Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Tree That Binds

By Leigh



Three years ago friends, Eric and Blake started a year-long blog project where they photographed their perception of a specific word every day. Each night they would put the photos together for the next day's blog post.  One day the word was "tree". They didn't realize until they put their photos together that they had photographed the same tree.  They had found themselves drawn to this lone tree in a field for a while and were both shooting it on a regular basis. During this time Instagram became popular and they both began to post their photos and the #treecultokc tag was born.


Photos by Eric Lyons
 
So what you might ask?  It's just a tree in a field in Oklahoma.  But what happened next was completely unexpected.  Instagrammers became obsessed with the tree and they wanted to see it in person (including myself!).   There were two rules: keep the location to yourself and respect the boundary by not crossing the fence.  Finding the tree was part of the journey. 


Photos by Darren Johnson
I first stumbled upon Eric, Blake and Darren's photos about a year and a half ago. To truly understand the frenzy over the tree you need to check out the #treecultokc tag on Instagram and see the sheer number of times the tree has been photographed.  You will be amazed first and foremost by the talent behind these photographs and after that you will come to realize that it's so much more than just a tree.  It has connections way beyond that field in Oklahoma and has been visited by people from all over including Canada, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Washington and even Alaska.  One day after the winds came sweeping down the plains stronger than normal the tree lost a huge branch on one side and there was a ripple effect of sadness that spread across Instagram. This is not just a tree.  It is a tree that binds a community of people together.  It may mean something different to each person, but what's important is that it holds meaning.  It has an emotional effect on people.  This was especially evident when a for sale sign appeared on the land.  What was going to happen to the tree?  Would a farmer buy the land and the tree would remain? Or would the land be cleared for inevitable development?

Photo by Darren Johnson (Darrenisreal)


Two weeks ago as I was going about my morning routine of coffee and instagramming I came across a photo not only of the tree, but also of the street signs showing the location.  The land had indeed been sold to a developer for a neighborhood of single family homes.  The location is now being shared so that anybody who wants a chance to visit the tree may do so. 

"With recent events we have revealed the location.  A local housing development has bought the land and will soon be building on the site.  A scenario that we all knew would come through someday.  We've watched the tree grow and even become sick.  Clearly root bound the tree has started to falter in health.  An entire side has fallen and the bark continues to separate.  Although it seems that the actual end of the tree will come at the hands of a bulldozer.  Sad, but life.  We all go through different changes.  We need pruning to grow stronger, just as the tree did.  Sometimes we lose people, no longer there to hold us, but the memories remain." ~Eric Lyons (I_like_boring_things)

Darren came across Eric's tree photos by chance scrolling through Instagram one day.  He discovered the location of the tree and he was floored because he ran by this tree almost every weekend during his long distance runs. He knew what he had to do.  He laced up his shoes and set out on a run that would not only open his eyes to the beautiful tree, but to life in general.

 "I noticed that every morning I would see photos of a beautiful isolated tree with words of inspiration.   And the photos kept coming.  And the words kept coming.  And pretty soon it started to connect with me.  Instagram, a tree, a photo, words, a friend, whatever it is that makes you happy find it and pursue it."  Through this tree Eric and Blake brought us, I realized I was paying attention to the wrong things and not focusing on the right things.  From that day my vision and passion for photography has grown by leaps and bounds not to mention the friendships and bonds that have been formed from this tree.  It's more than just a single tree in the field whose fate is uncertain.  
To me the tree represents the power of an idea.  And that anyone with an idea, no matter
 how great or small, can make an impact." ~Darren Johnson (Darrenisreal)

 



So what does the tree mean to me?  The tree is all about connections.  A few years ago I worked on a project that took me right by the tree almost daily for a couple of weeks, but I never saw it.  It was there, but I did not notice it.  The stress of work, the million mile to do list in my head and a ringing cell phone kept me from seeing a beautiful little tree standing alone in a field.  Luckily the tree found me through a community of instagrammers.  It has connected people together.  These connections have even led to a photography show at a local tea house showcasing tree photos from various admirers.  It has connected us with nature's beauty in these amazing images of our glorious world.  The tree has connected us with ourselves by teaching us each some sort of lesson.

Even though the tree will soon be gone, the photographs will be there to remind us of her beauty and this wonderful strange trip we have all been on.  And for me, it will give me that gentle nudge I need to seek out and make more connections in my life.  


Please check out Eric (@i_like_boring_things), Blake (@bnbehrens), and Darren (@darrenisreal) on Instagram.  They inspire me daily with their take on the world around us.  Thank you to them for sharing their stories and images with me for this post.  Tell them Leigh sent you :)

20 comments:

Nicki said...

That is such a cool and moving story. I can appreciate the connection with nature, specifically trees. There are a few on my daily journeys that if removed, would sadden me deeply. What is so impressive is how the particular tree in your post might have been (or perhaps still is) root bound and yet branched out and touched so many people.

Thank you for sharing.

nancyjean said...

what a beautiful post...life is all about connections

Nancy said...

Amazing story of of the effects of one tree on a huge group of people and how it brought together friendships out of just being.....

Deanna said...

The Tree of Life because it has brought so many lives together...wow, what a story!!

Jeanne said...

That is such a fascinating story of the serendipitous story of this tree, and its meaning to so many! Thanks for sharing!

Sue said...

This is magic, Leigh. I was spellbound by this story and it touched so much in me that is current about the importance of really 'seeing' what life is all about. Thank you so much!

rakusribut said...

wow, incredible story and beautiful photographs.... nature can be so inspiring.... becoming aware of the beauty around you can be an awesome experience and sharing it with others creates such a great feeling of connection... thank you for this!
and let me share a tree as well, it is located in the netherlands so probably not as accessible as the one in your pictures :-()
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rakusribut/8436652392/in/photostream/lightbox/

heyjudephotography said...

The perfect story that brings home the importance of taking time for the "little things" that really are the big things. These photos are absolutely stunning. Thank you for sharing this story.

Dotti said...

Such amazing photos ... but an even more amazing story. Ahhh, progress. What to do?

http://vivhalliwell.com said...

Again I am humbled by the woderful connections through the WWW, is it not a marvellous thing ? That people can connect and share through photography and words, thank you Leigh I'm now going off to Instagram to check out what has been posted today....

Linda/patchwork said...

A great story.
How wonderful, that a lonely little tree can bring together, and brighten, so many lives.

terriporter said...

Oh, I LOVE this story so much! I am echoing everything that has already been said. So amazing how one little tree has brought so many people together. There was a beautiful prickly pear cactus in a yard that I passed several times a day and have photographed it in every season, from full bloom with gorgeous yellow flowers to full of red fruit. Then the house was sold and apparently the new owners didn't like cactus because they pulled out all the cactus in the landscape. I shed a few tears over that prickly pear but at least I have the photos to remember it by, as you will with your tree. Thanks so much for sharing the photos and especially the wonderful story!

Focusing on Life said...

I read this first thing this morning but I was running late, so couldn't comment. This is one of my favorite posts ever. It really is "spellbinding" as you read thru it, and I have such attachment to trees that I totally get it. They all have a new follower in me - I signed up to follow today.

Kim Stevens said...

I know I already told you how much I love this story...I love trees, I see them as old souls. I had the opportunity to put my hands on a 600 year old tree last summer in Florida, and yes I could feel the energy and wisdom. I have had some other revelations about trees lately....I'm so glad you shared this!!

Linda said...

I have been watching that little tree on Instagram for a while. I love hearing the story behind it all! So sad it will be gone soon. The connections that were made will remain!

xo,
Linda

Leigh said...

Thank you everyone for your sweet comments! It's so wonderful to see people "get" the tree!

kelly said...

thank you so much for sharing the whole story behind the tree leigh! i've been following along on IG too and it's fascinating to see how many people it's brought together.

Roxi -Coppercurls Designs said...

I hung on every word. I have a strange drawing to trees and since I've been pretty regular on Instagram lately I realize there are a lot of others who are too. I really don't know how you make the connections there tho. Thanks sooooo much for sharing this. and your photos are truly gorgeous.

Katie said...

I have a tree of my "own" that I have run by every day for the last 7 years since we moved to Arkansas. It's a wonderful dead tree, standing all by it's lonesome in the middle of some empty lots near our house. It looks just like something out of Western movie: old, gnarled, dark and solid, like it's stood the test of time. I may sound like The Lorax from Dr. Suess, but that tree has become dear to my heart over the years, and I look forward to it as I near the last few miles of my daily runs. I so get this post you wrote, and thank you for drawing attention to this beautiful tree and movement begun in Oklahoma.

Elke Sewoester said...

this post moved me deeply. Thank you so much for this story, Leigh

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