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Bedtime

Once an insignificant acorn, the large oak tree grew its fragile roots deep into the fertile soil. A passing deer was chased away by a far away noise as the sapling enjoyed the fresh meadow air. On that spot the growing tree sprouted into the sky year by year. Its adolescent branches extended out becoming a home for all species of native birds and squirrels. Its trunk swelled to the official width of 48.9 inches around its dark trunk. A tree that would change a small frontier town forever.

The citizens of Love-an-Oak prized having the tree on the outskirts of town in their undeveloped meadow. This tree was their town’s treasure. So much that the founders named their town in its honor. A traveling real estate agent had once discussed building a much needed school in the spot of the tree. The townsfolk railroaded her out of town with all but pitchforks and torches. It was then that the town charter officially recognized the tree’s community value. First,the Grand Tree Calendar was established. The calendar laid out special events for people to honor the tree. A Tyler of the Tree was officially established. This person was charged with the general protection of the tree and surrounding land. A Doctor of the Tree was put into office to make sure that their friend was always in the best of health. The town created a rule that established that no visitor would go to the tree without at least 2 townsfolk present. The charter promoted an incentive for creating paintings of a flattering kind. The paintings were encouraged to be added to the Tree For Life Museum.

Every Arbor Day, locals would gather around the tree out of public respect. The town's tree doctor would evaluate the tree as part of the ceremony in the morning of their celebration. A private, thorough inspection would take place 72 hours before the holiday event. The doctor would give the 74 foot giant an examination, always indicating no significant issues. The people in the town would cheer at the report of the tree's pristine health. The tree doctor would be treated to the honors of a king for the rest of the day. On this commemorative day, a special event would take place. The Tyler of the Tree would walk around the tree in the morning with a ceremonial, flintlock rifle. Every half an hour another person would eagerly join the procession. The process would continue for 7 hours and 4 minutes with supporters at a table offering food and water to the volunteers. Those walked more than six hours received a commemorative medal. Many families had rows of medals with fond memories attached to them. 

The tree was a celebrated event in any manner the townsfolk could find a way to pay homage to their source of pride. When summer began the transition into fall, local children would gather with the town Mayor on the last Saturday of summer to see if anyone could find the first changed leaf. The children who managed to find the correct leaves would win a basket of candy.

Young lovers were known to meet at the tree to solidify their relationships. The tree became an integral part of many engagement stories throughout the town. The lives of those engaged would be connected in marriage under its branches. The newlyweds would be told that when they were ready to make a family, that their consummation in the same place on a moonless night would guarantee their good fortune with a pregnancy. For that reason, the tree was left alone on moonless nights so as to give any wanting couple their privacy. A large green flag would be temporarily planted near the tree to let others know that the space was temporarily occupied. Some couples chose to birth their children in that same spot, making a full circle of their family. The babies were known as “tree babies.” If the couple dated, married, consummated and birthed under the tree, they and their new family would have the honor of being called Ones of the Oak or “Oakies” for short. The family would receive a plaque on Arbor Day and would be added to the sacred Book of the Tree.

Young children had stories read to them on blankets under the tree. School aged children would be brought to the branch canopy on warm days to learn about the wonders of nature. Older children were warned under penalty of consequences from desecrating the tree's integrity in any manner. A child stuck a knife into the trunk on an obscene dare. The Tyler of the Tree found the knife. She rallied the townsfolk like a swarm of bees investigating an intruder in the hive. The boy had forgotten his monogrammed knife sheath on a nearby rock, immediately implicating him. The child and family became local pariahs, eventually being forced to leave the town.

A cemetery was constructed overlooking the tree not long after the founding of the town. Those on their deathbeds were comforted that they would soon rest in a place close to their beloved oak. It was common that the family of the deceased would gather at the foot of the tree after the funeral. When family came to visit the grave site, they, too, would find peace knowing the tree was in eyesight. Some families chose to pour the ashes of the deceased outside the perimeter of the branches. Townsfolk were asked to keep from the tree for three days out of respect.

Eventually a flourishing, botanical garden was created in sight of their beloved. It was said behind closed doors that the tree would glow once a year. One needed to stand just beyond the poinsettias and look at the trunk on the last sunset of Spring. This became known as the “Poinsettia Prophecy.” People reported feeling a renewed sense of motivation after being witness to the event.

Many of the those from the town celebrated the tree’s impact on their personal lives with a tattoo. Townspeople were proud to show off their ink to one another after their completion. Every three years, those who adorned their bodies would gather at the tree’s base for a group picture. The photos would be placed along the Wall of Memories in the local museum.

The once tiny acorn had become a great oak tree. This allowed a town to rally around something simple and elegant for their communal happiness. The relationship was the purest of symbiotic interactions. A reason for the town to establish its own roots deep into the ground.

April 23, 2021 12:29

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