Old Colorado City Library. Knitters prepare the tree for winter. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Old Colorado City Library. Knitters prepare the tree for winter. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Bare trees are ready for winter on eastern plains of Colorado

Bare trees are ready for winter on eastern plains of Colorado

The Tree Lady'd better not yell at her!

The Tree Lady waits…you’d better not yell at her!

Dear Mom,

You don’t remember any of the essays from Fulghum’s book ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN. I used to read excerpts of his book to you, and one essay made both of us shake our heads and laugh.

Supposedly, if natives in the Solomon Islands needed to cut down a tree that was too large to be felled with an ax, they yelled at it. Woodsmen with special powers crept up on the tree at dawn and screamed at it. Really loud. They did this for thirty days, and after the yelling killed the spirit of the tree, it fell over. (Note: I checked Wickipedia, and this “fact” is still up for debate. In the past, when Solomon Islanders had only very basic tools and no metal for their axes, who knows for sure what they did?)

I remember we wondered who would sneak up on trees and yell at them (other than islanders without axes).  One year in school, my class kept two plants in the classroom for an experiment. We were to ignore or talk mean to one plant, but smile and say nice, encouraging things to the other, and see what happened.  Of course we all know what the lesson was supposed to be, but I don’t remember if our project proved the point or not. I wasn’t the only one who felt sad for the ignored plant, so I think others also would sneak in nice words, encouragement and smiles to help it out. We weren’t good scientists, but we were nice kids.

Now, even though your dementia is very advanced and you often don’t know who I am, who you are or where you are, your basic kind, gentle and sweet personality has remained the same. I can’t imagine you yelling at a tree, a helpless plant, or a person, either. Okay, once, when the neighborhood bully tried to sic his dog on me and you flew out of the house and stopped him. But other than for emergencies, I never heard you yell.

I recently read that actress Reese Witherspoon had this to say this about yelling: “If you are not yelling at your kids, you are not spending enough time with them.”

I think she was probably trying to be funny–and show she was on top of things–but I don’t think you’d agree with her.

You spent a great deal of time with children, Mom, and you showed us by example that we didn’t have to yell, scream, hit, pinch or bite to communicate. I also remember that when I did resort to yelling or screaming, your response was usually to pause, take a deep breath, and send me to my room to think about things and come up with a better plan.

Thanks, Mom, for your example then…and for you example now.    Love, Marylin


P.S. to readers:  Tracy Karner is a creative, energetic advocate for building a ‘community’ of bloggers with recipes, travel pieces and terrific photographs.  This week she has featured a short piece about my mom…and Mom’s recipe for “Eggs ala Goldenrod”—which is very good, especially at this time of year!  Stop by!

Abilene KS tree, broken by lightning and wind, not by yelling.

Abilene KS tree, broken by lightning and wind, not by yelling.

Blowing in the wind? Or is someone yelling at it? (Watercolor by Marylin Warner)

Blowing in the wind? Or is someone yelling at it? (Watercolor by Marylin Warner)



Filed under art, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren

65 responses to “YELLING AT TREES

  1. Beautiful watercolor, Marylin. You are so very talented. I love the photos too, and I agree with your mother – yelling is counterproductive. Most of the time I’ve spent with my children has been sans yelling.
    I suspect if you find yourself yelling all the time you’re not spending enough of the right kind of time with your kids.
    Like you I can’t yell at a plant or a tree. Wouldn’t want to kill the spirit of a tree, no way no how.
    I hope your mother is recovering from her hip surgery. How’s she doing?

    • Thanks, Julia.
      I’d like to think I don’t ever intentionally kill the spirits of plants, children, trees… and I wasn’t alone, which I think is why the “ignored” plant didn’t end up being ignored. I wonder how many experiments end up causing excessive, unnecessary damage…
      Mom’s hip is now weight bearing and they’re starting to get her up and walking again. But weeks kept in bed have taken a toll. She’s winding down in ways I think you would recognize.

  2. I love this: “We weren’t good scientists, but we were nice kids.”

    Sometimes I wonder what would happen if all the experts, inventors, policy-makers and scientists always took kindness into consideration;

    we can’t do this experiment, we can’t make this law, we can’t put this product on the market, we can’t do it–if someone is likely to get hurt.

  3. Nancy Saltzman

    Marylin! I love to read your blog posts and now I will also look forward to seeing more of your paintings. Beautiful.

    I cannot imagine yelling at a tree or a plant and I agree that some children besides you must have tried to smooth over the feelings of the poor neglected plant by sneaking in the classroom to give it some love! I can just picture that…

    I hope your mom is recovering quickly from her surgery. I know that when my mom had back surgery the doctor came in to check on her and she told him that her knee was bothering her. The doctor said, “Which knee?” My mom said, “You are the doctor. You figure it out.”

    I am looking forward to your next blog post already.

    • Nancy, I LOVE your mom’s reply to the doctor! That’s the kind of attitude that reassures us there’s still a fighting spirit after surgery. Lately, many of my mom’s comments are quiet murmurings when she’s resting, and many are about growing up on the farm with her parents and siblings. The dementia has faded the here and now.
      Thanks for the comment about my watercolor of the tree. When I first retired, I took a painting class at Bemis Art School to trade in the focus of words-only teaching English and add new color to my thinking with art.

  4. molly

    Well, unfortunately, I probably fall more into Ms. Witherspoon’s category…but this is a good reminder to be more like my grandma!

    • You yell more than Grandma did, that’s true, but it’s not mean yelling. Plus, Grace and Gannon are only eleven months apart, and they live at top speed. They’re also the sweetest, most wonderful and kind kids anywhere, and you do much more physical holding, hugging and cuddling of your children than Grandma did with us. So it’s a balance, and you and Grandma are both outstanding and loving mothers.

  5. Hudson Howl

    Feed a cold, starve a fever, then yelling at a tree to scare it to death sounds logical; more or less. Not really, but fun to think about it. Though I doubt no mother worth her salt would spin it into an old wives tale. I guess that is your point.

    There is sound thinking to many aboriginal cultures. If every thing, including rocks trees and wind etc, has life, an spirit then all is connected to each other as well as being rooted to this earth. If you drive away it’s spirit and feelings of abandonment set in, death becomes an option?

    I’m sicken by yelling, literally, especially when it occurs in front of children and or directed towards them. Yelling tears at the fabric of being, one strand at a time.

  6. Tonight’s post was very soothing…you must have had a great childhood! Wish everyone could have had adults like your mom…or be an adult like her.

    • Thanks, Claudia. My parents were never our “best friends”–as Mom said, we had plenty of friends, and what we needed were strong parents– and the older I get the more I understand that our childhoods were very, very good because of them.

  7. Don

    I love the story of the Solomon islanders, Marylin. Such profound truth in it which you’ve described so well. So enjoyed your words, “We weren’t good scientists, but we were nice kids.” The images are beautiful.

    • Thank you, Don.
      On the playground there were plenty of scuffles and arguments, but I don’t remember ugly bullying or meanness, so I think that over all, we were pretty nice kids. And as I recall, parents, teachers, neighbors, older siblings and extended family were watching and more involved then–sometimes to the point of being too restrictive, probably–and that made a difference, too.

  8. My parents weren’t yellers either, Marilyn. They had the ability to convey the depth of their meaning with “the look.” Time out to reflect also worked out.

    Your love for your Mom shines thru and thru. What a wonderful childhood to build a life on. 🙂

    • Oh, Judy, I do remember the “look.” With my parents, the look was of disappointment, and that was the worst.
      When I was teaching high school students, I had “the English teacher look” down pat, and it was more than just disappointment. But my parents were looking at a maximum of two children; I had over thirty teens to a class and five classes a day, so that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it! :=)

  9. glad you were compassionate kids Marilyn 🙂

  10. I love guerilla knitting. I don’t do it, but I love to see it around town, especially in winter, when the landscape can be so dreary. I am quite sure that if you yelled at a tree long enough and hard enough you would break its spirit and its branches 😦

    • But it would be SO much more difficult to break the spirit of a tree sheltered in colorful hand-knitted warmers! Guerilla knitting; I’d never heard it called that, but it fits!

      • Yes, you are quite right. A tree covered with lovely knitting is a well-loved tree. Ah, I see that some people call this type of knitting, yarn bombing. I only know it as guerilla knitting. But why do we associate sweet knitting with war terms??? Is this some kind of power play?

  11. Those are good questions. I was familiar with “yarn bombing,” but I’ve also heard the local reference to the knitters who leave their creations on trees, fences, basketball hoop poles, and on the poles of stop signs. They’re called “Happy hearts, happy hands, busily knitting,” which I really like.

  12. Your non-shouting childhood has obviously created a very gentle adult. Your Mom should be proud of her handiwork as no doubt you’re proud of the effect your ‘look’ and non-shouting attitude has had. Wouldn’t the world be a gentler, nicer place if everyone had followed these wonderful examples.Maybe our first concern would be the effect of things we do on others rather than ‘profit’ as it is today.
    Keep the love-light shining Marylin and you’ll keep the smiles upon our faces with your wonderful reminders of your Mom.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • David, you say the loveliest, most affirming things. Thank you.
      I agree totally with your suggestion that our first concern should be the effects our actions have on others…rather than the profits. The world would be such a different and better place.
      xxxMassive Hugsxxx back to you!

  13. I love this post and especially the advice about yelling. I loathe any kind of yelling. Becoming irritated is my signal to ‘shut-down’, walk away, and breathe.

    • I have to admit, Elizabeth, that when I was growing up my mom had to only step out on the back porch to know where I was riding my bike in the neighborhood, playing ball or tag or hide and seek. I had a loud voice that really carried. I yelled. But not AT others (unless in self-defense) but BECAUSE I had strong vocal chords and was totally involved in the moment. But I definitely knew what an “inside voice” was for, and that tempered me as I grew up.

  14. Another lovely and thought provoking post. I really like the water colour
    In biology we each had to find a worm, drop it in alcohol, then dissect it
    I refused to take part. But the teacher made me watch and draw what i saw.
    I guess I am glad that those destined to be doctors and surgeons were given this lesson.
    I love your story of the plant experiment and the compassionate kids

    • Thanks, Rod.
      While I’m glad that those destined to be doctors and surgeons are given that lesson, I also wish at some point they all experienced compassion and hopefulness for the “ignored plants” of life and considered medical ways to sneak in and meet those needs, too. I have known a few doctors and surgeons who could do that, and they were truly exceptional.

  15. Yes, the biology experiment did it for me, too. I’m sure our dear old Prince Charles would have been in the ‘sneaking kind words to the ignored flower’ category. It’s well known that he is a great believer in talking to plants! 😉

  16. Marylin, I have never ever heard of this practice! I would have a very hard time yelling at plants or trees for that matter but it’s interesting how they practiced this in the Solomon Islands.
    I remember when I was young there was the thinking that if you talked to your plants they did better. Maybe there is something to it…..
    Anyway, I love the yarn on the tree! This summer here in Pittsburgh, a group of knitters “yarn bombed” the Andy Warhol bridge! Many knitters got together and covered it in colorful knitted blankets. Here’s a quick clip of it:
    Have a wonderful day! xo

  17. Marylin, hope you have been well this many days.
    I don’t think it is good to yell at children or to even use corporal punishment on them. It is, to me, bad parenting!

    • It can certainly become a pattern for children to use on others as they grow up. And harsh words or screaming at them really can do damage, like the example of the Solomon islanders killing the souls of the trees.
      Thanks for stopping by. It’s good to hear from you!

  18. I don’t know if yelling at a tree would eventually cause it to fall, but I do know yelling at a child creates wounds they will carry for years and often pass on to their children. Like your mother, my mother is a compassionate and gentle soul. I don’t remember her ever yelling at me. She even blew a whistle when it was time for me to come inside for dinner, rather than yell. 🙂 Your talents continue to emerge, Marylin…what a beautiful painting!

    • Oh, Jill, that painting was one of my first attempts at watercolors after I retired. Can you tell that I was still feeling a bit “blown away” by the adjustments?
      Your mother blew a whistle when it was time for you to come in for dinner. My mother had a bell she rang. A big bell. It was a big neighborhood, and another family also had a bell, so each mom had a code of rings that their children recognized.
      So, again, my mom didn’t yell. ;=)

  19. Jim

    I agree that Mary is a good model for patient yet firm discipline. She always spoke calmly and matter-of-factly, but one knew she meant business.

    This week’s blog post is very well done, Marylin. I enjoyed it. Excellent message. And the pictures work quite well with the message. Love your painting! Mary would be very proud of your work in her honor.

    • You and my parents were very much alike, speaking in calm voices but also with discipline, Jim. But while their church and community work and long days building the business limited the one-on-one time they could spend with us, you always made time for Molly and spent quality time attending school events, teaching her tennis, helping her with math, working on building a doll house, and later, teaching her to drive. Always calm, patient, supportive…and a very good listener.

      When she uses your techniques with her own children, I see the history repeating, and I enjoy it all in replay as much as the first time. Love you lots.

      • Jim

        Dear Marylin, thank you. I love you. We are a good team. Fact is, you are Molly’s nurturer and role-model, which continues to this day. We are so proud of the woman she has become. You have helped Molly become a devoted mother, loving wife, and confident educational professional. Let me also add how much we appreciate Molly’s husband Trevor. He is a great Dad and husband. He is the solid-rock foundation of the family.

  20. Beautiful post. And you do watercolor paintings too?? My goodness! Thanks for showing us, as always, what a wonderful mother you have.

    • My watercolor paintings hang in every prestigious places, L. Marie. We live in a small house that already has many really good paintings and framed photographs hanging on the walls. When I retired, I took a watercolor painting class. Now we have my paintings “hanging” on the inside of closet doors around the house. This one hangs inside the linens and towels closet. I smile every time I open the door.

  21. You are blessed that dementia hasn’t changed your mother’s loving spirit as it did my grandfather’s. Beautiful post on how we should live and treat each other.

    • Thank you, Lynne. My mother’s dementia has changed her ability to function and make decisions, but her spirit has remained the same. Unfortunately, my father’s kind, gentlemanly way was drastically changed by Alzheimer’s, and he suffered with “rage stage” responses for much of his last several years. It’s a difficult thing to helplessly watch happen to someone you love.

  22. What a beautiful post Marylin and I love your watercolour. I feel just the way you do about yelling at children and recently posted about this funnily enough on a blog site asking people for their opinions on certain social issues. The first thing that came to my mind was about this very issue, that if you yell, swear and scream at your kids then don’t be surprised when they do the same to you when they are older! It was tied in with how often I see young mums picking up their children from school and they are so busy locked into their mobile (sorry, cell!) phones that they don’t pay any attention to their kids and then when they go wandering off, they yell at them!
    Your mom is the sweetest lady 🙂

  23. Hi Marylin,
    The sweater tree is super funky, and your watercolor is beautiful.
    And the kindergarten story was adorable. I know I would have made sure to console the poor, beaten-up plants. Your mother was an excellent role model.

    • Thanks, Tracy. The sweater tree is very popular at the library, especially with children because it’s outside their entrance door, and you’ll see young children touching the knitted pieces and patting the tree. It’s very sweet.

  24. Reblogged this on Sweet sharing and commented:
    Amazing post !!!

  25. Amazing post Marylin & special loved your water color art piece . You are incredibly talented .
    FYI my blog is shifted to my self hosted site . It would be great if you can be part of it . So That we keep exchanging our ideas & mind screams 😀

  26. Who else could share the habits of guerilla knitters, solomon islanders, and kids in science class all in one post?! A true testimony to your brilliance as a writer, Marilyn! And sneaking in your watercolor at the very end was pretty cool, too! 🙂
    Great post!

  27. I never know before trees can be covered with sweaters.

    • Unusual, I know. But their branches get cold, too, I guess. This tree is outside the door of our Old Colorado City Library, and I thought it was unique. But then bloggers from other states wrote to say they had similar trees, signs, mailboxes, covered with knitting, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s