The first, and only, time I heard the term "High Tree Day," I was attending a day-long journaling retreat at the Shrine of St. Therese in Juneau, Alaska – around 30 years ago. I still recall the weather, one of those treasured days in Southeast Alaska when the sky is a brilliant blue, and the only clouds are merely passing by. Not a hint of rain.
The facilitator led us through a series of writing prompts. The five other participants and I wrote, shared, listened, drank herbal tea and longed to get outside. The host's log cabin, although cozy, felt more confining as the morning passed. Everyone in Juneau knows that on a sunny day... you get outside.
Finally, she said that the remainder of the day was ours – to wander, write, sketch, sit, walk the labyrinth – but not talk. "It's a time to listen to yourself, to nature, to reflect, or simply clear your mind." A High Tree Day, she called it.
Of course, we didn't rush to the nearest evergreens and start climbing to a perfect perch. But the image was, and still is, a powerful one for me. High in a tree is time away from foot traffic, from details of the everyday. It is a change in perspective, a chance to see the bigger picture.
A time to be open.
Over the past years, I have taken many High Tree Days, some in nature, others in a comfortable chair or on the floor in our house with books and journals spread around me. I leave my phone and Apple Watch, and their distractions, in a drawer. I climb up my imaginary tree and wonder what I may learn.
Another High Tree Day is way overdue. Last June, I attended a Veriditas labyrinth pilgrimage in Chartres, France and filled a journal with notes and ideas, quotations and inspirations. Ever since then, I have intended to re-read my words, but have allowed daily To Do lists to take priority.
What, I wonder, did I want to carry back home with me, to integrate into my life? Only in quiet reflection, will I know.
I'll sit on the window seat in our upstairs room, looking down on the street, as if I'm perched in a tree. I'll open my labyrinth journal and allow the words to transport me back to France.
What might your High Tree Day (or half day or couple of hours) look like? Is there something, in particular, you want to reflect on? Or perhaps you need time and space for yourself, for whatever bubbles to the surface.
If so, there's a tree just waiting for you.