It’s too dark to show you, so I’ll have to do my best to tell you. It’s a struggle to pull my hands away from my face long enough to write words of inadequacy. Tonight, in the darkening dusk, I saw a tree that changed everything. It changed what I knew of tall. It undid what I understood of width. And it shortened what I know of time.
A giant redwood, crowded so close to his giant neighbors, and touching them not. But one of many. I stood at his feet, head skyward and mouth open, unable to utter a sound. My heart beating so hard my vision blurred with it. I couldn’t see the top nor hope to touch the lowest of branches. I couldn’t see the sides nor wrap my arms anywhere near them.
Each fissure and fold large enough to cradle me. Each ripple of root a stool on which I could rest. When I could will myself to walk toward it, it was with reverance. When I bent to touch its base, it was a genuflection.
I reached my hand toward the mighty trunk and my fingers seems so finite and small. Bark so firm I coudn’t budge it. Like granite. Yet covered with a moss so dry and so soft it compelled me to lay my cheek against it. My arms spread as far as they could reach, my chest as close as I could press it and still draw breath, toes against toes and ear listening for the life that must be within, in my embrace, I was enlightened.
I’m so small. I’m so young. I could disappear, dust into dust, inside this tree and it would stand unchanged, stalwart against the savagery that is humanity. Humbling in its age. The things this tree has seen. The ticking away of time on a clock so much slower than mine. So much bigger than mine.
As I clutch, so feebly, this mammoth being, him breathing with the wind and drinking from the earth, I turn my face to the sky, barely less black than those towering branches, and a fiery orange brightness bursts overhead as if to blind me. It’s a fat, smiling face that pours a cold warmth over us both. And that Man, too, has seen so much more than I.
I’m so small. I’m so young.
And yet this tree, my tree, hugs me back and turns his own face to the light. As the tears roll down my cheek, salting the earth at his feet, I say, “Thank you tree.” And I’m not surprised when he doesn’t answer.
Robin Behl, La Cuentista