“The Tree” (a story)

By Elizabeth Bogod

Red Maple 2I am a tree. I stand on a gigantic hill from which I can see the whole valley where I live. I am not very tall, but I have lived on this hill many happy years. The sky is not always blue, nor the grass green but through experience, I now know the cold winter chills are always followed by warm summer days. I would like to tell you my life-story. I will tell you my memories from seasons past, days gone, and nights transformed by the rising sun. This be my story…

My tale begins long ago as a tiny seed surrounded by my sister and brother seeds. During those warm summer days, I talked to my sisters and brothers and listened to my Mother-Tree each night as she lulled us off to sleep. She was a lady of many years and great wisdom. I felt warm, comforted and happy under her care. Mother-Tree never let us worry. She kept us sheltered under her leaves and when the Great Wind blew violently she held onto us tightly.

Mother-Tree taught us many lessons. We learned about Mother-Nature, we learned that She takes care of all living things and that we must love Her as She loves us.  We learned that She governs four natural elements – water, earth air and fire. Our Mother-Tree told us “Water is your life-line – it provides nourishment, the earth lets us root and grow, air lets us breathe, and fire…” Her words trailed off… “What does fire do?”, we asked. But she would only answer by saying…“I only hope you never find out what fire can do, but do not worry about this. All you need to know about fire is that the sun is made of fire and that it provides glorious light for all creatures both great and small”.

Talking about creatures, she told us the names of animals. We learned that the birds flew in the sky, bumble bees buzzed around us in the springtime and chipmunks made our branches home.

Mother-Tree told us about Great Wind for whom she had much respect and for whom so must we.  She told us that one day Great Wind would lift us up under His wing and take us to far off places, and at that time, we must be brave.  We must go where Great Wind wills us and not be afraid. Mother-Tree assured us that when this time came she would be in our seeds forever and would never truly leave us. Mother Tree would let us go but would always love us. And then one day, as Mother-Tree had promised, Great Wind picked us up under His wing and blew us onwards and upwards…

Great Wind drove me forward…I flew on Great Wind’s momentum over pristine lakes, skipping over the water. I flew by all that was familiar to me! “Oh mother Tree”, I cried as I looked back, “Do not let me leave you!”. But then I remembered her words… “Be brave my seeds, I will never truly leave you”. And so my confidence returned. And oh, how I flew!

I had lost everything I knew but I was on a great adventure and had no time for sadness or regret. I was enjoying every minute of it. I flew over the treetops and through clean, blue air. I had never seen so many sights, colours and such beauty. And then Great Wind set me down. He set me down on a tall hill. I looked around to see and feel the sights and sensations all around me…

But I could see little because I was so very small – just a tiny seed surrounded by a bed of green. Mother Tree had taught me my colors, but I did not understand where or what I lay in.  All I knew was it was soft, and sweet-smelling.  Soon I found my bed in the mildly damp, warm soil. Here I began to feel sleepy – tired out from my long journey, tired out from all the excitement. And so I rested my weary young self as tired little seeds do. But sleep only came to me in spurts because I was afraid of my new-found independence. And so I called out, “Is anybody there?”  I looked around to see if there was any other tree nearby.  Nope, I was alone – so, so lonely. But then, I heard tiny voices. “Over here, over here” they said. I looked but could see no one, not a seed, tree or any soul. Then I looked at the green around me and it looked at me! It was alive! And soon I met my friends – the grasses.

Now, each blade of grass had its own personality but I was closest to three – the three that had introduced themselves. They introduced themselves as Norman, Bradley, and Little Nell. Norman was the tallest. He stood regal and gentlemen-like. He was philosophical and cultured. Quite where he got his wisdom from, I did not know. Bradley, on the other hand, admittedly, ate too much! He lived for succulent ground water.  As a result, he grew outwards, not upwards! But he always had a laugh to share. He was such a bundle of energy and joy.  Little Nell, as she was known, was shy and timid. She had been stepped on when she was a baby-blade by a deer and the fear of this experience had remained with her. She would curl up at the slightest provocation and we would have to coax her back by assuring her that nothing could hurt her while we were there.

And then a strange thing happened…a ruby red leaf fell to the ground. I knew about leaves. They were supposed to stay on trees, not fall to the ground. How strange I thought. But what was one leaf? I put it out of my mind.

I continued to have a good time with the grasses. I was so grateful to them. They provided comfort, knowledge and conversation during the ever cooling days of this season Norman called autumn. They also shared funny moments with me… like the time a chipmunk came along looking for a peanut. Poor Nell thought she would be stepped on again so Bradley braced for battle! He held his blade taut and flicked a glob of dew at the chipmunk. It narrowly missed but that was enough to send the little guy packing. Or the day a skunk came along and left us with a very nasty gift we all did not appreciate! The smell lasted for days.

When I woke next morning, I got a shock! What had happened to my grasses? So many leaves! I called for Norman. Where was he? “Norman!” I cried. I called into the night. “Oh Norman, Bradley, Little Nell where are you?” In the dark, I felt lonelier than ever. And then Little Nell, in a barely audible voice, spoke to me, “I must rest tonight. We will rest together but you must ultimately go on”. What was she talking about? And then Bradley spoke to me, “Don’t forget to party, laugh and have fun. Do it for me.” And I did not understand why they both were talking this way. And finally, Norman called out to me. “You remember what I told you. All things have a season. Bradley, Nell and I have finished ours but you will see our little ones next year. Be brave, my little seed. You are strong.” This was a very dark time for me.

I lay in my soft bed pining for many days and many nights. As Great Wind blew ever stronger, I dreamed of being a big tree like my Mother-Tree. I thought of her often and remembered my dear friends – the grasses. They had loved me as my Mother Tree had done. How I missed them, but life had to go on. I had to keep up my spirits in order to survive.

I looked up and saw a bird float by me on Great Wind’s wing. This lifted my spirits. I wiped my tears and realized life was still out there. And for the first time I heard the trickle of a beautiful waterfall and the chirping of birds which relieved my anxiety. I soon fell into a peaceful sleep.

When I awoke next morning, I found the ground covered with white! I was afraid.  What was this white? I listened for the waterfall but could not hear it.  What had happened to it?  The birds told me it was frozen and the white blanket around me was called “snow”. They assured me it could not hurt me. And so I nestled as deeply as I possibly could into the soil and there I rested.

That night, I heard the haunting cry of a wolf.  I wanted to cry out like he did. “Mother Tree comfort me!” But my voice was silent. I had nobody to cry out to.  And so I tried to comfort myself with a lullaby that Mother Tree taught me and Norman sang to me many times before.  I sang “All Through the Night” and felt so comforted.

Then there was silence… And I was lulled off into a long, deep sleep.

When I woke it was spring! And I was no longer a seed. I was a small shoot. I reached for the sun. Mother Tree was right! The sun was a great, big ball of warming fire.  And how I grew and grew…

The grasses were back!  But these were not Norman, Bradley, or Little Nell.  These were new grasses – wee little shoots of grasses!  Yes, these grasses were the grand-shoots of my old friends! And as they grew to look like Norman, Bradley and Little Nell oh how happy I was. I told my new grand-shoot friends all about their mother and father grasses. I told them about Norman’s great wisdom, Bradley’s humour and Little Nell’s sweet disposition. I was not sure who liked my stories more, the new grasses or me but it was a wonderful time!

All of a sudden everything around me began to bloom! I watched a butterfly land on a flower and a rosebud open and come alive!

Very gradually, I grew up. Within no time, I became taller than my dear grand-shoot friends and they began to look up to me!

One day, as I was watching the sun go down, I noticed the grasses were no longer green. I remembered the previous year. Oh no, was I to lose my dear little grand-shoots so soon?  And then my leaves fell and my grand-shoots were gone forever.

I was a naked tree and so very vulnerable to the elements. I was lonely again.  How would I survive this horrible, dead season?  Then I remembered my Mother Tree’s words “Be brave, you must be strong”.  And these words comforted me and helped me through the hard times ahead.

And a Great Wind battered me that winter. He bent me over and pulled me to and fro. Sometimes I felt sad and lonely but most of the time I listened to Mother-Nature’s voice whispering in the wind. She whispered news from distant places. She told me of storms for which I must brace myself.  And in this way, the Mother of all things showed Her love and care for me. But even with this help and comfort, this was the longest, hardest winter I have ever known. I longed for spring. I longed for the company of my sweet Great-Grand- shoots and I waited impatiently for that day to come.

That night I had a strange but wonderful dream. I dreamed that it was spring and all things were coming alive, through me and from me and by me and on me – it all grew!  And for that one night I was not lonely – I could escape my fear. For that one night I could pretend all was well and good.

But, like all things, nothing lasts forever and eventually the green signs of spring crept in. Days turned into months and months turned into years…

So here I am again living happily on my hill.  I am now ten years old.  I have learned much about life and grown stronger.  I have now developed the inner and outer strength I need to withstand Great Wind’s harsh winter lashings.  I stand confident and tall.  In springtime, I enjoy spending time with my great, great… (Oh, too many to count) grand-shoots.

Now my winters are not so lonely. I have met a new friend – Snowy Owl. He knows big words like “non-migratory” meaning he does not fly away in the fall.  In fact, I am always learning something new from him. But still there is something more I long for in my life…

And then one day, as I watched a song-bird work together with his mate to feed his chicks I knew what was missing. I wanted that same special relationship – something beyond friendship. The very someone who could help me raise my own little ones…

Then one morning, the grasses called out to me. “Look, look”, they said, “to your right… A little shoot like you used to be. Do you see?” And they were right. This was a sapling, growing only a few feet away from me. Growing like I had done and looking like I had done with one distinct difference – this sapling was a he!

Big-Leaf was ten years younger than me, but he grew quickly and we went through many seasons together. Soon he would grow taller than me. Our roots met and connected and I began to feel something I had never felt before. It was something beyond friendship. I wondered could this be love?

Big-Leaf was named after his father who, like me, is a Bigleaf Maple. Together we grow higher and higher – so high we feel like we can touch the sky. We both have huge maple leaves that reach out to one another.

As our love grew over the years, we both longed for the bumble bee to visit us and give us the chance to conceive little Bigleaf Maples of our own. We asked Mother-Nature for this great gift and we waited…

But first, a small town emerged around us. Our surroundings are not so quiet anymore. The sounds of sheep, cows and horses can be heard as they graze on the hills. A species called “humans” can also be heard communicating with each other. Their children often come play in our branches – climbing as high as they possibly can. This is a nice change – we enjoy our little “human” friends.

And then one day, we were awakened by a buzzing sound. All our patience had paid off. The buzzing was like music to our ears! The bee flew from one flower to another… and we waited for it to come to us. At last the bee made its way over to Big-Leaf where it sucked his sweet pollen and then, finally, the bee rested on me to give me what I have so much longed for all these years – the chance to be a Mother Tree.

Throughout the spring and summer, my seedlings grew. Big-Leaf and I taught our seedlings all they needed to know to prepare them for the big, wide world. And yet, I also did my best to protect them while I could. Following my Mother Tree’s example,     I lulled my sweet ones off to sleep each night with a lullaby. I never let them worry and I protected them from Great Wind’s blustery breeze.

Big-Leaf and I taught our seedlings about the love that Mother-Nature has for each one of them. They learned to respect Great Wind’s power and grace. They also learned the names for many animals and plants. But most importantly, they learned of their identity. They were Bigleafs!  As Bigleafs, they would grow to become a strong and capable species.  Human children would want to play in their branches.  And one day, when they became grownup trees, the bumble bee would visit them to suck their nectar or fertilize their young and this would be a great moment for them that they would never forget.

Autumn arrived and down came my leaves. And I knew then that it was time for my little ones to leave me…

It was time for Great Wind to pick my seedlings up on His wing and take them to far off places.  And just as my Mother Tree had done when I was a seedling, I assured my little ones that I would be in their seedlings forever and would never truly leave them. I assured them, that although they must leave me, I would always love them. But my heart ached… Oh how I wanted at least one of my little ones to stay.  How I wanted the chance to watch a seedling son or daughter grow.

Big-Leaf also wanted to watch his young ones grow, but he knew the cold, hard reality that most times this opportunity never arose for a Mother or Father Tree. Still, it pained him to see me so upset and so he silently asked Mother-Nature for one last gift – that she let us have a son or daughter seedling to raise here on our great hill. Mother –Nature heard Big-Leaf’s cry and She answered…

She whispered her message to Great Wind who relayed it to us. “I give you a son”, She told us. At this point, Great Wind positioned one of my branches in the direction of one of my seedlings.  And one of the last few leafs left on that branch broke the fall of my seedling-son and he fell gently to the ground.  Once there, my son lay beside me nestled into the damp, soft soil. Finally, all my dreams had come true…I have Big-Leaf who loves me dearly and a son who has grown from a minute seedling, to a fragile sapling, to a strong, solid adult. There is nothing more I could ask for from Mother-Nature. She has given me all I could ever want in my life.  I am a happy tree.

Special thanks to: Bruce Saunders for his botanical information

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