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. Everyone I was camping with decided to go into town. This was the opportunity, so when things got quiet enough for me to hear Tree speak. 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, it 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 a broken hollowed trunk. It had branches and bark like the younger trees but what stood out was the old bark deep with age and think from protecting it all these years from the harsh wind that came at a constant sometimes. Now only about 12 foot tall and shaped like 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, 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. They see me as a still thing that seldom changes more than once or twice a season if they even notice.
Many years before my short 53 human years began. It grew up in spring and into summer where the ocean breeze was a welcomed cooling friend on the hot summer seasons. The shore line was further away then. As it grew the and the 1st winter season came. The people disappeared and It was alone in the cold and the snow of the New England winter. The ocean became angry and wounded at the shore taking pieces as it fell against the ground with force. Tree thought what happened if it reaches me one day will the Ocean take pieces of me. The others who had been here longer assured Tree this was nothing to worry about. You are simply here to be, Tree.
One of these colder times 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 which I had released all of the leaves for the winter in preparation for just such a thing as strong winds. But that day Th e snow stuck to them and wouldn’t let go. it became heavier and heavier I was carrying everything that came at me. I had used all my moves, bends and sways I could avoid this. I stuck like glue and piled on. I held on as tight as I could with my roots. Thats when I heard the break happen. I didn’t even feel it, but I heard it. The sound vibrated everything within me, said Tree. Pausing for a moment, Tree looked at me and said, yes, there is a sound even if no one is around. It’s louder and more devastating than I would have imagined. 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. it wrapped around the wounds from that 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 lookin like you are growing new branches. In fact, said Tree said to me, I’ve been here the whole time waiting for you. Just being a tree. Like any other tree. What ever has happened has only made me stronger. My time here is limited 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 quieted the noises around us. The wind helped us get to this place where we could talk. Where I could hear Tree. And 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