A tree is alive long before it acquires its place in the earth. An insignificant seedling untangles itself from a bird’s wing; I float down at the whim of the wind and, before long, I arrive onto the generous soil that will become my place in the world for the adventurous centuries to come. I use all of nature’s selfless circumstances, to thrive. I push below and rise above. Sunlight streams top to bottom over every grateful surface. Omniscient weather anticipates my each need. I need rain and rain arrives. Harmony abounds. Bucolic scenes prevail above and below. Above, I cast a shadow wide and proud. Below, ticklish insects move the soil around my growing, inquisitive feet. Patient decades of changing seasons support my purpose: to be tall in the world. Mightier than those around me; noble and humble.
At first, insignificant expeditions, carrying shinning cyclops peepers that shoot red laser beams which burn with the measuring of the profitable abundance about me. Before long they multiply and I am witness to the wide-spread destruction of my beleaguered family. Birds desert this, now Mordor, land. A different abundance grows, a cancer, when, other species of tree arrive. Fastened, unwillingly, on top of angry, deafening machines that scar the earth with tracks. This novel breed of tree are flat and sad and dead and become pressed into the walls of the buildings that grow faster than any living tree I have ever seen.
It is a wonder I am here to witness it at all because an abundantly bearded ogre arrives hoisting a grumbling, smoking machine for cutting. “Hey not that one!” Shouts another bearded beast. “We use that one for shade at lunchtime.” Disappointed, the man leaves with the re-determined ambition of removing other inconvenient impediment.
Humble red stones arrive. They are plastered together with a grey poisonous glue. They demarcate the structure maturing alongside me. The cancer grows as far as I can see.
Inquisitive eyes arrive, filled with a lust for land. “Look daddy!” delights a budding human, a small girl-child. “That one! That one! We can build a tree house in that tree!” Under the soft humidity of my branches, I witness a document signed.
And so, I meet Sarah and her younger brother Matt, who with Father’s help, build a tree house inside my voluminous canopy. We are the gleeful envy of all the neighborhood little-ones.
“Matthew come inside! Dinner’s ready,” calls Mother from the house with a final impatience. When she uses his full name, Matthew, instead of the affectionate, Matt, he knows to mind her. Matt, grumbling, leaves the tree house, down the wooden ladder nailed into my wizened trunk. I don’t mind. My skin is as tough as the soles on their shoes. Day by day, they bring joyful energy. The tree house is where, at the age of sweet 16, Sarah experiences the dreamy excitement of her first kiss. And when Karl, the neighborhood bully, punches Matt in the arm, hard enough to make him cry, I trip him with one of my roots hidden beneath the leaves I left there. Rosemarie the purple flowered bush helps me, an accomplice, a supplemental impediment. Karl falls and chips his front tooth. He scurries away howling.
The children grow up and abandon me in search of superior academic ambitions. Mother and Father sell the house and for lonely seasons society forsakes me, except for the time Mrs. Lily’s cat, Chestnut, traps himself at the end of one of my long branches. Burly men arrive in a noisy machine and extend a long white sprout that germinates faster than any tree I have ever seen. One of the men harvests Chestnut from my branch and now designated to being an"inside cat" I never meet him again.
Other colonials arrive and they buy the house. They bring with them a crying baby and as seasons pass, Ryan matures into an adventurous youngster with high-reaching ideas and world-wide ambitions. On the opposite side of the tree house he hangs a single rope with a bulging knot at the end for swinging. He uses it with such joyous frequency the rope rubs a smooth ring on my resilient skin. My voice is but the whispering of a wind through my branches, far too soft to warn him on the soggy, rainy day when he catapulted, higher, higher and higher and slipped and broke his arm. Deplorably I endure a lonely season without any children. Ryan ventures out seldomly to use the swing. His injury has matured him with doubt. He comes out to keep me company with greater infrequency and never again in the rain. The new neighbor, Angela, flies her splendid red kite into my branches. As she watches anxiously I help Ryan untangle it from my limbs. It see-saws on the wind below to land victoriously at their feet. He is her hero. They fall in love. I am their guardian and one day they hide from the rain under my canopy. They kiss for the first time beneath my umbrella. The rain brings out the mischief in me; with the slightest breeze I shimmer my branches and a profusion of affectionate droplets shower down upon them. Holding hands they race into the house, screaming in ecstasy.
Summer breaks her promise of joy when, in the tree house, Angela tells Ryan she no longer loves him. She leaves in an awkward, guilty hurry. Ryan cries. If my limbs were capable of it I would embrace him. I send him all my positive energy, but, with an inconsolable mood he abandons me for the last time.
A pernicious grey steel crawls across the sky and a biting cold coerces all life into shelter. People, pets, birds and even the mischievous squirrels desert me. My branches wilt, my leaves dry. A pestilent Autumn approaches. A late, violent, rain dashes the fragile leaves from my branches like sodden, severed hair. They fall and rot about my determined trunk with brown decay. Such a repulsive season I have never witnessed before.
Circumstances, infused with depravity, bring pregnant purple skies and light, meagre as it is, hides from the flashing incandescence above and the vengeful shadows below. A final eruption from the hell above spears me with white fire, impossibly hot. Unstoppable, merciless fire envelops me. A serpentine, incendiary orange pulls the tree house from my branches. It tumbles in stages; chunks of smouldering wood hiss and writhe amongst the rot below.
And I burn.
But since you are aware that I am the author of this story, you are also aware that a tree's purpose is never done.
Inquisitive green buds peek out of my every available surface and I sprout faster than any tree I have ever seen.