This weekend I went camping on the Maine coast line in New England. Waiting for me there, was a Tree. It wanted to tell me a story. When everyone I was camping with decided to go into town. This was the opportunity for Tree to speak up. So when things got quiet enough for me to hear…
“I’m glad you’re here and we have this time together” said Tree. It went on to tell me, like the others close by I was once 40 feet tall. This tree however was badly broken, as if it had been snapped like a like fresh pole bean. The part that remained was the broken hollowed trunk. It had branches and new bark wrapped around its old bark, but what stood out was the old bark, deep with age and thick from protecting itself all these years from the harsh wind that came off the ocean. Now only about 12 foot tall and shaped like a canoe standing on end. It was standing on the very edge of a small 10 foot embankment that the ocean is slowly eroding away. Its time here is limited. there’s no question to that.
I tell my story all the time, said Tree. Few people can hear me. I live in Tree time where things move much slower and the rise and fall of the sun is barely noticeable. People come and go like that. Measuring their days with the rise and fall of the sun. It’s such a quick existence for them. They see me as a still ever present thing that seldom changes more than once or twice a season, if they even notice me at all.
Many tree years before my short human life began, tree grew out of the ground and up into the spring. In its 1st summer the people came and gathered among the trees as they do in the warm weather. The ocean breeze was welcomed and cooling during the hot summer seasons. The shore line was further away then and as it grew and the 1st winter season came. The people disappeared and It was alone in the cold and snow of the New England winter.
The Ocean became angry in the winter and pounded at the shore, taking pieces away as it fell against the ground with force. Tree thought; what happens if it reaches me one day? Will the Ocean take pieces of me? The other trees who had been here longer assured the younger Tree this was nothing to worry about. You are simply here to be.
As Tree became older and became knowledgeable there was one of these colder winter seasons. The ocean became especially hard. The wind was more than Tree had felt before. Tree wasn’t worried though and felt everything to see had been seen. There was no experience to experience that it didn’t know how to deal with. Trees handle things. It’s just what trees do.
Tree recalled; That day I wasn’t ready. The wind, the snow, It was relentless. I bent and swayed like never before. I tried to allow the wind to pass through my massive branches from which I had released all of the leaves for the winter in preparation. However, that day, The snow stuck to the branches and wouldn’t let go. It became heavier and heavier and I was carrying everything that came at me. I had used all my knowledge, everything I knew to avoid this new weight. The snow stuck like glue and piled on my branches. I held on as tight as I could with my roots. That’s when I heard the break happen. The sound vibrated everything within me said Tree, pausing for a moment.
As Tree began to look weathered from our talk as if re-living the storm Tree said, I could see laying on the ground in front of me. All my branches, every single one, attached still to the upper part of my trunk that had broken off. Everything I had worked for, everything I had built. The top 75 percent of me laid on the ground and slowly it was picked up by the ocean and carried away. Into the distance I lost sight of myself. Everything that was me, was gone in a few moments…
The seasons changed as they always do. The sun warmed the other Trees and their branches stretched out with leaves. They made it through what had broken me. I was a shell of myself and only the bottom of me remained, The base of what I was just a season ago. My roots held what was left of me, but I was broken.
Listening to Tree I started to feel bad. I wanted to say, but look at you, you are beautiful in spite of all that happened to you. I held my tongue and continued to listen. Tree told me it was a couple seasons later that something began to change. Tree began to grow new bark like the young trees had. Smooth and new again, it wrapped around the wounds from that damaging season. As a few seasons went by Tree began feel like branches were reaching out. They were, and they carried a full spread of leaves.
Tree said; I can see you are in the same place I was then, you’re looking a little broken. I’ve been here the whole time waiting for you, to tell you this story right now, when you need to hear it. I’ve been here Just being a tree like any other tree. Whatever has happened has only made me stronger. My time here is limited, but my ending time hasn’t come yet.
After Tree spoke, we sat there and looked out at the ocean together. Feeling the wind on us. It was consistent and it quieted the noises around us. The noises in my head. The wind helped us get to this place where we could talk. Where I could hear Tree.
I’m 53, I am Tree.
Mark St Jean 6/2/2019