I remember that day as if it were yesterday…
It was the break of dawn, and I was wrapped up in my purple silk sheets with one thought lingering in the forefront of my mind. Forget it. The sky was at its most beautiful stage: the transition from a dull gray to a sunrise of orange, pink, and yellow hues. In a few hours, its oldest star would shine once again, radiating from behind delighted clouds and prideful mountains. That particular morning, I felt an intimate connection with nature, almost as if I were nature’s child—roots wrapped around my body that moved in rhythm with the rise and fall of my chest. From these roots grew enormous oaks, burned with time, blessed with love, and burdened with obedience. Embraced by their protection, I was left to wonder what opportunities the outside world held. All I could see of the outdoors were the valentine roses peeking out of sidewalk cracks and neighboring lawns. All I could hear of the outdoors were the soft cries of a baby black bird making his first attempt at flight. All I could smell of the outdoors were pines flanking blue spring waters.
But there was something else, some other aroma that blended in with that of the trees. Smoke.
It burned bright, blazing through the wood. My eyes squinted from the embers and gray wisps that wafted through the fissures in my protective trunks. I sat silently as millions of years of strength, shelter, and serenity blackened from fire. Soon, I was covered in their oaken ash, blanketed by the very walls that had once blocked my view of the outside world. Piles of their remains drifted to the corners of my sanctuary and settled there for another million years. Salt-laced droplets slowly spilled from my eyes; I had never cried before, and I was surprised at my sudden need to feel a sense of release, but all I managed to do was wipe ash into my eyes. It burned.
Two years later, I am wrapped up in my purple silk sheets with one thought lingering in the forefront of my mind: how did I survive? The fire had engulfed life older than me with roots encircled in Mother Nature. Sure, the window to the outside world had finally lifted, but I have been so afraid to step through in fear of everything that my oaks had guarded me from. I have only ever known one reality, and to think that I had witnessed their oaken stomachs crumble before me is a truth I have yet to accept. This particular morning, I feel a different sort of connection with nature—newly born roots squeeze my heart and extend down into the soil. They spread out underground, circling around the fingers of their kin. Gently, my feet plant themselves on the earth, and I reach my arms up to wave good morning to those above. I look to my left and see the valentine roses, hear the baby black bird, and smell the scent of pine. Without thinking, I turn towards the window and place one hand on the broken frame. My right leg swings over the sill and I am straddling the edge between a world I am comfortable in and world I am yearning to discover. I vote for the latter. At ground level, I notice something peculiar, a row of oaks lines every street, forest entrance, and beach cliff. Their presence soothes me, and I realize that no matter how bright the fire burns, my family of oaks can never be extinguished. And so I went into the unknown with my protectors still rooted at my side.