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Tree

2007-03-13

(Wrote this on the train home from Stenungsund a few years ago.)

His name was Tree.

For as long as he could remember, he had stood here in the middle of the forest. Deep in the far recesses of his slow, heavy conscience, deep memories awoke and slowly rose up to a higher level of awareness; memories of his youth, when he was a much, much younger and more vigorous Tree; memories of ages past that seemed so remote; yet he was somehow aware that they had, indeed, happened to him, only a long, long time ago.

He was almost sound asleep now. His branches hung heavily, and most of the time his mind seemed to be clouded with a thick, dreary fog from which he awoke but momentarily. He was dimly aware of coldness; among his twigs and leaves frost was setting in, and if he stretched out his senses he could just barely sense the last fading chlorophyll receding down, deep down, in bracing for winter. They were not strong emotions; over the last, say… he had some difficulty remembering… say, the last two ages or so - he defined an age to be twelve winters, a decision he made many, many ages ago when he was still curious about things - over the last two ages he had been growing increasingly numb of outside things, and now he knew that he was slowly drifting away into a deep sleep from which he would never more wake up.

But those memories, reaching him from far off, caused him to stir a little bit. He carefully - albeit rather slowly - turned his dim attention to them. It was like a taste of spring. They had an air of life about them. And then, he lost it...

Some time passed.

Suddenly something stirred him again. His mind rose sleepily again, and noted that it was colder now, much colder. He could sense that most of his leaves had disappeared; he felt it, a keen awareness of nakedness that still grasped him in his drowsy state. Deep down, something that many others might have been surprised at seeing in a tree this age, started to form; something that would best be described - in want of a better word - as, perhaps, a smile. His mind fluttered away, searching for something eerily escaping; a faint and distant memory of the first time he felt that nakedness. And then, there it was again, hitting him with much stronger force this time: Distant memories, distant songs, of ages passed.

His mind sank back as he slowly began to walk through the memories. And suddenly, there was a taste of spring, and an air of life that alerted him… the feelings came back to him again, unwilling to let go.

He remembered ages past. The sun. Yes, the sun had been stronger in those days, hadn't it? He had felt it stronger. He remembered the warm, lovely sun beating upon his leaves, drinking in every drop of warmth it induced. He remembered the sense of life pouring through him; a tickling, invigorating feeling of sorts. For a moment he sensed again the lovely feeling of dipping his roots deep, deep down in the ground, sapping up water and sensing it flow all through his trunk, out through the branches, the twigs, and his leaves... A feeling so joyful and bright that almost made him want to laugh.

He remembered that he used to sing a lot. He sang, in his own special, deep, dark and hollow voice, a song of life. He sang with the wind rustling through his leaves. He sang to the little squirrels that climbed around among his branches. He sang a song about the little birds, which made nests in him, and to the lives and events that took place. His song grew quieter as the ages slowly passed by, mostly because he didn't feel the need to sing much longer. And besides, other trees around him did so much better, too.

And yes, he remembered the little birds, especially the birds. When he was young, he remembered being annoyed by them. He was just a few winters old, and they came and sat down in him, took cover among his leaves. He was very rude in those days, and very proud too. A sense of tender joy pervaded him as he thought back on these times. Yes, he had been very proud indeed… and now, if only words could tell the wisdom he possessed.

How many ages of birds had he seen? - Too many to be counted, indeed. They had come in great numbers, built nests in him, taken cover in him, and raised their young there. Generations had come and gone, and he had harbored them all. After all, he was Tree; many animals knew him. He was, he believed, the oldest in the forest.

He had been young once. He didn't have memory of… of…? Being formed, or made, or born. Or however he came about. He had to start once, he thought. Back in his younger days he had given this thought much attention, where he came from, and perhaps, some day, where he would go. He knew by now, from observing other trees, that he would invariably, one day, sink into eternal sleep; and before long his trunk would begin to fade away, and one day he might fall over and then, well, the rest would be history; but the idea of where they all came from still actually eluded him.

His mind had been much, much faster in those days, and he had been much more sensitive. He could still remember the tickling feeling of the ants' little feet as they climbed upon his trunk and branches. He had laughed a whole lot about it in those days, and sung songs about it. He liked to sing. He never did that anymore, but he liked to do it in his younger days.

He remembered when he began keeping track of seasons. In the beginning he had known spring; that was his first memory. The fresh air, all the little sounds around him, and the little brook about his roots. In those days, those large animals used to come around and chew off bark from him, and eat. He was outraged about that back then; nowadays, that never happened. His first summer… and then fall, and winter, when all his leaves fell away and that bitter cold, nakedness and drowsiness gripped him. He had thought his end was near. But then he awoke again in spring; and so, many summers, falls, winters and springs again had passed.

He began to keep track of those cycles as they passed by. When they became too many to count he grouped them in twelve, and called them ages. And now, too many ages had passed by for him to count.

Yes, he could feel it. His conscience slowly began drifting off again, slowly letting go of all these memories. He knew that this was the final end for old Tree. Or was it? Just as he had thought once that his end was near, he had slept, and then woken up again. Maybe there was something on the other side of this sleep. Maybe there was… Maybe, one day, on some other side somewhere, Tree would wake up again, young and healthy, with fresh new leaves and shiny bark, and…

He lost that thought. He could barely stay awake. He was hardly any longer aware of anything around him; and he was so tired, so unfathomably tired… it would be good to sleep. He had had a long, healthy life, and now he would sleep. "Hark, old Tree has fallen asleep", he thought as he drifted off into the dim fogginess that crept upon him.

And then, as softly as ever - as gently as his leaves had ever waved in the cool summer's breeze, as mildly and tenderly as any fog had ever engulfed him in - old Tree fell asleep, for the last time. His conscience slowly faded; and silently - just as quiet as the rest of the forest that now lay draped in thick, white and heavy snow - so silently, Tree passed away.