Perhaps it was the weather change or perhaps it was the shorter days. Regardless of the reason, she found herself full of longing. Longing like she had never known before. For years, generations it seemed, she stood atop her beloved hillside contented to simply overlook the lake. It still shimmered its usual silvery sparkles and reflected the pines standing tall at the water’s edge but now there was emptiness inside of her. The majestic white cranes still flew out of nowhere diving down into the silver waters fishing for their daily meal but there was no longer pleasure in the watching.
Season after season, year after year, decade after decade she was able to maintain her fascination in the flight of the crane, the dropping of pine needles to the ground, the shimmering silver of the lake. She had always found humor in the squirrels climbing through the trees seeking seeds from within the pine’s cones then filling their jowls full of the meaty morsels and stealing the stash back to their nests hidden high up within the tree’s recesses. Preparing for winter’s snowy cold was always entertaining. But no longer.
She breathed in the early fall air. There was the usual nip that would lead to her leaves turning colors of yellow, orange, red and brown. She inhaled a draft of fall’s chilly fair. Breathing in the change of season awakened her. She looked down at her rooted feet descending below the ground. For decades, since her earliest recollection, she had taken joy in her singular presence. There wasn’t a tree like her. And the fall changing of her multi colors into nakedness then returning to green fullness in the spring kept her believing she was the hillside’s singular star of the show.
Sap tears streamed down the crevices of her trunk. Everything was the same but wasn’t. She sighed and moaned with the gentle wind. The rustling of her hand-like leaves danced early morning’s worship of fall’s approaching shorter light, her trunk covered in sap glistening in the twilight.
In past seasons she had always found a sense of pride in her particular uniqueness. But now she wondered why the cranes never lighted on her branches before diving down into the water’s silvery beauty; why the squirrels only built their nests in the pines by the lake.
The one consistent friend was Crow who always descended at the most profound times and today was no exception.
“Feeling so-sorrow for yourself?” Crow soared in landing near the top of Tree’s branches nearly startling her into an early falling of leaves.
“Would you mind please Crow? I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I’m simply feeling melancholy with the change of seasons.”
“Caw-caw!” laughed Crow. “I didn’t say sorry…I said sorrow. Ever since you saw those two-trunked trees with roots that move across the surface of the earth you’ve been feeling terribly lo-lonely. I shall rename you Lonely Tree.” A strong wind ripped through the sky lighting Crow into the air. She spread her wings following the wind’s direction cawing as she sailed out of sight.
“Why can I not fly through the air like Crow?” Sap dripped with abandon from Lonely Tree’s trunk. “Why do I not move across the ground like the two-trunked trees? And where are the other trees like me? Why am I the only one?” The wind stormed echoing Lonely Tree’s sorrow as night descended over the hillside, across the tall pines and over the silvery lake purging all into darkness. She fell asleep dreamily listening to the gentle rustle of her leaves dancing in the wind.
Over the centuries Lonely Tree had memorized each and every moment of early morning’s awakening: the distant caw of Crow, the wind blowing through the leaves of the trees, the lapping of the silvery lake’s waters against the shore. There was comfort for her in the sameness. But on this morning there was a different set of sounds.
There were playful back and forth sounds not unlike the metallic vocal click of squirrels echoed by the bird’s rhythmic chirp informing one another of dawn’s arrival. Lonely Tree stretched her branches wide lifting her crown up to the sky. The direction of the music turned her attention to the water’s edge. And there she saw them again…the two-trunked trees that could move across the ground.
Lonely Tree followed their movements through the day. There were three short two-trunks who seemed to enjoy the lake’s edge. They would run like the wind then climb into the pines using the branches like a ladder reaching high where the squirrels hid their nests. There was also a pair of tall two-trunks who mostly lazed by the water’s edge. However when the smaller ones reached beyond their site into the pine’s branches, they would jump up squawking and screeching until the little ones descended down the pine’s trunk. Watching their games gave Lonely Tree great pleasure yet at the same time their joyous freedom of movement brought a yearning deep within her heart she simply could not quell.
She had never known small trees of her own kind. She wondered at the delight of watching and playing with little ones like herself. The wind blew strong up across the lake carrying the sound of the little two-trunk’s laughter.
“Oh if only they would run this way.” Lonely tree sighed as her leaves fell to the ground around her. Fall had come fully alive. “Come play with me” she whispered to the wind hoping the little two-trunked ones would follow her cries. “Come play with me.” But they never heard her.
Days turned into weeks and the yearly ritual of Lonely Tree’s leaves falling to the ground came and went until she found herself in all her naked brilliance waiting for winter’s first snowfall. The two-trunks had left long ago and seemed nothing but a distant memory except for the lingering loneliness that remained. She sighed and moaned in the wind and soothed herself with watching the pine trees dropping their cones to the ground around them. Occasionally a cone would fall into the silvery lake rippling circles outward like echoes on the wind.
“Caw-caw” Lonely Tree looked up to see Crow coming in for a landing high amongst her branches. “It’s time for you to stop feeling so-sorry for yourself.”
“I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I’m just feeling…feeling sad that’s all” snapped Lonely Tree; her branches becoming heavy with snow as yearning filled her heart.
“You’re missing what you’ve never lost” Crow cawed.
“What does that mean? You speak in riddles!!!” Just as Lonely Tree’s voice rose in frustration, a group of Crow’s family flew overhead in perfect formation calling for Crow to join them. “Gotta caw-go.” And with that Crow spread her wings flying into the wind to join her fellow brothers and sisters. Lonely Tree waved her naked branches knowing she wouldn’t spar with her friend until spring’s early thaw.
Winter seemed longer than ever that year. The silvery lake froze over hard so not even a rippling of water distracted Lonely Tree from her isolation. Even the pine’s cones ceased their falling. She sighed and moaned but there was no one to hear, no one to sooth her fallen spirit.
As snow melted into early spring, Lonely Tree’s mood never lightened. She had always enjoyed the relief of the heavy snow melting off her branches. Her roots would soak in the fresh, almost frozen water with great zest but the heaviness which had invaded her heart knowing she was the only tree of her kind never left her. Her gentle hand-like leaves once again began growing. They danced in the wind and caressed her still chilled-to-the-bone branches. The love of spring’s green growth filled her broken heart.
Although she still felt her loneliness, she lifted her branches high into the sky. “It’s time to let go of this moroseness!” Lonely Tree declared. “So what if I’m the only tree of my kind? It’s not like I can get up and go searching. I’m not like those two-trunks. I’m stuck right here; might as well learn to live with it.” Lonely Tree stood up tall, filled with bravado but still, inside her heart of hearts, she secretly longed for companionship.
“Maybe those two-trunks will return and come lay beneath my shady branches.” And it seemed, just as she made her wish, the sound of laughter filled the air. The family of two-trunks hiked into view laying their gear at the water’s silvery edge. “They’re back!” Lonely Tree declared. “They’re back!” She closed her eyes chanting “Come to me, come to me, come to me…”
And as if by magic, the three little ones began throwing what looked like a large, solid pine cone. Each time they passed the object back and forth to one another they moved further and further up the hill. Their laughter rose in volume as they came closer and closer. All at once the large, solid pine cone object hit Lonely Tree’s trunk and the three little ones came running up under her branches out of breath collapsing to the ground in joyous laughter.
Lonely Tree closed her eyes, filled with ecstasy. She breathed in the little two-trunk’s musky odor. No longer was she the only tree on the hill. The little ones rolled around on the ground wrestling for control over the solid pine cone object. And after a long time of wrestling and playing they curled up against Lonely Tree’s trunk falling into a lazy afternoon nap.
Lonely Tree soaked in the joy. She breathed in rhythm with the three little two-trunks. Never before had she felt so contented. As her breath became one and the same with the little ones, she found herself moving dreamily down, down, down; deep into her own roots. She followed her roots far under the hill until she felt them touch another set of roots.
“Oh my!!! What is this?”
Lonely Tree’s awareness once again popped up high into her branches and as it did, she turned behind herself following the view down the other side of the hill. And there, at the bottom of the hill stood a grove of trees that looked just like her!!! She turned to her right, which she had never done, and there she saw other trees; not pine or trees like herself, but trees with delicate, white trunks and thin wispy-like leaves. The white trunked ones turned to her and waved their branches. Again she looked behind herself and watched as her fellow like-kinded trees waved their branches filled with delicate hand-like leaves in her direction. She turned to the left and saw a vista of spring flowers, meadows filled with multi-colored grasses and a multitude of different kinds of trees. As she stood watching, mesmerized by the beauty around her, a flock of crows flew over head. She looked up, directly above her and saw Crow descending, landing high in her branches.
“Well?” Asked Crow with a bit of mockery in her voice.
“I can’t believe I’ve been missing all this beauty, all this companionship.”
“It’s always been here. You just needed a wider…let’s say full-fuller view.”
Lonely Tree’s sap tears flowed down her trunk. But for the first time her tears were tears of joy. She moved her awareness down once again, deep down into the earth, stretching out her roots full and long, intertwining them with her fellow, like-kinded trees. Then all at once she felt the tickling of little feet running up her trunk. She opened her eyes to see a squirrel heading into a nest high amongst her branches!
“When did you build that nest? Lonely Tree was astonished as she had never noticed Squirrel building a nest.
“What are you talking about? Squirrel seemed quite perplexed. “My family has lived amongst your branches for generations.” With that she scurried into her nest out of site.
Now Crow just had to caw in. “Do you see how when you cut yourself off from your own kind? You don’t even see when friends of other kinds are there just waiting for your companionship.”
“But what about you Crow? You’ve always been there. You’ve always been my friend.”
“Even when you feel you’ve sunk to your lowest, somewhere mother earth holds you in her arms. I’ve simply been there for you until you were ready to make a direct connection.” Crow’s caw came as a soft, loving coo, a gentle rocking in the soul.
Lonely Tree was so deeply moved words remained beyond her reach.
“You were missing what you never lost.” Crow whispered.
“Yes, yes…I see.” Lonely Tree watched as the sun sank below the horizon leaving the clouds in the sky ablaze in the colors of red, orange and pink. She breathed in deeply as the wind gently blew rustling her hand-like leaves. Squirrel snuggled inside her nest high atop Lonely Tree’s branches. A pair of white cranes dipped down into the silvery lake for an early evening supper of fish. And at the base of her trunk the little two-trunks rolled back and forth slowly awakening from their dreams. Lonely Tree moved down, down, down intertwining her roots with her brothers and sisters of like-kinded trees on the other side of the hill. All her senses were alive with love.
“I’ve never been alone.” declared Lonely Tree; “I just needed to look in a different direction.”
“I suppose we’ll need to find you a new name.” With that Crow lifted herself up high on the wind waving her wings good-bye to her friend.
Lonely Tree smiled, returning Crow’s farewell as she waved her branches now overflowing with spring’s delicate hand-like leaves.
“I suppose we will. I suppose we definitely will.”