She was born in the misty warm spring when the snows had melted and the songbirds had returned to add their melodies to the other sounds of the forest.
The howl of the north wind and the frantic waving of branches had stopped, and now the friendly zephyrs warmed the earth, and the budding branches forming the canopy moved gently and whispered softly. As her first tender shoots appeared from her nurse log, she started the slow, steady journey that would take her top over eighty feet in the air to tower over her smaller cousins if she were very lucky. There were many dangers to overcome, and only a few of her kind would live to be adults.
Years went by, and she was nourished by the rich earth, the precious rains, the warm sun, and by the very forest around her.
Through the long seasons, through summer and winter, she heard the murmuring voices of the forest. From the ancient oaks, several hundred years old, she heard the stories of her people.
Sometimes the human creatures passed through on a narrow trail worn in the forest floor. She heard their strange noises, and tasted the winds from their cooking fires. Sometimes they stopped under one of the grandfather trees and made their camp, taking shelter under the great leafy branches. These creatures often looked around to find branches which had fallen during the pruning winds, and used them for their fires.
Once they brought stone tools, and after telling a certain tree of their respect and love, to her horror they attacked it until it fell with a crash that rang out all over the forest. The victim tree sent messages to the others before it fell. It told them its life story so it would not be lost. It sang them its spirit song so it would be passed on to new generations. And it let them know that while it was sad to go, it had been treated with respect by the humans, and its spirit would be freed to return again.
Our little tree gradually grew from a sapling into a young tree, her roots still nourished by the ancient nurse log. The years passed, and around her, the world was changing. The very air was like a library full of stories and she learned of happenings in the forest world, not just her forest, but in forests far away.
She learned of wars among humans, she heard of animals disappearing from the earth. Some of these animals she had never seen, but the stories came on the distant winds from the distant trees in the distant places. Still, her life was not changed, and she basked in the comfort of her friends, the natural world around them, and the constant murmur of whispering tree songs and stories. She provided a home for countless creatures in her strong trunk, and leafy branches. Squirrels lived and played there, birds made their nests and raised their young, insects lived their lives there, and generations passed.
At 200 years of age she was in her prime, a forest giant. She towered almost 90 feet, stood on a trunk that was over 18 feet around, and her majestic branches spread for many feet beyond her trunk.
For several years the winds had been full of tales of new and frightening happenings. While she had not seen evidence of any of these things herself, still she was aware that other forests were being harmed. She learned of places where all the trees had been cut down and the forest floor allowed to erode to become a barren desert, dry and hard.
She heard on the winds the sighing distress calls of ancient trees in distant places, trees whose song told of their history, trees that were already mature when this country was discovered by humans, and were now being destroyed. There was no dignity or reverence in the way they were attacked, and their spirits would never return. The clean pure forest air that she had breathed in, and which she had helped create with her wonderful systems began to change. She noticed changes among her friends nearby as their leaves took in the acid air and their colors became less brilliant. She heard the whispering moans of dying trees, and she felt in her own body the sickness fighting to take control.
Perhaps more than anything else, trees in all the distant and near places felt the loss of the respect and reverence that had always been there for them, and their sadness became part of their illness. Humans no longer used the long metal saws to attack. Some used a machine that screamed and howled as it raged into the tree, and others brought huge vehicles to the forest. These could place their jaws around a mature tree, and either yank it from the ground, or break it off, leaving a shattered, jagged, splintered trunk, the tree dying in agony.
Finally, she was alone. Why she had been spared, when all the others were gone she could not know. Where the deep dark forest once stood, only she remained. The winds now carried only the songs and stories from far distant trees. Many of the stories from the ancient trees had been lost, and sadness was always present in the air.
Our tree continued to stand, filled with sadness for her world. Still magnificent in her stature and beauty, still benevolent in her spirit, she provided shade and shelter for all who wanted or needed to accept her gifts.
When she was 300 years old, a family of humans built their home so that she stood in the very middle of their large back yard. Sometimes she thought maybe the humans could understand her language as they seemed to spend a lot of time near her, and she felt from them a warmth of love that was a communication as real as any other.
Small humans were sometimes lifted to sit on her lower branches, and their laughter and chatter was not so very different from her own language.
One day, in amazement, she watched as holes were dug near her, and a truck with young trees was unloaded. Even before their roots were placed in the holes she could hear the chatter of these adolescent trees among themselves. They were excited and a little frightened as they put their songs and stories into the air. They talked of a journey across the land to come to this place, and as they became aware of our tree, they waved their limbs in amazement. None of them had ever seen anything so magnificent.
They had been raised in a tree farm and all the trees were young, so they had only heard the distant murmuring of the great trees, but their imaginations could not conceive of the majesty they saw in our tree.
And she - she was delighted. Once again after these three hundred years of life she felt hope for the future. She could pass her song and stories on so they would not be lost, and while the old forests could never come back again, perhaps the world of humans would once more respect and revere the trees and forests that provide the very air we all breathe.

No comments: