All of my life, I have grown under and been generously nourished by trees. I dreamt that I flew high above the canopy of a forest, and all of the trees greeted me kindly, their branches wispily waving me by as the wind tenderly carried me across the skies. I have known trees, and I have spoken with trees. They always tell me that long lives are not what they are always longed for and vehemently sought after; they are subjected to witnessing much pain and toil, unable to escape, deeply rooted in one place for the entire duration of their lives. Of course there are the trees with the privilege of being planted from pot to pot—those trees seem to carry along more arrogance with them, excluding a few of the bonsais, for the bonsais instead bore mirth and resilience within them. The frailty of their existence belies their true strengths: a bonsai symbolizes courage in the face of rejection and prejudice. At least, I know mine does. It has been that way for over three years, and hopefully many more to come.
My father once recounted to me the legend of a rather mysterious tree that wisely towers over a park we used to visit frequently, out by a beauteous lake. The swing set was built a short distance away from it, and it was another tree that often visited me in my deepest slumbers. He went on to explain that a person—namely, a young girl—was buried underneath the tree, and that her spirit dwelled within it, diligently watching over and protecting the land with meticulous care. It is an understatement to say that this tree fascinated us; and yet, not once have I written about it. In fact, at the time of writing this, I am almost uncertain if it is even still there. Galesburg is not at all known for its hospitality towards trees, especially lately. I am quite glad I do not live here anymore.
My college is alighted next to a forest. It seems I have formerly taken this fact for granted. My old friends and relatives tell me I look healthier, brighter, calmer, and more confident. They say I seem more serene. My hair has grown longer, my bodily curves more defined. I hear that perhaps leaving home was much more of a benefit than I would initially have fathomed; never before, however, have I thought on the trees. I know they look after me. When my bonsai tree fell ill, I nurtured it and nurtured it, fearing so strongly that I made much too many mistakes over too long of a period of time, and that nothing could preserve its life. I whispered to the trees. I prayed to the trees. I reminded the trees, as well as reminded myself, just how much I loved and adored them. I begged the trees for forgiveness. I pleaded that they forgive me for my faults and flaws, and for the errors I committed in caring for the sensitive specimen. I even cradled it back to my original home, where I was brought up, and placed it next to the warm windowsill, monitoring it carefully. “Please live, please live, please live. Why hadn’t I realized my actions before? Why didn’t I pay attention? Why am I such a fool? Could this truly be the end… is this really demise at my own hands?”
Already I know this feeling all too well. Trees, of course… well, they are sturdy, confident, and reliable. In the end, they never fail me: after a mere week I spotted one, two, five, seven new leaves, a glimmering bright green in the radiant morning sun that emanated from the glass. A window of hope, certainly; I opened it at that very moment and kissed the air, the sky in my fervent gratitude. After another week it sprouted six leaves, plus one more, though at that point it was still barely a leaf. My mother added a Norfolk pine to the family and, though it was newer and perhaps younger (I cannot tell), it seemed to shield its smaller brother away from evils and helped to better care for its more delicate frame.
I forever count on trees without any doubts. My tree sees me when I am in pain, and advises me. My tree sees me when I have accomplished, and praises me. My tree scolds me when I have sinned. My tree questions me when I am blind to what I need to see. It reassures me when I have doubts, and leads me down the paths I know I must trek. I love my tree, and my tree loves me. My tree nurtures me when I do not even ask for such a thing. It knows when I am lost, even when I do not. It stands so high above me that it possesses a better view of my desires, as well as the actions required in order to accomplish them. I embrace my tree and utter, “You are mine, and I am yours.” We are one, it responds. We are one, and we are everything. This, of course, means that my tree forgives me for my mistakes, and allows me to atone for them even if unnecessary—after all, my tree knows what is best for me. Additionally, however, this means I cannot altogether punish myself for what I so ardently and feverishly learn from committing trivial transgressions. My tree might suffer leaf drop again. For each leaf lost, a part of my soul and spirit withers away in the cold darkness; for each new leaf I feel reborn, as if—finally, finally! I can do everything! I can love my tree, live with the trees, and venerate each and every single tree that has supplied me with its fruits, its shelter, its animal company, and its structural support.
I am grateful to all of my trees, and am thankful for all of my trees. When surrounded by my woods, I feel no fear.