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A Beautiful Tree
They said you were just a tree. They said you were old and tired and that your roots were so shallow that the next storm might topple you over. Between you and me, I don’t think they were worried about you. I think they were worried about their precious car that parks underneath your widespread branches. Have they ever thanked you? No? I didn’t think so.
They said you were just a tree but I know the real you. You were a home; a home for the squirrels that made their nests in your branches. I wonder how many babies were born there. Every year I watched them carry twigs up your massive trunk, looking over their shoulder to make sure the other critters weren’t watching. Your branches held their nests tenderly, as if those babies were your own. You took such good care of them.
You never were an easy tree to climb. I tried, year after year. But your lower branches were just too far off the ground for a kid like me to get a grip on them. At some point, I just gave up and enjoyed sitting with my back against your bark, staring up into your branches and dreaming of, well, whatever little girls dream of. Okay, it was love. I dreamed of love as I sat there. I wondered if anyone would ever love me enough to carve my initials in your bark. They never did.
They said you were just a tree. Ha! How foolish they were. You were the place of romance. Every Spring the Robins would meet among the new leaves, singing their love songs to each other and planning their futures. They always sounded so happy. You were not aware that I was listening, were you?
For just a tree, you’ve seen a lot. You watched Mr. Smith next door go through three wives and heard all the yelling and screaming that went with them when they left. Do you remember Holly? She was the little girl who crept into our yard and stole the acorns that had fallen from your limbs. Her Mom said she knew better than to eat them but she did it anyway and boy was she sick. And there was Michael. Remember Michael? When he didn’t want to be found he would hind behind your trunk. His mother would call and call to him and he would just hug your trunk a little tighter. I don’t think she ever realized you were his hiding place.
The boys hated you in the Fall. They said you had too many leaves and they hated having to rake them. But I bet you haven’t forgotten the laugher as they jumped from pile to pile, tossing them up in the air and scattering them all over the yard again.
Once, when Roger was living next door, he asked if we would cut you down. He wanted to put up a fence and your roots were in the way. Dad refused without a second thought. I was thrilled until I learned that he wasn’t protecting you. He just didn’t like Roger.
Trees by Alfred Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
They said you are just a tree but it’s not true. You were the lookout for storms for over 40 years. When the wind picked up and the storm clouds gathered, you would bang the attic with your branches, warning us that rain was coming. You always weathered the storms and that amazed me. I remember thinking how brave you were. When winter arrived you stood there naked in the cold, never complaining, quietly sleeping and preparing yourself for Spring. Those hard winters never did get the best of you. You were beautiful in the snow too. Once I told them that you were majestic and they laughed at me. They never understood, did they?
They said you are just a tree but I loved you, from the moment I saw you. You were my friend and I told you all my secrets. I trusted you to keep my secrets and you never let me down, not once. You watched me grow, through all that silly little girl stuff and you never judged or laughed at me. I played with my dolls underneath your shady protection and read you the poems of Rudyard Kipling and Robert Frost. When I discovered Henry David Thoreau I couldn’t wait to share with you his love of nature. I know you remember how I came running home from school the day my teacher read to me “Trees” by Alfred Joyce Kilmer. I thought she had written that poem about you. Do you remember the words? I read them to you with all the love inside me and even now, the words are etched on my memory, as is the image of you, who they called - just a tree.
They say you are just a tree and that you have to go but I cannot bear to say goodbye to you. I won’t watch them. I can’t. They have started the chain-saw and they are coming. I must go but you won’t forget me, will you? I have loved you and you have been a good friend. They say you are just a tree, but it isn’t so. You are so much more.
You are a beautiful tree.
© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.
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