I was selling my books at a local store today, something I do twice a week for about an hour each time. When there were no people checking out at the cash register where he was stationed, a new employee came over to talk with me. He wanted to learn more about my books.
“Which of your books do you like the best?” he asked.
“I like all of them,” I replied, “but I especially like the way this book came to me.” I pointed to If I Were a Tree, What Would I Be?
I told him the story of what happened to create the spark for the birth of this book. At one time, I went to a healer named Sharon Walker, a retired registered nurse who also practiced alternative ways of healing. During one session, she told me a thought came to her during our session that she wanted to share with me.
“I think you’re going to write another book,” she said. “It will be called If I Were a Tree, What Would I Be?”
Hmmm, I wondered to myself. What could I do with a title like that? Every once in a while, I would sit at my desk and try to develop ideas for the book. Concepts such as if I were a tree, I would be a fireman, a teacher, a doctor fell flat. They didn’t go anywhere. Thoughts about a pine wishing to be an apple tree or a cottonwood wanting to be an elm never jelled. They didn’t ring true. I couldn’t imagine one kind of tree wanting to be another kind of tree. To me, each seemed born with a purpose so much a part of their being that it would never dawn on them to want to be a different kind of tree.
For more than a year I put the idea on the back burner. A time or two, I played around with the title, but nothing came. I let it go, wondering if it would ever become a book.
One weekend, I rented a booth in Durango, Colorado at Whole Expo, an annual September weekend showcase of holistic and ecological products, seminars and services. I displayed copies of the other two books I had written about trees. One was a young adult fantasy novel, and the other was a nonfiction book about the benefits of being around trees.
Many people stopped by the booth to tell me how much they loved trees. They waxed eloquent as they described how deeply they felt about them. Their words touched my heart. During a lull in traffic, as I mulled over what they had said, a thought popped into my mind. “If I were a tree, I would be your friend.”
Suddenly lightbulbs flashed all over my brain. I had to temporarily shut off the ideas so I could tend to the business of the booth. I was tired that night and didn’t have the energy to do anything but fall sleep.
But at 3 a.m., I woke up with ideas for the book coming so fast I could hardly keep track of them. I grabbed a notebook beside my bed and scribbled down the words as quickly as I could. Then I went back to sleep. The next morning, I took the notebook, sat down at my computer and typed what I had written during the night. It made up at least half of the book. More words flowed from my fingers, and before the morning was over the entire book looked back at me from my computer screen.
Over the next couple of days, I edited the book, which didn’t take much work. When the book found a publisher, I was both elated and sad. Not long before that, Sharon Walker had died. I couldn’t let her know that her message to me had blossomed into a book with the title she gave it. But, perhaps, she does know.
I hope that people who read the book will recognize that trees have a life and purpose of their own. We can connect with them, heart to heart. Many children grasp this immediately. When I was selling my books at the store one day, I explained to a mother that in the book two children who love trees discover they can hear them with their hearts. She pointed to her eight-year-old son and said, “That’s what he does. He loves trees.”
May all of you who read the book find how delightful it can be to get to know trees in loving, heartfelt ways.