If you’re new to this blog series and don’t know what’s happening with South Africa’s 21-day (now 35-day) lockdown, my first post  has all the details. Or read all my lockdown posts.

It’s Day 18 of the South Africa COVID-19 lockdown. Today I hugged a tree.

Heather hugging a tree
Lockdown photo Day 18: Tree-hugging selfie.

This morning I read an article posted by my friend Gail (thanks Gail!), about how the Icelandic Forestry Service recommends we hug trees as a way to cope with social distancing measures that prevent us from hugging other people.

Although I’ve always supported tree-hugging in a metaphorical sense, I’m not sure I’d ever physically embraced a tree before. But the lady in the article picture was vigorously hugging a tree, and she looked so happy. I wanted to feel what she was feeling, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

I went outside immediately and found the only tree in my garden that’s large enough to hug — a bottlebrush tree about the same circumference as an average human. I flung my arms around the bottlebrush and squeezed.

I must say, it felt damn good. I’m not even being facetious. I felt comforted. I got a bunch of ants on me but even that was okay.

Up until that moment, I hadn’t realized I missed the feeling putting my arms around another person and hugging them. South Africa is a very huggy society; people hug each other all the time here, even virtual strangers. It really is quite weird — unnatural even — to be prohibited from doing that.

While it might feel awkward to hug an inanimate object — a chair, for example, or a telephone pole — hugging a tree felt natural. Trees are living things, after all. Some might argue they have souls.

Obviously a serious qualifier is necessary here: Lots of people in South Africa (and the world at large) don’t have a tree to hug, or even a garden that could potentially have a tree in it. And unlike the people of Iceland, who are allowed to take walks through the forest, South Africans are not permitted to do so under the current lockdown.

But if you’re one of the lucky ones who has access to a tree (or trees), I highly recommend setting your inhibitions aside and hugging it. The Icelandic forest ranger in the article recommends five minutes of tree-hugging per day. But if your tree has ants on it, like mine, I’m sure a shorter hug will do.

Hugging animals helps too (as long as they don’t bite). And maybe house plants?

Today’s Worthy Cause

Last night I received a message from my friend Kate about Little Lumps, her mother Celia’s baby clothing business.

Baby in Little Lumps clothing
An adorable baby model wearing Little Lumps clothes. (Photo: Clifford Els)

When the lockdown first started, baby clothes were not considered “essential” and hence companies like Little Lumps — a small business based in the Joburg CBD — were forced to close. Thankfully that rule has been changed. Imagine giving birth during lockdown and not being able to purchase clothes for your newborn baby.

So anyway, Little Lumps was closed for more than two weeks but they’ve been permitted to open now. The business has 11 staff members who depend on their jobs at Little Lumps to support their families.

Staff members at Little Lumps
Staff members at Little Lumps
Photos: Clifford Els

The Little Lumps clothes are adorable and they specialize in clothing for premature babies, which is not always easy to find.

If you’re having a baby soon or know someone who is, please order from Little Lumps rather than from an international retailer. The quality will be better and you’ll be having a direct positive impact on people’s lives.

See you tomorrow, tree-huggers.

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