“Did you know, this tree is hibernating. The new leaves will come out for the spring, they are not at all dead” says Tony, showing me the hidden new bulbs in the tree. Tony, 79, is a new friend I met in the Northampton square. He lives just next to our school in one of the 200-year-old houses. This was not how our lovely conversation started however, so let’s take it from the beginning…
I was enjoying a cup of tea, looking at the trees in the square, thinking about something else – my assignments, my problems, the thoughts that never end. My first impression of Tony was that he was one of the many homeless guys that you see around London. First, I avoided eye contact with him. I was not that welcoming when he shared the bench with me. But, it turned out, he is our close neighbour, collecting garbage from the ground, muttering, “these cigarette pieces are so difficult to pick up”. He adds, “If the students knew that the square is home to many different birds and squirrels, they would be more careful. We have 3 or 4 different types of trees, one crow family, roughly 7 squirrels, 15 to 16 pigeons as well as a couple of green parakeets.”
He told me some interesting aspects of the history of the square that were new to me. He expressed his inner connection with the birds of the square. He even knew when the crow couple had little chicks and he tends to feed them until they can fly by themselves.
I found out that Northampton Square was first laid out for housing in 1832, taking its name from the local landowner, the Marquess of Northampton. He donated his private park to the local council which now is our square. The square has historically housed clockmakers, jewellers, silversmiths and other fine craftsmen.
As I was listening to Tony about the life in the square, I started to appreciate having this piece of nature so close to us, seconds away from our school. These trees have witnessed many lives and listened to many stories. They are still standing proudly for us today.
As Tony left with his rubbish, I sensed the life of the trees surrounding me. I listen to them and talked to them about my concerns. It felt as if they talked back to me. A few beautiful differently coloured autumn leaves landed on my arm… and I recalled a quote from Ram Dass, a spiritual teacher and the author of a favourite book of mine called Be Here Now. It reads:
“When you go out into the wood and
You look at trees
You see all different trees and
Some of them are bent and
Some of them are straight and
Some of them are evergreens and
Some of them are whatever and
You look at the tree and you allow it
You see why it is the way it is
You sort of understand that
It did not get enough light and
So it turned that way and
You don’t get all emotional about it
You just allow it
You appreciate the tree
The minute you get near humans
You lose all that and
You are constantly saying
“You are too this”or
“I am too this”
That judgment mind comes in
So I practice turning people to trees
Which means appreciating them
Just the way they are”
My first impression about Tony was wrong. From now on, I want to see the life in our small square just like Tony does, be aware of my own judgements, and appreciate other people around me – especially my loved ones – just the way they are.