The Tree

September 24, 2007
By Claire Cunningham, Prairie Du Chein, WI

The rain splatters down upon my face as I look up to the sky. I travel forward, my pants soaked with the rain and mud, my feet soar, and my sould weary, At the end of my path I see a tree, he is magnificent. He stands tall and proud above all of the others; his age showing in all of the notches found along his trunk. The bark is peeling in one spot, and it gives the old tree the apperance of smiling. Above the smile are two notches where branches must have fallen off, they too seem to reflect a smile, giving the tree a kindof face.

As the rain receded he heaves a greath sigh and says to me, "Child, why are you walking this path alone, as I have walked mine? I regret this fatal mistake and do not wish you to make the same one."

I look quizzicaly at the tree, "By what do you mean?"

He looks back at me with a remorseful expression, "I have lived my life in solitude; by my choice and the only company are the occasional travelers, such as yourself. Do not go any further, you have yet to live your life, to love and to make friends."

Thunder rumbles somewhere off in the distance , as I look away from the tree, back down the path, I see the outline of a man. He is even more soaked than I am, and his face is splattered with mud. As he drasw nearer, I can see his eyes; they are the deepest shade of brown and seem to look right throughme, into my soul. He is panting hard, apparently from running. He looks up at me and smiles. This man was what I was running from, the one I love, and he has come for me. I had thought that he had not loved me, but he does, and he is here to show me that.

I reach out to him, tears streaming down my face, and then he disappears, just as quickly as he came. I run to the spot where he stood, and drop to my knees, clawing desperatly at the mud and rocks, as if her were buried deep within the earth.

I collapse in the mud sobbing profusely. Heaving myself up to my feet again I turn angrily to the tree. I run at him screaming, "WHY?!? Why did you give him to me, just to take him away again? WHY...why?"

The tree opens his mouth, then shuts it again, probably not knowing what to say. Then finally aftser a long pause he says in a soft voice, "I did nothing; it was you who made him disappear. It was YOU who willed him away. Alas, now you know why you must cease your travels, you must return to him, to the one you love." The tree smiles at me and speaks one last time before growing still, "Now my dear, go to him, and love once again, and forever."

I try to speak but it is too late, he had said all that need be said, and gone back to his natural state.

I walk back along my all-to farmiliar path and stop quick at a creek to wash the mud from my face, the rain has stopped and the sun is starting to peek out from behind the grey clouds. I turn back to my path, and with every step my pace quickens as my heartbeat does too until I am at a full run, I can see my love's house! I run faster and faster until I am at the end of his driveway. My hands are on my knees, for I am completely exhausted, but I must move forward. I take a long deep breath and progress up to his door. Even though the walk is but a few seconds, it feels like an eternity.

When I reach the door, I realize I am shaking from head to foot, from excitement or fear, I do not know. I hesitate for a meoment, then knock on the door three times and stand back to wait. Inside the house I can hear footseps growing nearer; my heart beating faster with each foot-fall. He opens the door and is not prepared for the huge bear-like hug I give him. He pushes me away and with a sigh draws me into the hug again, wispering in my ear, "I'm glad you came." He takes my face in his hands and presses his soft lips to mine the scent of his aftershave wafting about and filling my nostrils.

A few days later I decide to re-visit the tree. I am in a much better mood as I walk to the tree this time. I close my eyes, face upturned to the shining sun, and whistle a tune as I walk. When I open my eye again I'm in the clearing where the old tree was before, but all that is left is a stump. I drop to my knees and start to cry.That tree had been the one who made me go back to enjoy my live once again; he had understood me, and now he's gone. I crawl over to the stump and run my hands over what was once the proud old tree. The tears in my eyes blind me and drop one by one from my soggy cheeks. I wipe my eye and stare at the rings of the tree, amazed at how many there are, and in my distress i start to count them. The counting starts to relax me and only as I reach the final ring do I realize just how old this tree really was. There are one hundred fifty rings running around the stump.

I often come to that place, to think back of what could have been if I hadn't met the tree and what would have happened if the tree were still here.

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