Over at the Red Ant there is a (true) story about how senseless and somewhat selfish some peope can be toward nature and specifically trees.
So I thought I would post this story I wrote a while back .
The Old Tree
The old tree lay on its side. Broken. With its’ last vestige of consciousness it wondered at what might have been.
It had started life as does all life, a seed. Indistinguishable from many other seeds; but a seed of huge potential nonetheless.
As a seed he was taken, uncomplaining, from his family. His family, a huge, almost immeasurable forest, hardly missed him as he was picked up by a migratory bird and carried over seas and vast tracts of land. Over one particularly barren stretch the bird rested by a small stream to drink. Unbeknownst it dropped the seed by the stream and after drinking its fill flew off, continuing its journey to wherever birds like it flew.
There the seed lay, undisturbed and unmolested. One small cloud in an otherwise azure sky unseasonably shed a few drops of precious water that fell on the seed and the surrounding earth.
It was enough. Germination began. The tree grew. First a shoot, then a sapling. It sent down roots to anchor itself to the bank and to draw water from the stream.
And it continued growing. There were no other trees for company, but whilst the tree was young many insects made their home in and around him. They were too small to damage his essential vitality and he flourished even more.
In time his branches grew as wide as he grew tall. His roots went even deeper. He began to be visited by a multitude of creatures, birds especially. There were other creatures, lion, deer, elephant and the like. But none stayed. They were all transitory or migratory. Answering a call as ancient as nature itself.
And he still remained essentially alone. But not lonely.
Many, many years passed. Though for the tree, which had ancestors that had lived for thousands of years, the passage of time must have seemed very brief.
Then, one day, a creature the likes of which he had never seen before, but soon learned was called human, arrived.
She sat in the shade of his branches, drank cool water from the stream and fell asleep.
This creature was not alone. She brought with her two smaller creatures which the tree learnt were her children.
The following morning the woman announced that this was the place they were all to make their home. The children hollered in delight and scampered up the tree to play amongst the branches.
At first the tree was overjoyed. Company at last, it thought. But its happiness was short lived. It misunderstood the woman’s intention. He had believed they would use him as their home. He would have allowed them to rest and sleep amongst his branches, as the birds did. He was prepared to shelter them from wind and rain with his leaves and he would willingly have allowed them to share the stream.
But the woman had other ideas. She was not aware of the tree in the same manner, as the tree was aware of her and her children.
At first when she brought her axe against his trunk he was confused. The axe made little impression, initially. So when she ceased striking him with it, and rested against his trunk in the shade of his branches he dismissed her action as strange but inconsequential. Had he had been with his family he would have learnt at an early age the destructive nature of man and he would have been taught to resist in the way of trees.
But he did not have that knowledge and so was without defence.
In the days and weeks that followed the woman hacked and hacked at his trunk until eventually his tough bark was breached. By now the tree was angry and rallied to defend itself. One small breach in its bark was not fatal, he could easily heal himself. But he needed to take action all the same. The tree shook its upper branches and disturbed a hornet’s nest the woman was unaware of. The hornets attacked the woman and stung her terribly. It saddened the tree to hurt her. Even more so her children but she had to stop hacking at him. Did she not realise what she was doing?
The woman and her children sought refuge in the stream and eventually the hornets left her alone. But their own home had been inadvertently destroyed by the tree shaking it loose so the hornets flew off in one huge swarm in search of another, more quiet place to rebuild their nest.
The woman and her children cried. The tree thought they were upset at what they had done so he sent down a small shower of thick green leaves. The leaves were full of soothing sap and the woman and her children rubbed the leaves over their bodies to ease the pain of the hornet stings.
After several days they seemed to recover.
The children asked if it would be better if they stopped trying to cut down the tree. But the woman was determined. She stood hands on hips in an attitude of defiance and addressed the tree.
“Old bastard, you have got to go”.
The children were still very young and understood little. So their allegiance was with their mother.
They held hands and danced around the tree singing,
“Old Bastard, Old Bastard you’ve got to go”. They sang over and over.
But as with all small children they tired of this game very quickly and asked their mother why the Old Bastard had to go. For it was no longer a tree in their eyes. It had hurt them and they had lost all sense of reason towards the tree.
Their mother explained but the words she used made no sense. Words like, “Didn’t put food on the table.” “Didn’t pay its’ keep.”
“Was blocking the view”.
But essentially, The Old Bastard was “In the way”.
The woman and her children went away for a while. The tree thought that they had decided to leave him alone.
He began to reminisce about the times the children played amongst his branches. How they made up counting games with the seeds he dropped for them. He remembered the times he showed them all the wonderful creatures that shared the tree with them.
The tree had not complained when the children, with the help of their mother, had built a small house amongst its’ lower branches.
The tree sensed the children were happy and so it was happy.
The woman soon returned. This time she brought with her two men and a machine. The tree did not know this was called a ‘chain-saw’.
This time there was no defence that the tree could muster. It was all over in a moment. No time for weeping, the tree was too numb with shock.
As it crashed to the ground it seemed to scream in agony. The children held hands and danced again.
“The Old Bastard is dead, the Old Bastard is dead”. The woman stood hands on hips and a look of grim satisfaction on her face.
Many small creatures that lived with the tree fled in panic. Amongst these animals were an owl and a squirrel, which neither the woman or the children had noticed. The owls’ nest was destroyed and the two fledglings crushed.
The woman turned on her heel and walked away, calling for her children as she went.
Where the tree had stood the large patch of grass soon began to wither and die. The wind blew the soil into the stream that eventually clogged with silt and turned stagnant. Most of the fish left or died.
The Old Bastard was dead. But his death destroyed many other things.
But at least the woman’s view was not blocked anymore. At last she could see clearly.
© Douglas Pearce 2006