say to doubters is this: Watch my behavior. Do I act with the courage and conviction of my newfound knowledge?

While I have not yet quit my gig as a “corporate futurist,” and I have only planted a few new trees. I have begun to observe trees, listen to trees, draw trees, write poetry about trees, and, yes, occasionally, I even hug and kiss trees.

As I have done these things, I have come to appreciate the simple but profound wisdom of the tree’s single word response: Us. We are all connected. We are all in this together.

I am sharing my experience now, in part, because I feel it is vital that more of us — especially those of us who are inclined to dismiss such incidents as “woo-woo” — share these encounters with the world.

I suspect that many of you may have had similar or maybe even more profound experiences than I have had. If so, I encourage you to begin sharing them with the world. If you don’t know where to start, you can begin by commenting and sharing them here.

Jack Uldrich is the author of Business As Unusual; A Futurist’s Unorthodox, Unconventional and Uncomfortable Guide to Doing Business. He is currently co-authoring a new book, “The Rise of Generation RE” which will be published in 2021.

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