Life of a Tree

Reads: 181  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A gumtree, from seedling to colossus, what does it experience? Does it feel anything, or is it completely oblivious to the world?
(This was a story completed for a class)

Submitted: March 08, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 08, 2016

A A A

A A A


 

As it floated down from its parent, the red gum seed was pushed away by a gust of wind. It rode that gust for over a kilometre, then settled on a wet patch of soil. As the moisture seeped into the seed shell, the cells inside came to life, and the seed became a sprout. Wire thin roots burst from the capsule, pressing down into the earth. Moments afterwards, a tiny soft stem, budded with infant leaves, shot up, seeking the warm light of the sun. 

Above, a fluffy white cloud drifted with the wind, exposing the face of the fiery orb. The shadow of the offending cloud gone, the sprout was now bathed in light. Feeling the heat, it opened the budded leaves, absorbing the life-giving celestial gift. The touch of the sun tickled the sprout, encouraged it. When rain came, the seedling mourned the dark thickness of rain clouds, but learned to rejoice in their coming. It felt the small thumps upon the ground as the rain droplets fell from the heavens, and the cool wetness as the water seeped through the top soil and down to its thirsty roots.

The sapling learned the rhythm of nature, the steady ebb and flow of life. As the sun rose, it and all other plants opened their pores and turned their leaves to face the light. They resumed drinking from their roots, sipping the ground water that was bursting with nutrients. The trees could taste this liquid, just as they could taste the air they breathed through their leaves. They tasted the sharp dust blown in from far away plains, sweet pollen from the flowering grevilleas, the tang of animals everywhere. The tree felt the movement of the animals through the earth, the smallest vibrations tickled its roots, speaking of the echidna digging it’s hole, or a gang of kangaroos bounding across to their favourite spot of grasses. Then the sun began it’s descent, bringing forth the moon. 

The light of the moon, so different from the buzzing fiery light of the sun, whispered a sweet lullaby to the trees. When Tree felt the soft caress of the moon, it slept. When a tree sleeps, it still senses its world, breathing slower and drinking slower. But Tree does not care so much to pay attention, and let the gatherings of its senses drift away out of mindfulness. Time passes quicker, and soon the moon has gone to be replaced by it’s more energetic brother, awakening the world once more.

Tree also learnt to communicate with its family; the other trees around it. Underground, as roots extended down and around, the roots of different trees would meet and gently entwine. Through this touch, trees could talk. They could sense the feelings of their neighbours, and pass it on to other trees. Through this underground network the trees could tell stories, comfort each other, debate and discuss the events of the current season.

Countless seasons passed by, marked only by the changing of the world. Tree noted these changes, watched the world slowly move around it. In turn, Tree grew, filling its space proudly. When it reached maturity, Tree flowered for the first time. It had spent the whole year growing its buds, so when the spring came and pollen wafted across the bush, insects, birds and animals flocked to the newly mature tree. They congratulated Tree on its work by drinking the nectar from the flowers. Tree of course did not mind, the little tongues tickled it gently. Most of the creatures left after they had sated their thirst for nectar, while some remained. They claimed spots in the crown of branches, building homes in the forks. Tree had settled into its place in the bush. Most of the nesting birds flew away after their chicks had hatched, but others always came to take their place. All was well.

More years passed, each one hotter and drier than the last. The summers were growing harsher, clouds hardly coming across the sky to shield the land from the sun’s rays. Tree grew thirsty, having to dig its roots further down into the soil for water. What rain did fall quickly drained deep into the earth, leaving the smaller plants dry. They slowly began to to die, going brown. The birds flew away, searching for more water. The kangaroos quickly followed, along with other animals who were not held in place by nests or burrows. The rest waited for summer to wane. Tree waited as well. It turned its leaves away from the sun so they wouldn’t burn, and went into a state of semi-slumber. It could only wait out the summer by sleeping. 

That is how Tree would have stayed, if it had not detected a strange whiff in the air. The winds were blowing stronger, and with them came an alien scent. Rich like deep earth, but stronger, darker. In the sky, wispy grey clouds had been forming, their colour growing darker as the sun moved across the sky. What animals remained in their homes now escaped while they could, they knew the smell was an omen of danger.

It took Tree a moment more to realise what the danger was: bushfire. The other trees around it informed it of the danger, all scared. A tree cannot run or hide from a bushfire. A tree has to stay and stand to it, withstand the lashing of flames that seek only to devour. A fire had come through here, so many years before the sprouting of the tree. The elders around and witnessed and survived it. But they all knew, and told Tree so, that this was no ordinary bushfire. 

Riding on the wind, it blazed over the hill that had blocked it from view. Dead grasses fed this entity of light, heat and gases, making it grow larger and spread faster. The fingers of flame clawed across the land, catching and latching onto anything near. It spat white hot bits of its prey at those beyond its reach, claiming and consuming them. Confronted with this behemoth of nature, watching the land and flora perish, the tree resigned itself  to the fire. All it could to was withdraw itself deep inside the core of its trunk. All the feeling from it’s branches, the surface of the trunk and the roots, all was gone. This was how the tree faced the fire, sheltered inside its wooden body.

 

+++

 

It had tried not to register any feeling. It tried to remain deep inside, resisting the biting, stinging, hot and consuming feelings around it, on top of it. Tree knew that its beautiful crown of branches would be consumed first, the leaves fuel for the fire. There would be no flower buds this year for the birds…if they ever came back. The layers of protective bark were burned away one by one, and Tree could feel the increasing intensity of the heat. But by that time, the front of the fire had moved on, leaving a lingering trail of slowly dying flames. With the tinder gone, the flames were left to feast upon the thick trunks of the trees. The vestiges of the fury slowly died as the hours moved, leaving nothing but a silent, black wasteland. 

Tree was now inside a shell of numbness. Everything the fire had burned way was dead and black, but the superficial sacrifice of its extremities left the core to survive. Most of the other trees had survived. Together they slowly restored, bursting with small bushels of branches from their trunks. 

The trees regrew, the animals returned, even the smaller plants were reseeded. It was slow, and took many years, but the bush land came to look like the fire had never come. 

 

+++

 

One mild autumn day, Tree watched the antics of the kangaroos. At first they were happily resting in the shade after their brunch, but with quick glances to the right, they rushed to their feet and leaped away. As with any thing that disturbed the animals, Tree sniffed the air for the taste of smoke. There was none. But there was another alien smell even stranger than the smoke had been at first. Unpleasantly metallic and tangy. The smell was accompanied by a rumbling noise like no other. Low and deep, it was like the growl of a large predator. It was not too long before the source made itself known. Over the hill, slowly winding around the huge trees and sprawling scrub, was the most curious thing the tree had ever encountered. It was shiny like metal, coloured black and silver. It moved on four feet that spun on the ground. There were other things inside, and these things came out when the black metal mover came to a stop close to Tree.

The animals inside the mover were tall and thin, with coloured coverings over their skin. Their appearance differed greatly between them, while retaining the same structure of two arms and two legs. One seemed to be leading the others, making loud sounds and energetic gestures. To Tree, it seemed they had no care for danger here. Other animals would normally remain quiet and small, but these four walked without care for danger.

The leader kept walking around, pointing at the trees and sweeping its arms from the centre of its chest outwards. It then walked up to Tree, pressed one hand on its bark. All the while she kept making the sounds that seemed to mean something more than normal animal noises, but Tree could not understand. One of the elder trees gave the animals a name; human. The humans kept moving around the bush, the leader making the most noise. Once the sun was about to set, they went back inside their mover and left. Tree was curious about them, but otherwise had no concern.

In a week’s time machines came. They swiftly cut away great areas of trees, but left some alone. Tree was one of the lucky ones, but watched as its fellows were cut away and their roots dug from the ground. A whole area was cleared around it, all the plants removed. Tree felt the roots of its neighbours pull away from it, the connection it had shared for a lifetime lost. Some of its own roots were torn with them, the ends stinging with pain. The animals that had their nests and burrows were evicted. The birds flew away in great clouds during the day, the animals took their chances in the night. The only ones that remind were the cockatoos, that met the invasion with defiant squawking as usual. 

The land was flattened, cut into and built up again. It was built in square shapes that jutted from the ground. More humans in movers and machines, big and small, came to build the squares, came to create the solid black rivers that the movers stayed on. They then created areas of green with alien plants the Tree had never seen before. In the hot sun they complained, wishing for colder, wetter lands. Once the machines were gone, more humans came, more than ever before. They went inside the squares, their nests. The humans were always moving around. They kept making those meaningful sounds, which over time, Tree learnt to understand. 

It would listen when they came near it. The vast green area they had made around it was called a ‘park’. Here they came to play and have ‘picnics’. Watching these humans day and night was entertaining. It watched babies grow into brave children exploring the world in defiance of their parents, then become smaller adults who created lives of their own. Passionate first-kisses shielded behind its great exposed roots, communal barbecues steaming with the smell of sausages, the cheers of parents and friends during the football match on the nearby oval. Tree was once again part of a rhythm, and as it grew older and more weary, it relaxed into its place. 

As is natural with a tree of such an age, its limbs grow heavy and fall. This happened once, during a slight wind in the morning. Humans gathered around, suddenly fearing the tree they had all sat under in comfort, feeling cradled against its bark. Tree heard every word they said.

“We need to remove the tree!”

“It’s going to drop more branches, and this one wasn’t the biggest!”

“It’s too dangerous. This is why they called them Widow Makers.”

A week later, more humans came. With their machines they felled the last great tree of the area, slowly from top to bottom. The wood was to be carved into benches and statues that would adorn the park. 

A seed flew in on the wind, and landed on the freshly over-turned soil, starting to sprout.


© Copyright 2017 Elizabeth Gipps. All rights reserved.

Booksie 2017-2018 Short Story Contest

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by Elizabeth Gipps

Life of a Tree

Short Story / Other

The Way We Were

Short Story / Other

Popular Tags