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Reminiscences of a tree

A short story about life

 

The winter looses its gloomy display, the soil is turning damper and almost inviting. Frivolous edges appear on the clouds, majestically parading across the crisp blue sky. The remaining melting snow piles and frost slowly melt away and fresh spring water seeps into the lower soil, soaking the fertile layer and reviving fungi and bacteria that ferment plant remains into nutritious minerals. Despite the barren landscape, the desolate desert area seems to exhale a deep sigh of relief. A few dead tree stumps seem to defy the loneliness, with shimmering icicles wilting from dead branches.

However there is one tree that stands taller with a proud, almost pathetic posture. It is still alive, but only barely so. The careful spring sun warms up the soil and the old worn bark of the tree. It soon feels prematurely revived and sets its sap slowly into motion through its clogged xylem by sucking up the little water and minerals from the soil to the old and worn tissue of last year's twigs. The old tree feels at least a few of them to be alive. They were a joy to produce but even last summer, even though it feared they may have been the last ones.

The sun picks up strength and caresses the old tree with warm and soothing rays. It relaxes him and provides him again with the conation to survive another season. As the sap is flowing more strongly, he searches for the sensation of a live bud on his few awaiting branches. There is one left amongst the lower twigs that survived last yearís ordeals. It managed to survive the frosty winds in a bark crevice. As the days go by, he feels the sap of life flow more strongly through his veins. He focuses his strength on that last living bud and soon it starts to burst open, flaunting a tiny sprout of leaves and frail thin wood. The old tree puts all his energy into it and as the spring provides more water and warm southerly winds, a nice looking new and resilient branch develops. The leaves flutter happily in the wind and provide the tree with fresh nutrients.

The old tree feels proud about this achievement but looks at the landscape with a deep melancholy. Years ago, there was vast woodland here. The soil was covered with young saplings, each trying to survive by outgrowing the other ones. They were overcast by their parent tree, which provided the soil each year with decaying leaves to provide food for the fresh fallen fruit bursting with seeds. The strongest survived and the old tree remembered he was the strongest of them all. He made it, although that meant that many of his brothers and sisters didn't. It was truly a survival of the fittest, the strongest or the most well placed. Overlooking the remaining parent trees were the old, worn out, shaky lumber of previous generations. They had but a few pitiful green branches left and indeed fewer every year. Once in a while, one would yield to the spring or autumn storms and come crashing down, leaving its space to the new saplings to conquer it. The old tree remembers it all with a sore smile engraved in its bark.

Plenty more marks show the troubles that followed that period of happiness. The climate and the woodland changed dramatically. The rains did not come as they used to, the wind became fiercer every year and the soil dried up leaving a hard and infertile crust no longer covered by a carpet of leaves. Instead of the elder trees coming down, even the parent trees were yielding one by one. The young saplings, destined and designed to take over their parent's task, never made it. Neither the soil nor the sun supported their needs any longer. After all those years of decay, the woodland turned into a vast desert. The old tree can only glare at the corpses of so many friends he used to cherish. Every year he watched how one of them would succumb to the harsh reality and crash to its final resting place on the soil. The worst were the ones that never gave in. They remained standing as grave stones, dead but vainly defying their established fate.

The summer takes over and the old tree feels a surge of the old times come over him. The sun blooms over the area and a deep warmth glows in his deepest tissues. Helped by the moisture in the soil, he creates a flower bud at the top of his only living branch. It is a pitiful one but it fills him with misplaced pride. In the desert, even a miserable flower looks like a dozen roses. A lonesome lost bee, loaded with pollen from flourishing woodland far away, visits the flower and fertilizes it with fresh DNA from a mate far away. The old tree feels a the surge of procreation and recovers from its melancholy. It starts to pour new energy into the branch and to his surprise he manages to produce a fruit growing out of the poorly designed flower, provided by the summer sunís full power. The soil is still rich deep down where his roots can reach it. The few leaves on the branch provide the new born fruit with plenty of food. The tree sees a new future. If he can spread the seeds of the fruit widely enough, new saplings will sprout and grow. A new wood will emerge, thanks to him. It takes only him and another from far away to start a new generation. While a soft summer breeze caresses the new branch and the fruit, he feels like the founder of a new wood conquering the barren land surrounding him.

In high summer, the fruit ripens and seeds develop in it. The old tree feels ecstatic. He has accomplished his final goal in life. He will be the new godfather of it all. He imagines all the new saplings growing next year, protecting him from the spring storms. As they grow, they will protect him even more. A new era announces itself. Soon there will be a new forest growing here and after a couple of years he will retire, convinced that things will always be like they used to be.

The autumn sets in as the summer perishes. The sun lacks power and offers no longer sufficient support. The old tree is suffering but the fruit and the leaves happily flutter about and he feels still strong about being able to protect them. The fruit is looking good, ripe and ready to perform its duty. He feels comfortable with its weight, complexion and colour. The wind blows the hard sharp sand grains against his bark and starts to cause sap oozing injuries. The tree tries to protect the fruit branch by yielding his hardened wood fibres to the wind. Chased by the fierce wind, the flying sand becomes a sheer torture. It relentlessly showers the bark like sandpaper can and rips off vulnerable shreds. The old tree starts to realize something is going wrong. He sheds the leaves in an attempt to save the fruit branch. For a while it goes fine. The old tree hangs on to the fruit with all its might. His roots are grabbing whatever they can hold onto.

One day, the sky looks dark and threatening. Dark clouds with red dusk linings appear on the horizon. A deep feeling of dread comes over him as he senses the approaching storm. When it hits him, the snarling wind blows everything it has at the tree. He looses all old branches and sees them crashing into his long gone friends and family. He is no more than a stump now. He tries to shed the fruit and spread the seeds but to no avail. A final burst of the autumn storm proves too much. The tree feels its roots giving way. He starts to lean over when the wind takes another direction and increases in strength. The old tree finally yields with a silent cry of despair when he realizes the consequences. A sudden flash of lightning strikes him half way the stem, burns a deep smoking scar into his bark and finally, a merciless wind gust out of the blue breaks his thick but brittle stem into smithereens and blows him over. As he crashes the wrong way, his last fruit and seed gets squashed under his weight when his corpse thumps onto the soil.

Written by: Solbe.


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