Have you ever made a statement and then added, “Knock on wood,” while looking around desperately for something made of wood upon which you could seal your statement? If so, you have followed a tradition set before Christendom, when tapping on a tree was considered a kind way to alert the spirit within. According to the superstition, only good spirits resided in trees — never bad ones — and knocking on anything made of wood called forth spirits to protect against misfortune.
Good spirits being the case, I’m wondering why an old oak dropped a huge limb on my head almost ten years ago. Darn near killed me!
I was knocked to the ground, dazed and bleeding. Slowly, I crawled to the house and telephoned my husband. Thirteen stitches and an x-ray later I was on my way home, but the long-term effects seriously impacted my quality of life. According to my neurologist, my symptoms were similar to a serious head injury resulting from an automobile accident. Symptoms that developed afterwards included memory loss (I’d frequently forget my phone number and address) and chronic fatigue. It was almost eighteen months before I recovered.
I’ve always been a tree lover and from the time I was a little girl, I’ve had my favorite trees. The first tree I fell in love with was a small dogwood in the front yard, with limbs at just the right height from which my five-year-old body could swing. Even today, all these years later, I have a favorite tree. I call him Grandfather Tree and he’s a huge Loblolly Pine that must be a hundred years old. I can’t come close to getting my arms all the way around him!
I haven’t knocked on him yet, but I frequently stop by when I’m walking the trail through our woods. I’ll put my hand on him and speak — all the while looking hesitantly up into his boughs, searching for any signs of huge limbs that the tree gremlin may be poised to jettison down upon my head.