I have stood for over a hundred years in this place, endured the idiots who link hands and try to encompass my bulk, observed the overprepared hiker complete with stuffed backpack and hiking stick with a chuckle, and mourned the loss of my brothers and sisters when the heavy snows of winter became too much for them to bear.
But never I have seen anyone like her.
A happy child she was. She often raced down the trail in front of her mother. The running girl. I wonder if she were ever still, even in her sleep. She grew a bit more docile with age, instead keeping pace with her mother, but even so I would not describe her as still because she gestured wildly, her mouth running a mile a minute, talking about the things all human girls do, I suppose.
Sometimes she walked with others and when they expressed their wonder at my size and age, she would glance up at me and shrug. I liked her.
Long seasons come and go, and she passed beneath me less and less, but her mother continued to visit with her dog, Sweetpea, who sniffed around for the nasty little rodents living in the dirt below me. Even chased one of those chattering pests up my side once and scared off a few of those ever-persistent woodpeckers. Anyone who agitates those ingrates are all right with me, so I began to look forward to their daily treks by me.
Once in a great while the girl, now turned woman, would return with her mother. Bringing with her a man with blonde hair. I did not like him, but she didn’t notice. Even when I shook my branches and hurled acorns after him. But after several seasons, she brought her children—a couple tow-headed girls. They tumbled and milled, laughing and yelling, shattering the silence of my domain, but because they were hers and I could see so much of her in their constant motion, I loved them.
Years pass slow, season by season. I sleep more and more these days and I will join my family in slumber with a moss blanket to cover me. My roots are strong and I’m sure the day I fall will be as though lightning struck the ground. The air will resonate with the sharp crack and the earth will be ripped open to leave a gaping wound. I have grown weary and almost welcome the rending.
Footsteps on the trail try to bring me back from my slumber, but I am sluggish. A hand on my trunk brings me the closest I’ve been to fully awake for quite some time. She’s come back. She’s alone, hair white with age, though she could have no concept of time. Not like I do.
She smiles and takes a deep breath. I think this is the first time she has actually stopped to see me. To really see me for what I am. Humbling for most humans who stop and contemplate the ages I have seen. She rests her forehead against me for a moment. The wind whispers through what is left of my leaves and she stares upwards. I let my leaves tell her my secrets. The mist of early morning, the smell of rain, the warmth of summer sun, but I also tell her about her life, what I’ve seen of it. I tell her she did well, that moss blankets are not the worst thing to wrap up in, that soil is alive and welcoming, that she won’t be alone when she sleeps.
For the first time, I would describe her as still. Maybe with age humans acquire the ability to hear not with their ears but their hearts. Her face is peaceful when she turns to go, allowing her fingers to trail over my bark. The wind picks up and I sing a farewell song to her. No, not farewell, but a song of welcoming.
Mom of four, college student, cairn builder, and rescuer of discounted plants. Melissa Reynolds spends her day as expected; in a whirlwind of chores and homework, but at night she slips away into the magical world of stories.