Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Old tree...

     There was an old tree near the building where I used to work.  I saw it in the mornings, standing large and imposing in the field that was been cut bare around it, as if it was the sentry left to guard the forest behind it. It stood perhaps three stories tall, and almost as wide. If I tried to wrap my arms around the trunk, I would reach only a third of the girth alone.

     Some mornings it was shrouded in fog, as if wrapped in a blanket that was created before man walked the earth. Other mornings the bright rays of the rising sun seemed to dance in its topmost branches and leaves, making it look as if it is on fire.

     One morning I stopped and looked over at it and wondered what it has seen in the decades since it was first just a small seedling.

     It had survived deer that would have grazed on its tender leaves. As it grew, it probably fought for sunlight in the surrounding forest against the tall pines that reached to the sky, and the palmettos whose fronds fanned out to shade anything smaller beneath them.

     Storms would have come, hurricanes, now it stands tall and strong. Defiant. Not bent or deformed from the fury of the wind as some trees can be.

     I wondered about the Native American Indians that might have taken shelter under its branches, before the white man came and "civilized" the land. Maybe children had climbed up into its branches to hide or hunt. Generations of wildlife that lived in its branches.

     That old tree saw the forest around it cut down and plundered for wood, yet for some reason it was spared. It saw buildings go up at the military base that was built around it, and men who came to learn how to fly airplanes that would take them off to war. It heard Taps being played as some of those men came home again, in pine boxes perhaps from the forests nearby.

     I looked up into the branches of this magnificent life force as it stretched to the sky and wondered what it might think of the things it had seen and heard as it grew. How much pain it felt as the trees surrounding it were cut down, and whether or not it felt fear as the men approached near it. I wondered if it felt isolated and alone in the field by itself, or if the wind carries the thoughts of those in the woods nearby to comfort it. It had been able to grow as large as it did simply because it had been without trees to crowd it, but I wonder if it would have rather been a smaller tree and have enjoyed the company and support of the forest.

     Do we strive too much to isolate ourselves, to "branch out" on our own and leave the forest and go where we can "put down roots?" We may be successful in growing and stretching towards the sky, but when the strongest of winds come is it not more comforting and secure to feel the forest of our friends and family around us? Supporting us by intertwining roots to hold us in place when the storms threaten to uproot us? Perhaps there is a reason we cannot "see the forest for the trees." The forest works together for the benefit of all, not just the one.

     I walked to see that old tree one day, and put my hand to the trunk, listening for it to share its history with me. The wind blew and the branches and leaves rustled its secrets. I thanked it for its beauty, and for its survival as a testament to time.

     Old tree... I hope you outlive me.

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