The ground shook and trembled. What was happening? I wondered. I have grown for 10 years, but never have I felt the tremor that came closer and closer to where I stood tall and proud. My leaves rustled and branches swayed as large boxes with round, wooden disks at the bottom were pulled into sight by horses. Men and women stepped out of these boxes. Humans! Maybe it was the gust of wind or the newfound excitement, but my leaves shook like never before. I’d seen a couple before but never this many. They all dressed in long, fancy, black clothing. The man started to speak but I could only dream to the stars in the sky of one day being able to understand the words.
During the 20 years I’ve now lived, the humans came again. They dug up the earth for their own needs. Without a second-thought, I now think bitterly. I had hoped that that would be the last time. But it wasn’t, they came again and again, marking the land with headstones of all shapes and sizes. Claiming it for their own. I noticed sometimes water would well up in the humans’ eyes. What is it? I wonder. It came in small, subtle droplets like the morning dew that drips off my leaves after a night of rain. But that made no sense. How could they have rain behind their eyes? The humans are mysterious yet fascinating animals. They triumph here on earth. They make themselves superior to the other life forms that had just as much the right to live and grow here like them. For that, sometimes I like to think it’s better to be anything but a human. When truthfully, I would do almost anything to really understand them.
I have grown here for 30 years. The humans have come and gone. With their black clothing and long boxes they carry here but never back. I now see what the land is used for. And it pains me deeply that the humans would bring something so sorrowful to a place once bright and full of life- not death. Their dresses are less extravagant and the box pulled by horses was recently replaced by a magic mobile that seems to run on its own. Stone after stone replaced what was once the soft green grass of earth. What I really wait for is the nights. The moonlight glow illuminates the field. The humans are gone. It is quiet with exception of the hooting owls and hidden crickets. Occasional dots of light shine here and there from the glow of the fireflies. My branches sway from the constant, yet calm, wind. Everything, is at peace.
Forty years I’ve grown here now, and forty years I’ve watched as their clothes change with the season, by the month, and through the years. Just no more than a week ago a group of them came to a fresh, grassy spot. Using their shovels to dig, they lowered the sleek and shiny white box into the ground before covering it once again with the rich, dark soil. A year after they came, a young girl that had been part of that group came back. She walked calmly over to me. I was filled with anticipation as she got closer. Despite my many years here, never was there a human that walked towards my corner of the vast and grassy field. She leaned and rested her headful of curly red hair against my trunk and picked the vibrant clusters of flowers that grew on the grass surrounding me. She sang a soft song, incomprehensible to me. But her voice alone, as delicate as an angel, spoke into my soul and traveled to the very tips of my roots. She walked back over to the headstone and set down flowers.
Fifty years I’ve now seen, and the girl never failed to come. The same day every year she leaned against my trunk and picked the flowers that grew around me, singing a song as she did. And the same day, every year she left the flowers at the grave and left until next time. I found myself not caring about the other people that came. I would wait patiently for that one day the girl would come and sing her beautiful melody, though only for a short moment; it was the moment I cherished the most.
Sixty years have passed. The girl, now a woman, no longer comes alone, but now with a much smaller human that looks exactly like the woman herself. Red hair and everything. Together they would come and go, come and go, come and go. I noticed that whenever she left, the woman would start to also leave long locks of her beautiful red hair behind. I was never lonely on all the other days of the year the woman and the child weren’t here. Sometimes, instead of headstones, the humans plant a tree in hopes of bringing new life to the recently passed one. I observe as they grow taller, trunks wider, and the broad branches become heavy with beautiful dark green leaves that turn a cool red and orange during the autumn time. We fought for the water the rain provided but never took more than needed in consideration for others. It was nice to finally have more of my own kind in a place in which the earth was plenty with another.
Seventy years I’ve lived. The woman came today, but something was different. Today was not the day. And she was alone. And her long, lovely red hair was gone. In it’s place was a cloth wrapped securely around her bald head. She came close to me. And instead of laying down and picking flowers she touched her head to my bark, and wept. I swayed my branches softly in an attempt to console her. We stayed like this until the woman bent down, picked a single flower, and left.
Eighty years I’ve seen. The woman came with her now grown-up child that still looked like a younger version of the woman herself . Every year, the same day, as usual. But she was different. She was pale and seemed weaker. The once youthful glint in her eyes was gone; replaced by grief and sorrow. She bent slowly, as if in pain, and once again picked a single flower before leaving. The humans are building something here. A small building but with a large cross at the top. Now often when people come to visit the graves, they also stop by the small building. With the amount of visitors they’ve had, I can’t help but wonder how whoever lives there is so well-known. The woman also visits this building. She spends some time inside before coming to lay against me. She sometimes holds her head and says nothing as if her head alone is in pain. She still hasn’t grown her hair back for some reason. Sometimes when she comes she doesn’t wear her colorful head scarf and you can see her head clear as day. All her hair is gone. Not a wave, not a lock, not a strand.
Ninety years now. There was recently another group of people here. They dug into the earth next to the grave the woman had always visited. I’ve seen this happen before. People being buried next to loved ones.People who have visited certain graves over the years ending up being buried next to the same grave themselves. I’ve learned to piece it together. I wanted to believe it would not be true. Just wait until next year, I thought, she’d be here like she’s always been and always will be. But she wasn’t. Year after year I waited patiently, hopefully, but she never came. And that’s when I was faced with the truth.
One-hundred years I’ve now lived. My branches have finally withered and my leaves have fallen. It was almost time, I knew. And after all my years of experiencing loss and sorrow come and go, I was ready. Maybe one day I’ll see her again. And she’ll lay her curly red hair on my trunk. And sing her beautiful melody, like she always used to.
A red-haired woman visited the town cemetery. She walked to the now fallen tree where her mother and she used to pick flowers to put on her grandma’s grave. It’s been 20 years since the tree died but she still never failed to keep her and her mom’s tradition alive. Suddenly, the woman laughed. It’s funny how the simplest things can have the greatest meaning, she thought smiling. Bending down, she put a hand on its bark. Picking a flower for her own mother’s grave, she turned and walked away.