There is a tree. A tall tree, a proud tree, a tree of many branches. Alone, it has stood the test of time, the felling of its neighbours, the culling of its kind. Alone, it has patiently waited throughout time for the wind to come and bring its stories.
And it always does. No matter the clouds above, or clear blue skies, the wind arrives on a breath of Arctic chill or upon the warmth of a Chinook swooping in from the west. And always, it carries with it the stories of its travels. Of places been, and faces met. Of joyous times and sad times. Of weddings and births and wars and deaths. The wind carries all its stories and whispers them to the tree before carrying on its way to distant lands and faroff places.
And the tree stands tall. Collecting stories. Gathering memories.
And people come and people go. Passing underneath the tree, never looking up, never hearing the voices of its stories.
Except for one small girl. She sees the tree. She hears its stories. She knows its voices. And every day, she climbs into its branches, bringing with her offerings of peanut butter and jam sandwhiches, her favourite devilled eggs, and sometimes, chocolate, though she doesn’t bring the chocolate very often. She has a little brother who likes to eat all the chocolate before the little girl can hide it.
One day, the little girl scurries up into the trees branches, higher and higher and higher. On this day she has not brought the tree any offerings. On this day, she is carrying only a story so sad she can barely get the words out to tell the tree.
Her heart is breaking. The thing she had never imagined would ever happen is about to take place.
Her father is moving away. Not because he got a new job in some exotic foreign land like the one she’d heard about last time in the whispering of the tree’s branches.
No. There is nothing exciting about this move. Only fear.
Her mother and father are getting a divorce. She weeps these words into the tree, throwing her arms around its sturdy trunk, asking it to please mend her breaking heart.
And the tree stands solid. The tree stands tall. Its leaves whisper into the little girl’s heart. “Fear not. Fear not.”
“How can I not fear when I don’t know what’s going to happen?” she asks the tree.
“Fear not. Fear not. Open your eyes and look around you. The world is still turning. The sun is still shining. Look around you.”
The little girl hears the trees voice and opens her eyes. She wipes the tears away with the back of her hand and looks around from the great height to which she has climbed. Just beyond where she is perched, she notices a piece of paper caught in a hole the woodpecker who likes to dig for food in the trees sturdy trunk has made. Carefully she pulls out the piece of paper, unfolds it and reads what’s written on it.
Hello, my name is Pen Pen. I am ten years old. I live in China. I am writing this note sitting in the giant tree that stands in the yard where my home used to be. An earthquake tore down my home. But the tree is still here. I am glad. It is all I have left of my home. My parents tell me not to be frightened. But I am scared. Everyone is crying. Houses are gone. So is our school. I like school. How will I become a doctor if I can’t go to school?. My mother tells me I will still get to go to the University when I grow up. She will make it happen. But I have to trust and believe that it will happen first. How can I do that when everything has changed? Except everything hasn’t changed. The tree is still here. It is my friend. It whispers stories to me. It tells me tales of far away places. Places I hope to visit one day when I’m a famous doctor. I have to go now. My mother is calling me. There are people here to help us clean up the mess of our house. I am leaving this letter in my tree. I hope if you are reading it that a beautiful white swam carried the note to you. My mother tells me anything is possible if I believe. So I do.”
The little girl reads the note and feels the first quiet whisper of hope in her heart. There is a girl, somewhere on the other side of the world who has a tree for a friend. She too hears its stories. she too knows its many voices.
She had never believed that was possible. That someone else could know the beauty of a tree is whispered in the stories it gathers from the wind.
I must believe, she whispered to herself as she carefully tucked Pen Pen’s story into the pocket of her pants. I must believe and not let fear make me forget that I am not alone.
And while it didn’t make the news of her parents divorce any better, it did help her feel less alone and less scared to know there was someone else in the world talking to a tree, sharing its stories and their own within its many branches.
The End which is The Beginning.