Two Tree Hill
A hundred years ago, two seeds sprouted some distance apart and began their long growth heavenwards. At first struggling for sunlight within the tall grass, they eventually grew to dominate the long, gently sloping hilltop.
Each year the saplings grew taller, spreading long roots below the fertile prairie soil. They stretched leafy arms outwards – towards the setting sun, towards the foot of the hill, and more importantly, towards each other. Patient, as only a tree can be, they waited. A decade passed, and then another as the distance between them slowly closed.
They reveled in the warm sun of summer, leaves bursting with green life. They bore the golden change of each autumn proudly, before casting their multi-faceted garments to the earth below. They slept soundly through the long winters. They silently rejoiced in each spring’s renewal of growth.
Year after year they waited through drenching rains and howling winds. Through deadly, root-drying droughts and through sap-numbing ice storms that threatened to break them. They carefully housed birds, insects, and rodents in their crown, coat and feet.
Over the many seasons, they watched each other mature into majestic pillars that could be seen from miles away. And they waited. Waited for the day they could go beyond looking longingly at each other. For the day they could do more than just listen as the other sighed with the movement of the wind. For the day they could do more than just smell the scent of their own kind. They awaited their first touch as much as the dawn awaits the day. Knowing that, with patience, they would someday find their limbs entwined, forever embracing, forever supporting each other, forever together.
Even though they grew tall quickly, the outward expansion slowed to a pace that only a tree could endure. Many more decades passed. Their skin became thick and gnarled with age. Their once supple trunks grew less forgiving each season. From a distance or viewed from a certain angle, they looked as if they were already touching, but it was not so. Not yet. But soon.
One year after awakening from a particularly bad winter, the spring came with long bouts of sunshine. It was time. Their limbs ached with longing. Their leaves danced with anticipation. A breeze sometimes moved them to within an inch of each others touch. A lifetime of longing was almost within their grasp.
Summer neared its peak, the long days hot, dry, and nearly windless. And the trees were ready. One afternoon, the pressure of the air around them lowered signaling change. The wind began to stir, as dark rain clouds formed and moved slowly towards them. The temperature dropped and they could see a breeze stir the tall, brown grass in the distance. A few raindrops began to fall, and their parched leaves strained to gather the life giving moisture. The storm was nearly upon them.
Lightening flashed, followed shortly by great claps of thunder. They had seen many such storms before. Their branches were so close now a strong enough wind would end their years of yearning. They braced themselves, anxious, yet firm. This was it. But then the wind lessened. The rain slowed. ‘No, no’, they implored, ‘We need the storm to blow. We’ve waited so long and we’re so close. Just give us more of the storm. Please!’.
And the earth responded.
A thick, white bolt suddenly reached down from the sky and up from the earth, and in a deafening crash of light and sound, shot through her tall, proud body, shattering, piercing, and bursting her aged wood into a great, incandescent, yellow-white, ball of flame.
For hours, all he could do was watch in horror as she burned on and on and on. He prayed the wind would carry the flames to his outstretched arms and he could join her in death, but her closest limbs had been severed with the initial blast and fell to the earth between them, barely missing him as they crashed downwards. The wind betrayed him yet again.
She burned through the night.
The morning came and with it a gentle, steady rain. A sickly smell of charred wood and wisps of wet, steamy smoke curled from the blackened, split trunk. He stood there numb as rain began to fall harder. Now the cursed wind finally grew – as did his anger. He had waited so long. He had been so close to touching her. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t god damned fair! How could he continue on this hill alone until he slowly rotted? How could he stare at her lifeless hulk day after day after day? His limbs quivered with rage as another storm grew in the sky above him. He was a tree and trees were ever patient, but this, this was too much for even a tree to bear. ‘Oh Gaia, why have you forsaken me?’ he called to the great mother.
And the earth responded again.
As the lightening flashed through his body, and his limbs burst into flame, he thanked Her for his release, sparing him a life of staring at the dead remains of a love of a hundred years in the making.
When autumn came, there were no colorful leaves to sail in the wind around the hilltop and blanket the earth in gold and red. When winter came, there were no tall, silent sentinels to break the winds rush over the grassy plain.
But when spring came, after the snows had melted, there in the clearing where the trees had stood, two small seedlings pushed there way up out of the earth, their tiny leaves already touching.
©2004 Tim Deegan