“I’d like to be a tree,” said actress Katharine Hepburn during her 1981 interview on the TV program 20/20.

“What kind of tree?” Barbara Walters asked as a follow up.

“An oak because they are strong and pretty.” She didn’t mention that oak tree leaves and acorns are toxic to most livestock due to large amounts of tannic acid. They also tend to suck up water and sun, thus killing off much of what might want to grow underneath.

Perhaps an oak tree provides a good metaphor for the competitive world of Hollywood.

Katharine Hepburn was outspoken, a women of strong opinions, at times demanding and acerbic. According to Walters, Hepburn said careers and marriage don’t mix, although Hepburn was married for a few years in her twenties. Outside of marriage, she enjoyed other relationships with men including Spencer Tracy, an affair that lasted a quarter-century and ended with his death in 1967. Hepburn also asserted that careers and children were out of the question. “I would have been a terrible mother,” she’s been quoted as saying, “because I’m basically a very selfish human being.” She was indeed a knotty soul.

tree_knotTree knots are common lumps or holes within the trunk caused for the most part by natural growth. As a tree grows, the trunk expands and overtakes branches. Knots of tough wood form tightly around attached branches and overgrow pruned branches, or those that fall off. If branches become damaged or die while still attached, loose knots form with a dark plug of dead or decaying wood in the center. This opens the tree to the possibility of fungal infection.

Hepburn didn’t mention tree knots, those blemishes that give character of which she had plenty. Perhaps that’s the strength and prettiness of to which she aspired.

I think knots are one of the most distinctive parts of a tree because they show growth, the ability to embrace change and to overcome adversity. Knots are strong, stronger than the tree itself.

Unlike Hepburn, I grew knots through marriage – one that was pruned and another that has formed tightly around the attachment. I also chose to have children and from that experience sport some beautiful knots. And although Hepburn declared that women “cannot have it all,” I enjoyed a long career as a teacher while married and raising children during most of my teaching years.

Now I’m a writer, so bring on the knots.


  1. Keith Kenny

    A tough bark can help to hide the knots.

  2. Carole Duff

    Bark as in tree rather than dog:-) Yes, I have many knots I’d rather keep to myself.

    Thanks for your comment! -C.D.


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