Memories of "Disneyland Trees" Help Break A Writing Log Jam

Jan 07, 2022 by Alice C. Early
A Disneyland Tree, 1/7/07

Dear Readers,

Happy New Year!

It always takes me about a week to get my New Year’s feet under me, recover from holiday festivity (very little this year, or last) and begin focusing on the year to come. Long ago I stopped making New Years’ resolutions as I always made wildly ambitious and optimistic ones and resented the guilt that came with abandoning them almost immediately. But I do take stock of where I find myself as each year begins and think about where I hope to be by this time next year and how to get there.

This being a new year, I was recently reminded of the useful distinction between wishes and goals. Wishes are often vague and dangerously dependent on others, or luck, or a favorable universe to attain. Example: MOON is picked up for a mini-series starring the perfect actress playing Els. By contrast, goals are specific enough that I can gauge if I’m making progress and can cross them off the list as attained and celebrate tiny victories. More importantly, goals under my control. Example: write something, anything, for 20 minutes every morning.

So, here’s one of my wishes for 2022 and the goal that goes with it: Take more walks (wish), at least two per week (goal). Wimpy goal, I know, but the point is to keep it manageable, even exceedable.

At the start of my current life, after I moved from New York City to Quansoo Farm on Martha’s Vineyard in 1999, I routinely took sunup morning walks. My home was then surrounded by acres of private land that my husband Larry had managed for the owner for decades and the adjacent neighborhood offered abundant dirt roads, ancient ways, and beaches. Inside Quansoo Farm, Larry had cut trails to give the owner access to her expanses of sand plain grassland. For my walks he extended these paths into the scrub oak forest so I could stay off the roads if I chose. He first located the large oak trees most tortured by the winds into distinctive shapes, which we dubbed “Disneyland Trees.” Then he cut a meandering path to connect them. As one of the few humans to use the path, I became enchanted by the carpets of moss--strikingly green in winter and spring--acorns in the fall, untrammeled snow in winter.

Remains of  Another Disneyland Tree 2020, Photo: Roberta Kirn

As the years passed, changing work routines and laziness put an end to my morning walks. When the owner died and the property passed to a land conservancy as she had planned, the trails became public, and popular, especially since pandemic. Storms took their toll on the oldest and most twisted of the Disneyland Trees. Even without the enchantments of old, the paths are still alluring, as I’m reminded whenever I get my bones out there for even a short hike. You’ve probably heard about the benefits of “forest bathing.” I’m here to tell you, they’re real. Now that I’m trying to write more (another wish), at least a little every day (goal), a periodic “think walk” is just what I need to coax my muse out of her hiding place.

I hope these wishes and goals of walking and writing more will reinforce one another until both become habits.

At this juncture of looking back and forward, I’m keenly and guiltily aware of my last seven months of radio silence. Why break it now? My computer serves up photos from my archive that were taken on this day in past years. Today’s lineup featured a suite of photos of the Disneyland Trees as they looked on January 7, 2007. I’ve attached one I took then, as well as a more recent photo by my friend (and far better photographer), Roberta Kirn, that shows the ravages of time, but also the character of these gnarled giants with impossibly twisted branches making homes for forest creatures.

The memories revisiting these tree images provoked, coupled with my wishes and goals for 2022, helped break the log jam of angst that has kept me from posting since last May. Another time, I’ll write about all that’s happened in the last seven months (a lot). For now, the impetus to resume my walks carries with it the desire to resume posting periodic thoughts and updates (wish) at least monthly (goal) in hopes that you find them useful or entertaining.

Hello again. It’s nice to be back. I hope you agree. I’ll do my best not to disappear again. My warmest wishes for a New Year that sees us healthier, less stressed, more united, more compassionate, and more together in person again. Remember fun? I hope we all have a lot more of it in the coming months.