How to become a tree

Young Kim
5 min readNov 16, 2021

This project started with a poem, How to Become a Tree.

I received a piece of paper with a prose poem in the classroom. The professor gave different poems to each of us and asked us to create anything inspired by the poems. I read this poem over and over. It was a little weird, but some sentences caught my eyes.

Kim, Beom. “How to Become a Tree” The Art of Transforming, 1997.

From this poem, I found that the life of a tree is to be free from all thoughts and to possess nothing

What does it mean not to speak or think at all? Not to anticipate anything from anyone nor to feel disappointed about, however, to feel happy about any favor if it is given. The more I dwelled on the prose, the more I felt that it is a life with a lightened head and a healthier mind. It is a tree’s life, I thought, not to focus on negative things that happened to me — such as fatigue or pain.

Kim, Beom. “How to Become a Tree” The Art of Transforming, 1997.

I thought about my grandmother who always told me that it is no big deal and it would be okay.

Her life was the process of becoming a tree itself. I believe she was not like a tree from the beginning, but the youngest grandmother I can remember was already 66 years old. From her appearance to spirit, she was approaching the last stage of becoming a tree. She was resolute to the pain of life. She did not get angry or sad that much, while I, as a poor little girl, suffered and lingered on all the great and small matters around myself. She was a remarkably strong person to my eyes. Reading the poem, I came to think that my grandmother was a strong tree.

Becoming a tree seemed to be similar to becoming an old person.

As I get older, all those things that brought much shock will become dull and less shocking to me. I would learn how to absorb those shocks as I sway back and forth, or become more accustomed. I used to be shaken and get hurt by tiny glances and single words that they would not even remember. Thinking back on my teenage, I wondered why I was shedding tears because of such trifles. However, at the same time, I was still swaying like a reed. I was a young tree with tender bark yet.

I realized that one’s appearance would also become similar to a tree. The thick wrinkles and crumples on hands and forehead resembled the cracked bark of a tree.

To become a tree, I needed plentiful of time.

One could not turn into a tree within a short time. I would not recognize how different I became day by day. I might notice my hands got a little firmer and my mind a little stronger after a year. And thinking back to five years, I felt I have become quite a different person than who I was back then. I learned how to overcome and familiarize myself with small sorrows and shocks.

‘Ten-year calendar’ to represent that you would turn into a tree only after a long period of time.

I thought it would take ten years more or less to add a visible ring to my tree of life. To turn a pose that I take most often while working or living into a posture of habit, wouldn’t it need at least ten years. In order for myself to feel that my body and mind got stronger, ten years of time was necessary. So, I decided to create a ten-year calendar.

As years pass by, calendars of the past years would be overlayed on to each other so that the shape of a tree would emerge gradually. One year by one year, as I live my life learning more about myself, I would be getting close to becoming a tree.

The phrases that touched my heart were put on the calendar with my grandmother’s own handwriting.

I wanted to include my grandmother, who resembled the poem and a tree, in this work. I asked her to write the prose with her handwriting. Her life was laid in between the wobbling lines like the cracks and chinks of the bark of a tree.

You also can apply the pose that you take most often while working or from habit.

A calendar becomes a tree as time goes by

How a calendar to become a tree

How was this year? Cut along the line and leave only the tree.

Thank you for reading :)