Dear Inquisitive Stranger,
Clasped between your fingers is a botanical gift. Once upon a time, the paper this letter was written on was a pulpy mush following a previous life as a tree, mighty and solid or perhaps humble and bendy. Like many small things taken for granted on a daily basis, it can be rare that we credit the gift-giver, in this instance, the tree that yielded this paper present. How often do we take a moment to truly enjoy small everyday gifts and show our appreciation?
There are a multitude of prosaic things I take for granted; clean, hot water for my morning shower, Marmite on the (British) supermarket shelves, David Attenborough’s voice lulling me to sleep on Sunday night. These can all be depended upon and our strong, reliable trees (what a great boyfriend they would make!) are no exception. Not only the gifters of paper, but food and shelter provides, timber for housing and habitat for wildlife. They prevent soil erosion, make the air breathable, combat climate change all while effortlessly making the world more beautiful with their seasonal colour. Phewf, these multi-tasking masters wear many guises! The Swiss army knives of the perennials make our world a more liveable, likeable place.
So this is a love letter to trees. I invite you to salute those quiet heroes of the forest. Stoically and without judgement, they silently watch the rise and fall of empires, changing landscapes, outbreaks and battles. The wedge of giant sequoia at the Natural History Museum in London was 1,300 years old when it was felled in 1891. Imagine the stories it could tell! With so much history witnessed, visiting it feels like hanging out with a wise, old friend.
If age brings knowledge and knowledge brings wisdom then surely the most enlightened living things are the ancient woods and forests of our planet. A few years ago, Dad and I painted Dartmoor, the beautiful, bleak setting for the Sherlock Holmes novel ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’. Paintbrushes in hand, we set out to capture the abracadabra of Wistman’s Wood on the moor.
The word ‘mystical’ was forged here, for it is a place of age and awe. There should be a sign: Walt Disney wos ‘ere. Lichen beards hanging from gnarled branches make an excellent hide-out for pixies on the run from fairy law. Twisted oaks jerked into impenetrable knots thwart P. Charming from reaching his sleeping beauty (however I would miss all the action as I’ve nodded off on the seductively deep carpet of mossy boulders). Were it not for their stunted growth, the oaks might experience a mistaken identity switcheroo with the Ents of J.R.R Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’. Guardians of nature for so many ages, the Ents of Fangorn forest have ripened to resemble, both in body and deed, the trees in their care. Slow to rouse and deliberate in speech, these peaceful tree shepherds ask for so little yet give so much. How representative of our real, non-fictional natural world.
So to celebrate the trees, I am on a paper adventure at Sweet Jak Dang the picture book cafe. It is 5 o’clock late Friday afternoon and all is quiet apart from the soft sounds of Cuba, Ella Fitzgerald and tinkling piano keys. Tucked into a tree house nook I am savouring a stack of delectable illustrations. Half the fun was choosing. Shuffling around in the slippers provided at the door, I staggered under my booky mountain. Around every corner there is an alcove to make a cushion den with your book bundle. My granny would like each cranny. She would certainly approve of the practical plugs installed in each cubicle. But who wants to be distracted by electronics when there are so many delicious books to devour?
The ladies who welcome you at the door are earthy sweet, as is the autumnal fragrance of the cafe, or maybe it’s the whiff of chamomile tea I ordered. It’s your standard bag-in-hot-water affair but perfect as a rainy day warmer. This cafe is the perfect hiding hole from chilly days and sooty evenings. I decadently putter away the afternoon drinking in the handsome illustrations while outside the velvety twilight grows darker and darker.
Inside the picture book lover’s cafe however, I am cosy and content. This is a place for books to warm your insides, a sanctuary for healing with paper therapy. Thank you trees! I invite you, Stranger darling, in the spirit of gratitude, to remember that a word of thanks or smile of appreciation is always welcome. Be the giver human, animal, plant or planet, do pause for a thought of thanks.
Thankful people are the happiest people. Embarking on a journey of gratefulness will attract more positivity into your day. Trust me on this! Start your day with an attitude of gratitude by looking out the window and give thanks out loud all the gifts, squeaky small and monstrous big. Combine this ritual with a cup of Lapsang Souchong, morning workout, touch-your-toes yoga or whatever gives you head space. You will have a spiffy day and that is something to be thankful for.
Meanwhile, surrounded by all these yummy books I shall once again give thanks for the paper they are printed on. Trees, you certainly have earned my attention and my thanks.
Peace, love and cha cha cha.
달달한작당 (Sweet Jak Dang) – a place for picture book lovers
148-7 Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Hongik University, line 2, exit 3
Monday – Sunday 11:00 – 22:00
Gratitude – we should all be up to it!
Hello! I hid this letter on a bookshelf in ‘Sweet Jak Dang’ hoping it would brighten the day of the stranger that found it.
If that was you, do get in touch and share your thoughts about picture books, trees or anything you are grateful for.
If you did not find this letter but did stumble across this blog, I’d love to hear from you too.
With lightness and joy,