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, so when things got quiet enough for me to hear Tree speak. It did, and I listened.
“I’m glad you are 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 twig where one half takes away most of the diameter of its width. The other a hollow piece of bark. The part that remained was the broken hollowed trunk. It had branches and new bark like the younger trees, 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 at a constant pace sometimes. Now only about 12 foot tall and shaped like a hollowed out canoe standing on end. It had held on by its roots. Standing on the very edge of a small 10 foot embankment that the ocean is slowly eroding away. Its time is limited here, but what a time it’s had.
I tell my story all the time said Tree, but few 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 sun. It’s such a quick existence for them. They see me as a still thing that seldom changes more than once or twice a season, if they even notice at all.
Many Tree years before my short 53 human years began. It grew up in the spring and into summer where the ocean breeze was a welcomed cooling friend during the hot summer season. The shore line was further away then. 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. In winter the Ocean became angry and pounded at the shore, taking pieces 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 others who had been here longer assured the younger Tree this was nothing to worry about. You are simply here to be, Tree.
One of these colder winter seasons when less people and animals were near, it got especially cold. The wind was more than Tree had felt before.
In its older adult life, Tree 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. I didn’t see it coming. 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 for just such a thing as strong winds. 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 moves, The bends and the sways everything I had to avoid this weather. 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. I didn’t even feel it, but I heard it, I felt it. The sound vibrated everything within me, said Tree. Pausing for a moment, Tree looked at me and said, yes, there is a sound when a tree falls in the woods, even if no one is around. It’s louder and more devastating than I would have imagined, but the sound is there.
As Tree began to look weathered from our talk, Tree said, I could see laying on the ground in front of me. All my branches, every single one, everything I had worked for, everything I had built. The top 75 percent of me. The best part 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 and only the bottom of me remained, the base of what I was just a season ago. My roots held me, my bark protected what was left of me. It didn’t matter though. I was done.
I started to feel bad for Tree. 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 but like you’re growing new branches. Tree said to me, 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 time hasn’t come yet. Neither has yours.
Looking at me, Tree said, I have one final thing to say. Then I will say nothing more.
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 wind helped us get to this place where we could talk. Where I could hear Tree. Then Tree said. I am a Tree, I am here to just be. I can grow, I can bend and sway, I can over come and I can continue on, but I can not talk……..
I am 53. I am Tree.
Mark St Jean 6/2/2019