Tree Play is a tool I developed to help me keep track of my projects and accomplishments and build a little play into my day. I still use it for that purpose, and it has turned into so much more. There are many ways to do Tree Play. It can be solitary and/or group play. We’ll focus on solitary play here.

Note:  I’ve been asked to share images of my trees before and the thing is, that showing an image is not so helpful. The reason? Once an image is shared, it can lock people into what this is or isn’t and the whole idea is that we can make it whatever we want it to be. So, I’m hesitant to share an image of my work in the moment. The other reason is that tree work grows over time, the kind of trees you draw in the beginning may be vastly different than the trees you draw a week from now or a year from now.

Tree Play

Objective: To draw a tree a day that represents what you accomplished or worked on that day

Materials:  Pencil or pen and a piece of paper – a composition book works nicely.

The directions are simple:  At the beginning of the day draw a part of a tree, say the trunk (think stick figure or other), then throughout the day add in whatever is memorable about what you accomplished, your project work, or what you played with as leaves, branches, simple drawn images or words, etc. The idea here is to quickly draw or write a word that represents what you accomplished. This isn’t about laboring over something to make it beautiful or realistic.

By the end of the day you have a full tree, of your day – something you’ve taken the time to grow. It’s a beautiful spontaneous, reflective practice that grows on you.

Tips and ideas:

  • 1 page per tree – you want room to move freely.
  • Try coming back to it hourly, or at breaks. It’s supposed to be fast and quick, not a distraction.
  • Feel free to include roots and any other part of the “picture” or “tree” you want to.
  • The tree can be whatever you want it to be. It can fly, be composed of different shapes, leaves, squiggles, or images, etc.
  • You can grow your tree over a day, a week or any amount of time. I think it helps to do it daily or so for the first 30 days. I was amazed at how my trees grew over time.
  • I like putting in something that I want to remember to tend to in my tree – these intentions have been, words, images, something I wanted to play with.
  • If you are into storytelling – tree work is also made for you – play with it.
  • I tend to do mine in ink, but they can be done in pencil or using other methods. One of the things I like about ink is the commitment. The line or mark I make may or may not look beautiful or aesthetically pleasing, but for me once drawn, I’ve committed to it … to the tree as it is … as it grows during the day. In this way it is a bit of solo improv.
  • I use a composition book, but any pad of paper should work – though you do want enough room to draw.
  • Don’t worry if you wait several hours or have to catch up at lunch or the end of the day – it all works.
  • Trees can be themed if you wish.
  • If you have extra time on your hands you might embellish your tree, but it isn’t necessary.

There is something beautiful about these trees – this forest of trees – as it grows over time. But the thing about it is – these trees are beautiful to the one who creates them – they aren’t necessarily aesthetically beautiful to others.

I’ve been interested in sharing this, and if you would like to join me, I’d be happy to lead a group of us in this playful practice and then we can reflect a bit on how this tool impacts our work, our process, and how it morphs for us individually over time. Let me know if your interested here.

In any case, if you try this, I’d love to hear how it goes for you.

– Mary

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